Wolves resurfacing in Colorado

ASPEN, Colo. - A decade ago it seemed wolves, after being extirpated in Colorado in the 1940s, would not return on their own to Colorado for many decades. Now, it seems it will be a matter of a few years. This prospect has Colorado residents both excited and appalled.

Wolves introduced in the mid-1990s in the Yellowstone region have trotted down to the Rock Springs, Wyo., area, within 50 miles of Colorado. Meanwhile, wolves introduced in New Mexico in the late '90s may have entered Colorado to the south.

State wildlife officials remain adamantly opposed to reintroduction of wolves in Colorado, despite studies that suggest that habitat in the Flat Tops and San Juans could support up to 1,000 wolves. But with wolves at both front and back doors, so to speak, the State Wildlife Commission has authorized a study of what to do when the wolves arrive, if they do and what to do in the meantime, notes The Aspen Times.

Under current regulations, wolves south of I-70 have full protection. That means, unless there is danger to a person, they cannot be shot, even if attacking livestock. North of I-70, ranchers can harass wolves on their property but may not shoot to kill unless given permits issued by the state wildlife agency.

The outline of the state's response isn't clear, but it's likely to be sharply divided. Although few ranchers remain, they have strong clout in state government. Sheep grazers hope for a plan that will give them more authority to shoot wolves menacing livestock. There is no room for compromise, insists Bonnie Kline, director of the industry trade group.

Telluride seeks OHV compromise

TELLURIDE, Colo. - The debate about OHVs - the acronym commonly used to describe all-terrain vehicles and dirt motorcycles - is in full bloom in Telluride.

The high-mountain passes around Telluride are among the most renowned in the nation among four-wheelers and others. It's considered high sport to cruise from Silverton to Telluride to Ouray while traversing a trio of above-timberline passes. Ouray definitely caters to this motorized crowd, and Silverton does, too.

But San Miguel County, where Telluride is located, bans OHVs on these roads. Enforcing this ban is nearly impossible, however. Plus, there's also the issue of neighborliness. The Ouray area absorbs some of the workers from Telluride, and Silverton is among Colorado's poorest, dependent entirely on about 10 weeks of summer business.

Art Goodtimes, a San Miguel County commissioner, wants a compromise on a regional level, leaving two passes open to OHV use, but keeping one closed. While some people seemed to concur with the compromise, The Telluride Watch reported a sourness evident at a recent meeting. "This is something you don't compromise on," said Telluride Town Councilman Mark Buchsieb. Telluride, he said, is "not responsible for serving every group. Nationwide the abuse of these groups is outrageous."

Ski areas favor global warming plan

ASPEN, Colo. - Two dozen ski-area operators have expressed support for the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act. The proposed bill seeks to reduce emission of heat-trapping greenhouse gases from sources in the United States.

The Aspen Skiing Co. originated this position, and the National Ski Areas Association agreed to shepherd support more broadly from within the industry. The NSAA earlier this year had begun fostering awareness of global warming and the ski industry's vulnerability.

Evidence is conclusive that substantial global warming has been occurring. In the last several years scientists have largely come to agree that people are causing some of that warming, although there is much that scientists are still unclear about.

Among the uncertainties are how global warming will effect localized areas, but models developed by scientists broadly suggest that as warming continues, "we could experience decreased snowpack, warmer nights, wetter shoulder seasons and reduced weather predictability," according to the letter signed by the ski areas.

Most vulnerable are those ski areas located at lower elevations and with shorter winters. But even higher elevation ski areas, according to these models, could be subject to increasingly erratic storm cycles.

Ski areas for some years rejected the global warming debate, arguing that ski areas themselves do not contribute significantly to greenhouse gases. This letter takes much of that attitude. It says, "We are a relatively small source of greenhouse gas emissions, however, and will need the help of other industries to turn this problem around. We support the Climate Stewardship Act because it will encourage major industrial emitters to invest in the most cost-effective means to reduce emissions."

Debt-ridden contractor skips town

GRANBY, Colo. - Police are at work in the Granby area after a home-building company, Altus Construction, closed shop and its owner fled town, leaving at least $500,000 in unpaid bills. The owner, who was interviewed by the Sky-Hi News , said he left because of threats that made him fear for his safety.

The firm was founded with the goal of building affordable homes for local residents. At one time, there were 30 employees. What went wrong isn't clear, but a concrete contractor blew the whistle when his bills had mounted to $48,000. After he filed liens, others similarly did so.

Studying the money trail, police report no evidence of hanky-panky. The newspaper reports unexpected costs, problems with employees, timing issues and then a panic by customers, all of which contributed to the company's demise.

UnVailed calendar hits the stands

VAIL, Colo. - For the third year, the Vail area has an UnVailed calendar, in which locals pose for what might be called posteriorerity, although in fact discrete frontal shots seem to be more common.

It's a mixture of cheesecake and beefcake, grins and bare it. The theme this year is celebrities and legends. The cover couple is Ryan Sutter, the ex-football player turned Vail firefighter, and his heartthrob, L.A. gal Trista Rehn, who courted on a national television show. Another month this year features a women's mountain biking team called High Maintenance, whose members are posed atop their titanium tools, clad only in shoes.

It's not all young and buff, however. Several silver-haired individuals appear, including octegenarian Earl Eaton, a legend because in 1957 he showed Vail ski area founder Pete Seibert the mountain that would become Vail.

Dick Cheney opens up on river trips

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. - Vice President Dick Cheney is a man who skis in blue jeans at Jackson Hole, wears duct-tape patched waders when fishing the Snake River and isn't afraid to hear contrary opinions.

That's what the guides who take Cheney fly fishing in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana tell the Jackson Hole News & Guide. Some have known Cheney, who has a $3 million home in Jackson Hole, for 30 years.

Although Cheney has a reputation in the national press for arrogance, the guides refute that perception. "He values everybody's opinion," said one guide, Jack Dennis. "He wants to know what people think."

And the guides tell him what the average people are thinking in Jackson - that they view him as an oil man who cares little about the environment and that the Bush administration did a lousy job of selling the war in Iraq to the American people.

They also feel comfortable enough with him to tease him. During one recent camping trip, they gave him a gag gift: a pair of glasses with missiles glued to the lenses, so that he can find weapons of mass destruction.

One guide feels strongly that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska should not be touched for oil, but the guide says Cheney is just as forceful in his defense, arguing that drilling can be done in winter, without damaging the tundra.

All in all, says the newspaper, which apparently tagged along on a rafting and fly fishing trip, the Dick Cheney around the campfire is "anything but the stiff, humorless authoritarian he often appears on TV."

- compiled by Allen Best





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