Ranchers struggle in Jackson Hole

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – The Jackson Hole News & Guide (Aug. 6) points to starkly different times for ranchers in Jackson Hole, and by extension, all of the West.

It tells the story of a rancher who placed a conservation easement on his ranch, apparently intent that the ranching ways would continue. But the resurgent grizzly bears predated on the cows. In turn, the cowboys were slack-jawed to discover that federal wildlife biologists apparently thought grizzly bears were more important than beef. Environmentalists were annoyed at the ranchers, and the ranchers were wary and weary of the newcomers.

The upshot to all this is that environmentalists recently agreed to pay $250,000 to the descendents of Paul Walton, the rancher, to abandon his lease on 87,500 acres of prime grazing and wildlife habitat on federal lands. The Bridger-Teton agreed to withdraw most of that land from grazing.

“The saga underscores how the values and rules on which Western communities and cultures were founded are changing,” says the paper. “On Togwottee Pass (where the dispute occurred), no longer will there be a real cowboys to ride off into the sunset.”

The best family ski towns honored

EDWARDS, Colo. – Don’t we love lists? The best-groomed skis runs, the best places to retire, the top 10 mutual funds. This year, Ski magazine has another laundry list: best ski towns for family-style success. Those so honored are Edwards, Colo.; Park City, Utah; Truckee, Calif.; Bend, Ore.; Bozeman, Mont.; and Burlington, Vt.

“I didn’t know we were a ski town,” 20-year Edwards resident Dave Lach joked to the Vail Daily (Aug. 11).

Magazine says fire can’t be beaten

EUGENE, Ore. – Andy Stahl, publisher of Forest Magazine, says that the war against forest fires being pushed by the Bush Administration is an unwinnable war, one that since 1910 has resulted in the death of 883 firefighters, twice the number of total Allied casualties in both Gulf Wars.

“It doesn’t matter how much money is spent on fighting fires or thinning forests or removing brush – fires burn when forests are dry and don’t when forests are wet,” he writes in the magazine’s fall issue. “Does the war on forest fires save homes and communities? No reason to think so. U.S. Forest Service research shows that homes burn depending on the home’s construction materials and the vegetation within 100 feet of the house.”

He concedes the war could be won – if enough money is spent and enough firefighter’s lives are put at risk. He says a conservative estimate of the cost for periodic “treatment” is $19 billion annually, or quadruple the current annual budget for the Forest Service.

But then again, he says, the federal government could spend $19 billion to construct huge fans on the coast of Florida to blow hurricanes back to the Caribbean. “It’s time to face reality,” he concludes. “Not only have we lost the war against forest fires, it is a war we cannot win.”

Moly mine could house cyclotron

HENDERSON MINE, Colo. – Although the molybdenum ore body at the Henderson Mine is good for at least another 15 to 20 years, county commissioners and others from Grand and Clear Creek counties – the mine and tunnels are under the Continental Divide in both counties – met in secret to talk about what could happen in the future.

It didn’t take the Summit Daily News (Aug. 11) all that long to find out the gist of what was said. Those counties and a variety of others are talking about trying to get federal money once the ore is gone, by converting the mine into an underground physics research laboratory.

It appears the National Science Foundation has expressed interest in the mine, although several other sites around the country have more formal backers. However, there is no money or plans currently on the table. Anne Beierle, environmental manager for the mine, told the newspaper that Henderson is “coming late to the game. These other sites have been out there for years.”

One source, probably once removed from the discussion, said that the project involves a super cyclotron, a device that has been around for much of the last century. It is an accelerator of subatomic particles. The facility would employ around 500 people.

Snowmass mountainboarding mecca

SNOWMASS, Colo. – The Aspen Skiing Co. continues to make a play for the reputation as being friendly to “extreme” competitors. It has been hosting the X Games, of course, and recently it hosted the U.S. Open Mountainboarding Championships.

Organizers say Snowmass has the potential to become a Mecca for mountainboarding. The sport, explains The Aspen Times (Aug. 21), combines skateboarding with snowboarding, meaning that when people launch off huge jumps, they land on the dirt, not on soft snow.

Ages range from 10 to 50, and most look like a cross between snowboarders (which most are) and motocross riders, says The Aspen Times. “Their clothes are baggy and hole-filled from numerous falls. All of the competitors wear helmets, knee and elbow pads, and hand guards or gloves. Usually, the only way to stop is to spin out, which often requires dragging your hand through dirt and rock at high speed.”

Chamber director killed by police

WASATCH COUNTY, Utah – A story of a child custody dispute that turned bizarre and tragic comes from both the Sun Valley and Park City areas.

Natalie Turner, the director of the Hailey (Idaho) Chamber of Commerce since last December, was battling her ex-husband over custody of their two children, ages 7 and 4. After a series of court hearings, she was ordered by a judge in Utah to turn over custody to the father, who lives south of Park City in neighboring Wasatch County.

Turner’s sister told the Idaho Mountain Express (Aug. 13) that Turner and her fiancE9, David Gayler, left for Utah to confront her ex-husband about their child custody problems. What happened in that confrontation isn’t exactly clear, except that police were hurriedly warned of three people in a silver Mitsubishi who could be armed.

A state wildlife officer and a sheriff’s deputy both shot the woman when she got out of the car. They say she aimed a .357-caliber gun at the deputy. Her ex-husband was found in the backseat, suffering from two gunshot wounds. Gayler, the fiancE9, was jailed on suspicion that he had shot the ex-husband.

“She just snapped. It’s been beyond bearable for years. I’m surprised she didn’t snap sooner,” the woman’s sister said.

‘We’re not on I-70’ ads spreading

ASPEN, Colo. – Last year Crested Butte Mountain Resort came out with an advertising program that was premised on the fact that Crested Butte at least isn’t located on I-70. This year, the Aspen Skiing Co. is doing the same.

“When we talk about Main Street, we don’t mean I-70,” says a headline in one of the planners prepared for Aspen. After explaining that Aspen is miles away from the nearest interstate (48 miles, to be precise), the advertisement distinguishes Aspen as a resort, where people come because they want to make runs all day, not stand in line for hours.”

By the way, Crested Butte is reported to be continuing its financial floundering. A sale of the resort is expected, or at least hoped for, by winter. Alas, it wasn’t able to steal away skiers from the I-70 resorts last winter. It’s just too hard to get to, and although the U.S. skier market has picked up in the last two years, the destination market remains as flat as Kansas.

Retired wildlife officer clears air

EAGLE, Colo. – After more than 30 years as a state wildlife officer, Bill Heicher has retired. Now able to speak his mind freely, he seems to think he should have taken more political science and less biology while in college.

“I had gone to school and was taught and trained how to base things on science, and I started to realize that, for the most part, decisions aren’t made using science as the determining factor. Decisions are made on politics, which comes right back to the dollar. It doesn’t matter what administration, Republican or Democrat. Politics is big business,” he said.

“I thought I was hired to be a wildlife advocate,” he says. “In reality what they want us to do is good things that get good press and don’t make any waves.”

Wildlife officers in Colorado are quietly seething about an increasingly centralized approach to decision-making, in which they can’t talk to the public unless statements are cleared through the Denver office by an appointee of Gov. Bill Owens.

compiled by Allen Best





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