Heat wave sizzles the West

ASPEN – It wasn’t hot enough to fry an egg on the pavement.The Aspen Times tried it. But the 91 degrees reported in Aspen on July 15 was within a sizzle of the town’s all-time record of 93 degrees.

Meanwhile, about 20 miles south and 1,000 feet higher in Crested Butte, temperatures were reported to be only in the high 70s. Nonetheless, Crested Butte residents were gushing water on their lawns.The Crested Butte News reported that the water used by the town’s 1,500 residents on July 9 was roughly equivalent to each of them filling up a 10-by-18-foot swimming pool with 4 feet of water.

Despite the splurge, the town had water to spare. Not so at Park City, where officials told thePark Recordthat the town was “barely getting by” with its water supplies. The supply was such that violators of watering restrictions were to be given $50 tickets, not the customary warnings.

Meanwhile, in Colorado, theRocky Mountain News examined what cities were using the most water per capita. While perhaps not at the head of the class, Aspen was reported to be among the leaders in profligate use.

Granby shuts down Dozer Days

GRANBY – Should Granby make hay of its misfortune last year and host a celebration called “Dozer Days?” That’s what theSky-Hi News asked in a straw vote, and 72 percent of respondents said “no” in no uncertain terms. “Not only no, but hell no,” scribbled one voter.

The idea was nominated almost immediately after muffler-shop owner Marvin Heemeyer last year tore through the town in a fortified bulldozer, wrecking or damaging 13 buildings and causing $5 million in damage.

Dismay obviously remains the dominant response. “Why would anyone want to celebrate a day of fear and destruction that ended in a death (Heemeyer’s suicide),” wrote Jo Moore. “Speaking as someone who was hearing the gun fire, seeing the destruction and trying to calm terrified children – to say nothing of being forced from our homes for 24 hours – none of us, particularly the children, need or want to be reminded of that day.”

Grizzlies disappearing near Banff

BANFF, Alberta – A new study reveals an alarming increase in the mortality of female grizzlies during the past two years in the Bow River Valley after nine years of stability. In reporting the deaths, wildlife biologist Stephen Herrero is calling for “threatened” designation of grizzly bears in Alberta and British Columbia.

The Rocky Mountain Outlook reports that Herrero stopped short of blaming human-grizzly conflicts on land developers, but he said that people must learn to share the land with the grizzlies if grizzlies are to survive. Nowhere else in North America where they still survive are grizzlies as threatened, he said.

“We must identify areas where bears can be secure and those where people can be secure,” he said. He recommends seasonal closures where interaction is likely.

Many of the killed bears were considered nuisances, because they had become habituated to areas where they were likely to have conflicts with people. However, many bears are killed by hunters. Herrero was divided in whether he wanted to see hunting end, as hunters are also responsible for conservation of habitat. However, Nigel Douglas, a conservation specialist with the Alberta Wilderness Association, called for a suspension of hunting.

Mountain biker fined for wheelie

CANMORE, Alberta – Because mountain bike trails in the nearby forests are closed due to danger from grizzly bears, mountain bikers have been spending more time in Canmore. One recently popped a wheelie while going through a four-way intersection and promptly got a $400 ($325 US) fine.

Police there told theRocky Mountain Outlook that he was ticketed in accordance with a law that finds wheelies could distract and confuse drivers, as they might be unsure where the cyclist could turn.

The bicyclist maintains than the fine was an overreaction, as nobody else was at the intersection. Police said there was more to the story that the bicyclist let on, although they didn’t spill the beans to the newspaper about just what that was.

Eagle County mulls moratorium

EAGLE COUNTY – Eagle County commissioners are considering a moratorium on new building proposals in unincorporated areas, which include suburbs of both Vail and Aspen.

Already, there are 16,000 housing units approved but not built, reports theVail Daily, and the moratorium would not affect those units. Two of the three county commissioners seem to favor the idea.

“It’s pretty much a given that our population is more than likely to double,” said Commissioner Peter Runyon. “What all of this is about is what happens after that point.”

Another commissioner, Arn Menconi, said he wants to cool the construction of luxury homes in the more rural areas. “I don’t want to hear, ‘If we’re not growing, we’re dying’ anymore,” he said.

What legal justification would be used for the moratorium? That isn’t clear, but at least one builder of high-end homes, R.A. “Chupa” Nelson, seemed undisturbed by the idea. “It would impact the construction industry by slowing it down, but that’s not necessarily bad, as overheated as the real estate market is right now,” he said.

Aspen launches Canary Initiative

ASPEN – A study that will attempt to predict the effects of global warming on Aspen is being drawn up.

Much of the $120,000 budgeted for the study will be spent on computer modeling. There are about 15 computer models in the world that attempt to predict affects of warming. However, most cover broad areas, with little precision even in areas as broad as the American West. This computer modeling will attempt to crack that barrier.

Although the precise causes remain disputed, climates across much of the Earth are clearly changing, mostly becoming warmer. That’s certainly true in Aspen. While the snowfall has remained more or less constant during the last 50 years, the timing has changed. It now snows later and melts sooner.

This study is part of a broader effort, called the Canary Initiative, which was launched by Aspen city officials earlier this year. The initiative attempts not only to reckon with the consequences of global warming but also to take more specific action to understand – and limit – Aspen’s emission of greenhouse gases.

Ketchum toys with preservation

KETCHUM, Idaho – Ketchum was first a mining town and then a major center for sheep ranching before finally, in the 1930s, becoming the first destination ski resort in the West. As such, it has lots of old buildings – some 30 alone eligible for national recognition, historic preservationists say, plus hundreds deserving local recognition.

And the town’s Planning Commission wants to take steps to ensure they do get preserved.The Idaho Mountain Express reports that one idea is to allow people buying the houses to transfer density potential to other sites, presumably in the downtown area. That way, they will not want to raze the old homes and build to maximum heights.