Bill may challenge open space

TELLURIDE, Colo. One of the big stories in Colorado this past year has been the willingness by municipal governments, particularly in Denver and its suburbs, to use their power to condemn private property in order to clear ground for sales-tax generating Wal-Marts.

But in the general outrage to curb the perceived abuses of these local governments, the State Legislature may also crimp the ability of local governments to condemn private property in order to preserve it as open space. Specifically at issue is the effort by Telluride to condemn a 570-acre pasture at the town's entrance, reports The Telluride Watch .

This additional step has been linked to Tom Ragonetti, a savvy and powerful Denver-based attorney affiliated with land-development interests in several Colorado resort areas. Sam Mamet, executive director of the Colorado Municipal League, called Ragonetti's proposal "pure and simple special-interest sleaze."

The bill could also affect a contemplated condemnation by Pitkin County of private land on Smuggler Mountain, located near Aspen, in order to keep it as open space.

Carl Miller, an ex-miner from Leadville who has represented Aspen, Vail, and Summit County in the legislature during recent years, says he believes local governments should be able to condemn private lands only for roads and similar public facilities. "I don't see open space as being in that category," he told The Aspen Times . "In my view, that's a takings."

Michael Jackson haunts Wal-Mart

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. Employees at the Wal-Mart Supercenter were understandably unnerved in late February when a man wearing a Neoprene ski mask, a baggy blue ski outfit and moon boots walked into the store. Less than two years ago, a similarly dressed man killed an employee while robbing the store.

Turns out that it was the gloved one, Michael Jackson, who had been staying on a ranch about 35 miles away at Old Snowmass. A clerk told the Rocky Mountain News that Jackson spoke in a "bad French accent."

Lake Powell could be dry by 2010

VAIL, Colo. If the drought of the last several years continues, half-empty Powell Reservoir could become empty by 2010, with repercussions as far away as Denver. Study of growth rings in trees indicate that extended droughts have not been all that unusual, notes the Vail Daily .

"People have a hard time realizing what a significant drought we are experiencing region-wide," said water attorney Scott Balcomb, of Glenwood Springs. He said Coloradoans need to start devising a plan to deal with the eventuality that the reservoir will be drained. "It's been real dry for three to four years," he said. "We don't have any assurances it's not going to be dry the next three to four."

As well, a new study by the University of Washington's Dennis Lettenmaier concludes that runoff in the Colorado River could drop up to 18 percent.

Effects of cloud seeding studied

DENVER, Colo. After several years of drought, ski areas, big cities and water districts of Colorado are spending more than $1 million this winter to seed clouds in hopes of inducing more snow. But how well does it work?

That's what a $100,000 study being conducted this winter will attempt to more definitively answer. In the study, funded by the federal government, researchers for Colorado State University will track storms daily, comparing the predicted and actual snowfall accumulations in areas targeted for more snow with clouds seeded by silver iodide particles. These areas will be compared with control areas, where there is no seeding.

A National Research Council study of weather modification programs takes a dim view of cloud seeding generally, but less so of winter cloud seeding. There are, says the agency, in a report issued in October, "strong suggestions of positive seeding effects in winter cloud systems occurring over mountainous terrain."

The report states that the most compelling evidence that cloud seeding works comes from experiments during the 1960s at Climax, a molybdenum mine located near the Copper Mountain, Breckenridge and Vail. Although scientists initially over-reported the amount of extra snow that fell, later studies still came up with a "possible increase in precipitation of about 10 percent."

Denver also commissioned two studies last winter intended to determine whether the $400,000 it is spending to seed clouds is producing more snow in its water collection areas, located in the Winter Park and Summit County areas.

Gay Park City couple married

PARK CITY, Utah When the mayor of San Francisco announced that marriage licenses would be issued to nonresident gay couples, two Park City women immediately hit the road, driving almost nonstop through fierce snow and all else, getting to San Francisco's city hall at 8 o'clock the next morning.

What they saw there staggered them but also uplifted them. Despite the cold and drizzle, the line was so long that they stood outside for six hours, and then two more hours inside before getting married.

Together for nine years, the women had previously exchanged vows in a ceremony near Moab. But they want a marriage recognized by governments. Joan Guetschow recalls once, when she was in critical care, her partner, Tricia Stumpf, was not allowed admittance to see her because she was not a legal spouse. "It feels second class," Guetschow told The Park Record .

Stumpf compares this experience in attempting to get governments to recognize homosexual couples to the Civil Rights movement, which was sparked in part by the refusal of Rosa Parks to sit at the back of a bus. "It's like asking Rosa, Why does it matter where you sit?'" Stumpf said. "It's about equality."

Suicide tied to crystal meth use

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. A 2002 survey administered to Steamboat Springs High School students found that 50 percent had used marijuana at least once, nearly 10 percent had used methamphetamines, and about 4 percent had used cocaine.

The meth use was at the center of community attention recently, with news that a 19-year-old resident of nearby Oak Creek had shot himself. He had been on a roller-coaster ride of methamphetamine addiction a loving, happy, go-lucky child who had become such an angry young man that family members had taken to locking their doors at night.

Explaining the drug's draw, one former meth addict told The Steamboat Pilot that while cocaine kept him focused for a couple of hours, meth will keep a person alert for two days. The newspaper noted that drug agents have uncovered about 40 meth labs in the area from Winter Park to Steamboat to Craig, a rural area.

Meanwhile, The Telluride Watch reports a suspected connection between meth use and HIV infection on the Western Slope, which includes most of the state's ski resorts as well as other rural areas. The HIV infection rate for women on the West Slope is double that of Colorado's statewide rate. Health officials suspect, based on interviews with victims, that the women being infected to a great degree are drug users, or have sex with users of methamphetamines.

compiled by Allen Best






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