Lion takes on mountain biker

WHISTLER, B.C. Mountain lions, also called cougars and pumas, are rare in Whistler, but a couple of mountain bikers recently got home with a story that should remain riveting at campfires for a good many years to come.

Tyler Comeau, taking his first mountain bike ride, was riding at what he estimates was 30 kilometers an hour (19 mph) when the cougar appeared. "It was keeping up with me for about 15 seconds, and for about 10 seconds of that it was maybe about 2 feet from me," Comeau told Pique newsmagazine. "I could hear it breathing and its feet hitting the path. It was totally stretched out, in a full run."Meanwhile, a companion, Scott Robinson, had pulled over to wait. He was amazed when Comeau came around a corner, slammed on the brakes, and flew over his bars. As he did this, he yelled, "mountain lion."

Comeau landed on the ground facing the lion. He said he was amazed by the lion's tail, which was about 4 feet long and bushy, and sticking straight up in the air as the big cat dug its paws into the ground and skidded to a halt. He also remembers the cat's big, blue eyes. "It looked surprised more than anything. It think it thought I was a deer or something, and it didn't know what to think when I wiped out in front of it.

"At that point I was about 2 feet away from it, and its ears were right back. It looked like it was just about to leap forward, and it had its paw up, and I just went crazy I picked up my bike over my head and just started screaming at it like it was a bear or something."

A local conservation officer said that the 6-foot-1, 180-pound Comeau did exactly what he should have done. "You never want to show a cougar your back," said Chris Doyle.

The biker backed off, the cougar backed off, and both went their separate ways. As for Robinson, the only experienced biker in the group, he figures he got off lucky. If his novice biker hadn't spilled at that corner, he would have been a sitting duck for the lion. "It's pretty amazing it worked out the way it did."

Population to impact wilderness

ASPEN The U.S. population is expected to double during this century, with large implications for the nation's wilderness reserves. Forest Service rangers recently met in Aspen to sort through some of those changes, and The Aspen Times was there to hear the discussion.

Currently, about 17 percent of the nation's population lives within 25 miles of wilderness, according to Ken Cordell, a researcher with the Forest Service, and 70 percent live within 100 miles of designated wilderness. Assuming continued growth in these existing areas, the expected population boom might tax the trails and resources of the fringes of wilderness areas, a phenomenon that has already been experienced in wilderness areas adjacent to Frisco, Vail and other places west of Denver.

But this growing population may well tame wilderness areas with increased light at night, noise and roads.

Designation of wilderness has lagged the increase in use, Cordell said, even though more than half of U.S. residents polled say more is needed. A recent survey also showed that wilderness areas are more prized for their value in protecting air quality and water quality. Next down the list are their value in providing wildlife habitat and protection of endangered species.

Scientists study how forests breathe

FRONT RANGE, Colo. Scientists this summer will be taking readings in the forests of the Colorado Rockies in an attempt to better understand how these "lungs" work in scrubbing carbon and other gases from the atmosphere.

Already, measurements taken near timberline along the Front Range, between Boulder and the mountain town of Granby, have found that the appetite of a forest for carbon shifts with age. Scientists also know that forests in the Pacific Northwest absorb more carbon monoxide than do the high-elevation forests of Colorado.

But this new study by the National Center for Atmospheric Research will attempt to broaden the understanding of how much forests absorb carbon dioxide, a key global warming gas. Scientists, reports The Denver Post , will also fly over the massive Hayman burn area from two years ago to measure carbon exchange in a forested region razed by fire. They also hope to define how the forests operate in different seasons, during a soggy spring versus a dry July.

Telluride council chooses youth

TELLURIDE It wasn't gender. Both of the applicants were women. Nor was it environmental philosophy. Both candidates to the vacant Telluride Town Council spot had impeccable "green" qualifications.

Rather, the issue seemed to be age. One candidate, Linda Miller, in her 70s or so, has lived in Telluride for 27 years and has served on a variety of environmental boards. The other candidate, Mallory Dimmit, holds a bachelor's degree in natural resources and is 27 years old. At first deadlocked, the council finally gave the nod to the younger woman.

One of Dimmit's supporters, Councilwoman Andrea Benda, noted Dimmit's membership in "that demographic we all pay a lot of lip service to people in their 20s and 30s." Dimmit said she wants to represent those of her generation who are steadily moving down-valley from Telluride (as well as other resort towns) and then leaving altogether.

But some in the losing camp alleged that the younger woman's discernible comeliness may have swung votes from the men on the council.

As for Miller, she seemed devastated, the next day submitting her resignation to four different town task forces and commissions. "This will enable you to appoint someone younger and more energetic to those positions," she said. "I will retain my seat on the Open Space Commission, because I truly believe I can still manage to make my way from my rocking chair to Rebekah Hall once a month for those meetings. Besides, I have read that it is important for elderly people to have a hobby."

Canmore may ban lawn herbicides

CANMORE, Alberta The Canmore Town Council is considering a proposal to eliminate cosmetic herbicides within the town by the year 2014.

Cosmetic herbicides are used to rid lawns of dandelions and other nuisance weeds. Recent studies have linked herbicides with harmful effects to both pets and children.

Dr. Melanie Watt, executive director of the Biosphere Institute, told the Rocky Mountain Outlook that people overuse cosmetic pesticides with the mistaken assumption that they become more effective if used in larger quantities. In fact, they can make pets violently ill, and they can be very bad for children.

Canmore Mayor Glen Craig said he supports the concept, but would like to see a ban sooner, as 10 years is more than what is necessary to educate people.

Summit County fears new Columbine

SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah Two sophomores at South Summit High School were suspended for the remainder of the school year after police found materials in their lockers that were described as "very violent" and had "neo-Nazi overtones throughout."

Most disturbing, said police, was a 1999 magazine article about the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado. However, they found no weapons, either at the school or at the homes of the two boys.

"Had we not intercepted this I believe that the potential for school violence was extremely high," Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds told The Park Record .

Some students thought the case overblown, others said they were scared. One student said the two boys in question had a lot of hatred for everybody.

Kobe Bryant commutes to court

EAGLE Eagle is a commuting town. For many, it's 30 miles to Vail. But for basketball player Kobe Bryant, who has spent scattered days in court facing charges that he raped a local woman last year, it's about a two-hour commute by private jet to Los Angeles, where he lives and performs for the Los Angeles Lakers.

The New York Times reports that during one series of three days in Eagle this spring, Bryant commuted to Los Angeles daily. On the final day of the series, he had a game that evening in Los Angeles. Although deeply tired by then, he told reporters he meditated, fearing that if he slept he would go into the basketball game sluggish.

Bryant has had superlative games after each court appearance.

compiled by Allen Best






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