Couple examines grazing's benefits

KETCHUM, Idaho - A couple from San Francisco four years ago set out in an attempt to prove that livestock gazing is compatible with public lands. Buying several sheep outfits, they formed a company and hired a staff of biologists and other consultants to monitor operations on the 24,000 acres of private land and 730,000 acres of public lands at their disposal.

The guiding belief, as expressed by Mike Stevens, the chief operating officer of Lava Lake Land and Livestock, is that long-term protection of public and private range lands requires that they be economically useful. If not, the private lands will inevitably be subdivided and hence become more difficult to manage. If land isn't ranched, there will be more roads, more spread of noxious weeds and less winter habitat for wildlife.

Can grazing be light on the land and profitable? That's the million-dollar question. The company has reduced the size of its bands and promised to keep the sheep moving and away from water sources. Sheepmen pride themselves on the latter - cattle tend to congregate in riparian areas.

As for making money, the plan is to market the lamb as "all natural," meaning no antibiotics and growth hormones, and organic, meaning no use of pesticides or herbicides.

John Marvel, executive director of Western Watersheds Project, applauds the goal, but told the Idaho Mountain Express that only those who can afford to write off the cost of the land can afford to do what Lava Lakes is doing. But he thinks the large lesson that is being demonstrated is reducing grazing impacts requires substantial reduction in herd sizes.

Aspen developer offers home swap

CARBONDALE, Colo. - Wintergreen Homes has a different sort of marketing approach. Buy one of our houses, says the developer, and we'll buy yours.

Art Kleinstein, the Avon-based firm's managing partner, says he has used that marketing pitch successfully in Steamboat Springs and Avon. Now, he's using it again at Cerise Ranch, a 68-lot subdivision downstream from Aspen.

It's designed to appeal to somebody wanting a newer house and a larger lot, but who doesn't want to go through the hassle of selling an existing house. Kleinstein told The Aspen Times he'd rather discount the price of a $400,000 house that he acquires than a $600,000 home he's now trying to sell. Just the same, he doesn't want his offer to be too successful. "I don't need 50 of them. I just need a few of them," he said.

Ski area countersues housekeeper

PARK CITY, Utah - Somebody's lying here. Shortly after he was fired from his $60,000-a-year job as director of housekeeping at Park City Mountain Resort, Mario Escobar filed a lawsuit against the resort, alleging things that were illegal, unethical, or both.

For example, Escobar accused the company of knowingly recruiting undocumented immigrants so that it could pay lower wages. Also, he said the resort's Hispanic employees were asked to clean the homes of senior managers, they were required to eat in a separate basement lunchroom, and they did not receive the same privileges afforded non-Hispanic employees.

Wrong, says the resort in a countersuit. The legal counsel for the American Skiing Co., which owns the resort, told The Park Record that "for the most part the facts are different than he alleged, and in some cases they are the exact opposite." For example, Escobar had the employees cleaning his home, says the company. As for the separate lunchroom, there is a lunchroom that serves discounted meals, and it's close to the headquarters for housekeepers, but it's not a segregated lunchroom.

Ski hall-of-famer overcomes sexism

SQUAW VALEY, Calif. - Jerry Nunn had to surmount sexism in the ski industry and the U.S. Forest Service to get where she is today, the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame.

Born and raised in Berkeley, Calif., she began skiing in the Sierra Nevada at age 14, and by age 18 she was assisting an emergency physician in the ski patrol room. It made sense that she would join the ski patrol, but she ran into problems in 1954 upon applying at Squaw Valley.

"It was very difficult for me to get on the ski patrol because the man who was in charge of the patrol at Squaw Valley felt that a woman should be barefoot, pregnant and locked in the kitchen," Nunn told the Sierra Sun .

Nunn got her job after demonstrating that she could control a toboggan solo. Soon after, she breached another threshold when, using her name "Jerry," she applied to become a snow ranger for the U.S. Forest Service.

An official in Utah, however, was going to have nothing of it when he encountered a woman behind the name. "Never, ever in the history of the Forest Service have we accepted a woman, and we won't now." She said she'd get an attorney, and did - and got into the course, becoming the first female Forest Service snow ranger. In that capacity she helped develop the first Avalauncher. After ironing out several design problems, the gas-powered gun is sued today to launch explosives to set off avalanches in hard-to-reach terrain.

Asked about her induction in the Hall of Fame, Nunn said it was "very exciting."

"I never thought it would happen to me. I'm a girl, and boys don't like girls who step on what they think of as their rights," she said.

Timber powers community center

NEDERLAND, Colo. - At Nederland, located west of Boulder and a few miles from the Eldora Ski Resort, an attempt is being made to nail two birds with one stone. The forest there is ripe for fire, and so the U.S. Forest Service had the forest thinned.

But what to do with all the wood?

Denver's Rocky Mountain News reports that a small portion of the thinned forest is fed into a chip-fired, steam-powered microturbine. When fully operational, the burner will consume a ton of wood chips a day and generate 30 kilowatts of electricity. Meanwhile, steam from the boiler heats the 30,000-square-foot community center. Electricity and gas bills for the community center and adjacent buildings have been running around $50,000 annually.

Still, it's just an experiment. The EPA wants to assess the emissions produced by the burner to see if air quality is substantially impaired. "It looks to be burning clean, but we won't know how clean until we run all the tests," said a project manager for the testing company.

Park City offers Olympics warning

WHISTLER, B.C. - Although it's still six years away, Whistler is preoccupied with hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics. But Park City, which has been there, is warning Whistler against expecting too much.

Bill Malone, manager of Park City's chamber and resort associations, reported that landlords who evicted tenants in hopes of quick profits got burnt. He tells of one property management firm that wanted $130,000 in rent for a large home, spurned an offer of $65,000 and got neither - the property sat empty.

Business fell about 8 percent in Park City during the Olympics, but Park City has been much stronger than other resorts in destination tourism in the two years since the Olympics.

Is Whistler different than Park City? That's part of the discussion, reports the Vancouver Sun . Development at Whistler is capped, while at Park City it continued to grow.

Muslims adapt to resort town life

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. - A new religious tradition is entering Summit County, where about 120 natives of Mauritania, a county in West Africa, are now living. All are Muslims.

This influx is making for new understandings, explains the Summit Daily News. For example, during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, Muslims are to fast during daylight hours. So, when a manager at a 7-Eleven in Silverthorne told Outmar Niang to take a 15-minute break and get something to eat, he didn't quite understand when he desisted. Another problem for the mostly Muslim Africans in Summit County is finding places to pray six times a day, as their religion requires.

This year, a post-Ramadan potluck dinner was held in mid-November. A speaker from Denver, Mohammad A. Jodeh, spoke about the common nature of Islam, Judaism and Christianity. The event was sponsored by an outreach program from a Lutheran church. The team has also sponsored picnics, furniture distribution and English classes.

- compiled by Allen Best





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