Yellowstone wolf dies on I-70

IDAHO SPRINGS After trotting around in the triangle between Steamboat Springs, Vail and Winter Park for several days this spring, a wolf headed southeast along Colorado's Front Range.

Bad choice of a travel itinerary. In the early days of June, the wolf that had wandered down from Yellowstone National Park got smacked by a vehicle on Interstate 70 a few miles west of Idaho Springs. The wolf was the first wild wolf confirmed in Colorado since 1935, when a government hunter killed what is believed to have been the last native wolf in the state.

Both Colorado and Utah have spent the last year anticipating the arrival of wolves, but this wolf jarred nerves that in some cases were already jangled. While several polls during the last decade have indicated two-thirds of Coloradoans support the return of wolves to Colorado, that majority is heavily weighted by the state's populous Front Range, where four of five Coloradoans live.

Out on the ranches, the mood is decidedly different. The Colorado Wool Growers Association "flat out does not want wolves in this state, and that will be such a hard bridge to build," said Bonnie Kline, the group's executive director, at a meeting of those appointed to come up with a plan.

What happens in Colorado and Utah depends upon what first happens in Wyoming. Wolf packs have done so well in Wyoming that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to delist wolves, but if that happens Wyoming wants to give residents the authority to shoot wolves on sight. The feds say that goes too far.

If the wolves do get delisted, as expected, then Colorado and Utah will take over responsibility. Under current laws, Interstate 70 is the dividing line for two sets of rules. Wolves found attacking livestock or pets north of I-70 can be shot, but those south of the highway cannot. Biologists thought that I-70, which some call the Berlin Wall to wildlife in Colorado, will effectively divide the habitat between the gray wolves from Yellowstone and the Mexican wolves that were transplanted into New Mexico and Arizona.

A-Basin finally closes for season

SUMMIT COUNTY While among Colorado's oldest ski areas, having opened in 1946, Arapahoe Basin was among the last to acquire snowmaking. But the snowmaking appears to have paid off in spades this year, the first season at A-Basin with the new technology in place.

Instead of a season from December to Memorial Day, as natural snow conditions might have accommodated, the resort along the Continental Divide opened in October and finally closed June 12, reports The Denver Post .

Although the resort has never had an earlier opening, it has often had later closings, going to July 4th most years and one year during the mid-1990s lasting until August.

County backs off on dark skies

CRESTED BUTTE Gunnison County has backed away slightly from its ordinance limiting light pollution. Previously, all unshielded bulbs were banned. Now, bulbs of up to 60 watts can be used without shields.

However, the county is sticking with a provision that says that motor-sensor lights cannot be activated by movement on a neighbor's property or in a road or street. Such lights must be activated only by movement directly on a homeowner's property, reports the Crested Butte News .

Steamboat boxes in big box retailers

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS Steamboat's City Council has passed an ordinance that more tightly regulates big-box retailers, defined as stores 100,000 square feet or larger.

But a speaker at a recent conference, Carl Steidtmann, predicted that no such big boxes would arrive in Steamboat. Instead, the big retailers are moving toward smaller, pseudo-neighborhood shops similar to what Wal-Mart has done. Instead of supercenters, it is now opening groceries in 40,000-square-foot buildings, or about one-quarter the size of a supercenter.

Reporting all this in an editorial, The Steamboat Pilot went on to add its doubts about stifling economic development, but also suggested why the City Council would want to regulate retailers. "Losing Steamboat's Western, small town character and unique shops to national brands packaged behind smaller, trendier storefronts could pose an equal threat," said the newspaper.

Arnold establishes green record

SACRAMENTO, Calif. Environmentalists say they are pleasantly surprised with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Although they didn't support him during last year's recall campaign, a growing number of California environmental leaders say Schwarzenegger is apparently greener than they anticipated, reports the San Jose Mercury News .

They still grumble about Schwarzenegger's fleet of gas-guzzling Hummers he owns four of them (down from seven), but he is retrofitting one to run on hydrogen. But on issues from coast protection to staff appointments, and air pollution to water supply, Schwarzenegger has taken actions that environmentalists cautiously cheer.

"We didn't really know him," said Felicia Marcus, vice president of the Trust for Public Land in San Francisco. "We're still in the honeymoon period, but now I think people feel there may well be a record of real accomplishment with this administration."

Distant open space questioned

EAGLE If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

You've heard that question, and that was fundamentally the same question in Eagle County for the last two years as the citizenry loudly debated in the pages of the Vail Daily and elsewhere the virtues of acquiring a ranch at the entrance to Glenwood Canyon for open space.

The 4,830-acre ranch, owned by the long-time sheep-ranching Bair family, was part of a complicated package of land parcels and financing partners, ranging from private donors to the Bureau of Land Management. The land had been appraised at $17 million, but the various groups pooled $5.1 million. Eagle County's $2 million was the deal-maker or breaker.

But not many residents of Eagle County which includes Vail, Beaver Creek and some suburbs of Aspen will get to see the land on which they're buying development rights. The deal ensures that nobody develops the ranch, although the ranch owner can expand his tourist business. But public access will be limited to only a small portion of the ranch, several hundred acres along the Colorado River. Driving by on I-70, people can see little of the ranch that is being preserved. There are no public roads to other areas of the ranch.

The land's major value will be its wildlife habitat.

Opponents loudly denounced the deal, calling it welfare for the ranch owner and a poor use of the county's new property tax, which generates $2.9 million annually for open space preservation.

A leading critic of the plan, County Commissioner Tom Stone, a Republican, adopted essentially a Wall Street attitude. He said the money could be spent more wisely in acquiring land near where people can see it, use it, and where they now live, which is to say in the Avon-Edwards area, 35 to 45 miles to the east.

But in the end, the swing vote in favor came from Commissioner Michael Gallagher. Returning from the Mayo Clinic, where he was being treated for effects of Agent Orange from when he was in Vietnam 35 years ago, Gallagher stated his position with what observers said was both conviction and grace. "This is future-looking," he said.

Cottonwood Pass paving opposed

CRESTED BUTTE The debate continues in Crested Butte and Gunnison about whether to pave the west side of the road across Cottonwood Pass. Doing so would effectively create a short-cut to those driving from Colorado Springs, Denver and other population centers, reducing travel time by 30 to 60 minutes.

High Country Citizens' Alliance, an influential environmental group, argues against the paving. Faster-moving cars would kill more cattle, thus harming local ranchers, and also disturb wildlife to a greater extent, while impairing the more pristine character of Taylor Park, the high mountain valley immediately at the foot of the pass. As well, warns the group, completing the paving of the road from Buena Vista would accommodate easier diversion of water from the valley to metropolitan Denver.

compiled by Allen Best





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