By Allen Best
Bears lose versus traffic
BANFF, Alberta – At least six black bears have been killed on roads in Canada’s national parks so far this year, causing Parks Canada to urge drivers to slow down. An additional bear was killed on train tracks near Banff, although no grizzly bears have died in Banff, Kootenay or Yoho national parks.
The highway mortality for black bears is no higher than for last year. However, Parks Canada confirmed 477 deaths over a 20-year period in the seven national parks in the Canadian Rockies. Of them, 449 were the result of human interactions, the majority of them after being hit by trains, cars or trucks.
There’s concern about the declines in the black bear population in the Banff area. There’s even greater concern about the viability of grizzlies.
In particular, biologists fear too many grizzlies are being killed after being drawn to scavenge for corn and other grain spilled from passing trains. In response to better understand bear movements in and around rails, 11 grizzlies have been fitted with GPS collars in Banff and Yoho national parks.
Jesus apparently not just alright
JACKSON, Wyo. – The producer of rodeos at Jackson has been asked to shrink his prayer. The rodeos are held in partnership of the town and county government, and the producer at the Fourth of July began the event with a prayer that lasted four minutes.
Mark Barron, mayor of Jackson, said he is fine with having a prayer for participants, but described the prayer as one “delivered in a manner that excludes.”
The Jackson Hole News & Guide talked with one attendee, who said he thought was going to a rodeo, not a revival.
The separation of church and state is a basic precept of the American Constitution, but what that means in practice is a sticky question. Mike Atkins, pastor of a local church called Chapel at River Crossing, questioned whether the Buddhist prayer flags at the local middle school or those hanging over a public rescue station constitute an establishment of religion. He also cited the Fire Festival, which he said honors mountain gods.
“Either we allow it all or we don’t allow any of it, no matter how minute or shadowy,” he said in an e-mail to the mayor.
But Greg Miles, a town councilor, sees the issue differently. The rodeo is a partnership between the town, county and the rodeo operators. “This isn’t in the same category as an applicant that comes in during the holiday season to ask for permission to light a menorah on Town Square.”
Boosters seek airline funding
KETCHUM, Idaho – The push is on in Sun Valley and adjacent towns to approve a 1 percent sales tax to use as a kitty for securing direct flights from San Francisco and other distant cities. The tax, proposed for a five-year trial period, would generate an estimated $2 million a year.
Steamboat, Jackson, Telluride and Crested Butte all provide revenue guarantees to airlines. There is usually a partnership between the ski company and local taxing districts. In every case, at least some local public money is used. In the case of Vail, public money is used only for summer flights, while Vail Resorts alone posts winter revenues guarantees.
Sun Valley boosters, who say their resort has fallen behind others in the Rocky Mountains, want to create a sturdier financing platform. They say the $2 million in annual revenues generated by the proposed sales tax would allow them to arrange a daily direct flight from San Francisco beginning in 2013, and one or two other major markets in subsequent years. The San Francisco flight would yield an incremental 20,000 visitors per year, producing a $34 million stimulus to the local economy.
Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall says locals would pay only 20 percent of the sales tax, reports the Idaho Mountain Express. Visitors, of course, would pay the rest.
The Ketchum-Sun Valley resort area currently has a minuscule flight program as compared with the giant resorts of the West. Total enplanements last year at the airport in nearby Hailey totaled 53,000, with direct flights only from Seattle and Los Angeles.
The Sun Valley Co., operator of the ski area, was the sole financier. It would continue to post 50 percent of flight revenues. Carol Waller, director of Fly Sun Valley Alliance, says the company has agreed to boost its financial stake.
The airline subsidy is being sold primarily as away to generate new tourism business. Currently, 77 percent of airline passengers are either second-home owners or tourists. But the sales tax is also being pushed as a way to help sell more real estate and attract business people who need frequent and easier access to the outside world.
Jackson adds winter direct flights
JACKSON, Wyo. – The flights options into Jackson Hole will increase this coming winter, with three new flights which will boost overall available seats by 10 percent.
The local agency that arranges flights with airlines has three new non-stop flights from San Francisco, Minneapolis and Newark. Two of the three are being induced with revenue guarantees, reports the Jackson Hole News&Guide. With the additions, Jackson Hole now has flights from 10 cities, including Denver.
Public contributions accounted for less than 10 percent of the total funds raised to post revenue guarantees, Mike Gireau, chairman of the Jackson Hole Air Improvement Resources, told the newspaper.
Real estate grows in drips, drabs
BIG SKY, Mont. – Reports of modest real estate sales gains and some home construction are coming out of the Rockies. In Bozeman, the Daily Chronicle reports work began on more than 140 homes during the first half of the year, a pace only slightly behind the peak boom year of 2006.
More broadly, Gallatin County has had an 86 percent increase in construction of new homes, while Park County – home to Livingston, another portal to Yellowstone National Park – has had an 80 percent increase.
In Big Sky Resort, located about an hour from Bozeman, real estate broker Jerry Pape reports a few builders are starting to build homes on speculation again. But he was also cautious. “I think, in general, the market is picking up. But again, like I said, it’s not going to be quick. It’s going to be in drips and drabs.”
In Park City, the first half of 2012 yielded the highest number of sales since the corresponding period of 2006, before the housing market crash. “I feel like we’re in recovery,” said real estate broker Jess Reid. “That’s the good news. The other side of that is that recovery is frustratingly low.”
From Steamboat, June sales volume recorded through the multiple listing service was $167 million, reports Steamboat Today. That’s compared with $143 million last year for the same period, but dwarfed by the $519 million in 2007, at the height of market.