Immigrants demonstrate in West

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Crowds of more than 1,000 people turned out in both the Aspen-dominated Roaring Fork Valley and the Vail-anchored Eagle Valley in support of immigrants. Smaller turnouts were also reported in Jackson Hole and Telluride.

Police estimated 1,000 to 1,500 people marched from Avon, at the foot of Beaver Creek, to Edwards, reports theVail Daily. In addition, police estimated a morning march of 650 people.

“This will show that we’re here and that we exist,” said Ivan Hernandez, a 19-year iron worker from Avon. His employer supported his participation in the March.

“Let us love your country,” proclaimed one sign. And another: “Stop H.R. 4437,” a reference to the bill passed last year by the U.S. House of Representatives that would make illegal workers felons.

In Glenwood Springs, at the bottom end of the Aspen-dominated Roaring Fork Valley, a crowd assembled, which was estimated between 1,000 to 2,000. The protestors made a point of declaring their allegiance to the United States, as well as declaring their aspirations to succeed.

One 17-year-old student at Glenwood Springs High School, Heidi Marquez, read a piece she had written that was titled “I Believe in This Country.” Brought to the United States while still quite young, she feels part of this country, she said. Her parents aren’t here to break laws, she reported, although she understands how difficult it must be for native citizens to see their country invaded. As for her dreams, she wants to become a surgeon.

Among those in the audience, reported theAspen Daily News, was a 34-year-old from Aspen, Jose Zabala, who arrived with two flags. “I love this country. I love this flag. We can make it a better place if they give us the legal right to be here,” he said.

Others assembled at a park in Glenwood Springs acknowledged that the immigration flood had also brought drug-dealers and other criminals, but they said the misfits were not in the majority. “We’re here to say we’re not criminals,” said Raul Gonzales, of Basalt, who arrived in 1989. “We’re just hard workers trying to get a better life for ourselves, our kids, so they can go to school.”

In some of the gatherings in ski valleys of the West, there were as many Caucasians as Latinos. “It’s all about treating Latinos with respect,” said one such Caucasian, Leslie Robinson, a Democratic Party leader and United Way organization in Glenwood Springs. “I can’t begrudge them wanting a piece of the American dream.”

The Telluride Daily Planet reported 100 marchers, mostly Hispanic, and many of them wearing white – to symbolize peace – or clothing displaying American flags. Among the signs they hoisted was one that said: “I am a man just like you.” They chanted: “We are workers, not criminals.”

“I think it’s time for us to have a green card,” said Isabel Matamoros, who marched with her 12-year-old daughter. “I feel like this is our country. This is our community, our town.”

Colorado’s Summit County had no marchers. In neighboring Grand County, the immigrants in Winter Park and Granby all seemed to be at work. In nearby Steamboat Springs, most – but not all – immigrants remained at work, according toThe Steamboat Pilot. In at least a few cases restaurants closed, partly for remodeling but also the boycott.

At Lake Tahoe, about 700 marchers walked down Ski Run Boulevard to the casinos. A rally in Jackson Hole attracted 200 people. They hoisted American flags and signs that said “Honk to support us” and “We’re a reality.” They chanted “Sí, se puede,” as well as the English translation, “Yes, we can.”


Newspaper profiles Western wealth

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. –The Washington Postrecently visited the phenomenon that all ski towns of the West, in some way, understand very well. Ed Quillen, a columnist forThe Denver Post, several years ago called it “the invasion of rich people,” and it remains as good a summation as any of the process under way.

To tell the story,The Washington Post chose Jackson Hole, although the story could have easily been told in Aspen, Vail or Telluride. There are notables: Vice President Dick Cheney, actor Harrison Ford, and World Bank President James Wolfensohn, as well as many others, lesser known but perhaps more wealthy.

It explained how low income tax rates in the Rocky Mountains (Wyoming has zero tax) encourages rich people from coastal cities to come and build vacation homes – or first homes. With the Internet, private jets and FedEx, it is possible for rich people to live at Jackson Hole year round while keeping an active hand in their businesses on Wall Street, Hollywood or the Silicon Valley.

The story told of real-estate eccentricities of this upper crust, of people who must have custom fittings on everything. And of their considerable philanthropy, as good-cause spending has become de rigeur for social standing. And, without quite saying so, of their devotion to open space. Stated another way, they are content to see the local workforce commute long distances, as there isn’t a lot of private land in this burgeoning economy of large, rural estates.

Brian Grubb, who heads planning for the Town of Jackson, says this: “The future is locked in; it can only get richer.”

And a real estate agent, Bob Graham says this: “The herd instinct is as strong with multimillionaires as it is with any two- or four-legged animal.”


Ski area tackles beetle-infestation

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – Chainsaws are at work at the Steamboat Ski Area in an effort to remove 1,500 pine trees and prevent the pine beetles from spreading in June.

The wood is being hauled hundreds of miles, variously to Laramie, Wyo., and Fort Collins and Silt, both in Colorado.

A giant blowdown in October 1997 triggered an epidemic of the spruce beetle. While that epidemic is waning, the pine beetles are now gaining strength, reportsThe Steamboat Pilot. The ski area has some of both types of forests, pine and spruce.

Meanwhile, Colorado’s two senators have introduced legislation that proposes to allocate $227 million for managing bark beetles, wildfires and floods in Colorado. The bill proposes to reinvigorate the forest products industry and also encourage the use of beetle-killed trees for biomass energy burners. One of the senators, Ken Salazar, has warned of “perfect storm” conditions this summer for wildfires.

There are discussions about building a biomass plant in Colorado along the I-70 corridor.


Red Lodge awaits Highway

RED LODGE, Mont. – Red Lodge is located at the northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park. Although it has a ski area, summer is somewhat the livelier season, partly because Red Lodge is along the Beartooth Highway that is among the most scenic ways to see Yellowstone.

But last year, just before Memorial Day, that highway closed for the season even before it opened. Rock and mud slides clogged the highway, and then a $14 million road repair project kept it closed.

The Associated Press explains that the closure was tough on the economy of Red Lodge, with the resort-tax income down 11 percent. That was less than what had been expected, however. The closure “helped us understand we’re more of a destination than we thought we were,” said Denise Parsons, director of the Red Lodge Area Chamber of Commerce.


Ketchum looks at development

KETCHUM, Idaho – Bracing for an influx of new residents that is expected to double the population of the Wood River Valley in the next 20 years, local officials are continuing to look at a program to transfer development rights to Ketchum, Sun Valley and other towns.

The Idaho Mountain Express reports that 70 percent of those participating in a planning process called Blaine County 2025 want to see population directed away from rural areas and to or near existing town. The cities, says the newspaper, do not want more density, but had better “rub the sleep from their eyes” and face the need to accept higher density developments and to develop affordable housing.”


Water election draws candidates

VAIL – It used to be that elections for the various water and sanitation districts were ho-hum affairs in Vail and other Eagle Valley towns, with just enough candidates – virtually all men with ties to development companies – to fill the slots.

Not now. Water has become a growing concern, and so have the elections. Eleven candidates were vying for five seats on the board of directors for the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District.

Partly at issue, reports theVail Daily, is how the water rights belonging to Denver in the Eagle River Basin are to be accommodated. One proposal is to create a reservoir near Wolcott, about halfway down the valley, to benefit both Denver and local interests.

– compiled by Allen Best

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