Dick Cheney incites Jackson protest

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. – It was a shimmering day of irony in Jackson Hole. U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney gave a speech to dedicate an $18 million building in Grand Teton National Park – a park enabled, in part, by the philanthropy of the original oil baron, John D. Rockefeller.

Meanwhile, on the bicycle path leading to Cheney’s declared primary home, located in a rural subdivision called Teton Pines, a group of about 250 people walked, carrying anti-war signs, accusing Cheney of being the mastermind of a war on behalf of oil.

At the gate to the subdivision, reports theJackson Hole News&Guide, the crowd gathered at the feet of a giant statue of Cheney holding a fishing rod in one hand and a spurting oil derrick in the other. Where a heart should have been was a black hole. The giant effigy towered over a tiny George W. Bush head wearing red devil horns and a blindfold over its eyes.

“Operation Iraqi Liberation,” sang an entertainer. “Tell me, what does that spell?”

“O-I-L,” responded the crowd, composed in age from elementary school to great-grandparents. It also included a Democratic state legislator from Jackson Hole.

The following week, the newspaper had eight letters on the subject. Most expressed disgust at the protest. “This was not a peace rally, like this group would lead you to believe. It was a hate rally. Nothing more, nothing less,” wrote Bill Scarlett, the local Republican Party chairman. Other similarly spoke of the “hatred and venom” and “over-the-line antics.”

As well, one letter-writer said a paid advertisement in theJackson Hole Daily “accusing the vice president of personal responsibility for casualties in Iraq far exceeds the community norms for decency and reasoned, civil debate.”


Telluride open space heads to court

TELLURIDE, Colo. – For now, adults and children and their dogs are cavorting on the former cow pasture at the entrance to Telluride. But, as expected, the landowner whose land was seized in a process called condemnation has appealed the case of the Colorado Supreme Court.

The essence of the San Miguel Valley Corporation in the 42-page legal filing is a classic strict-construction argument, explains theTelluride Daily Planet.

The case goes back several years. With Telluride threatening condemnation of the land, to eliminate potential development, the landowner, Neal Blue, had representatives propose a state law that was subsequently passed by the Colorado Legislature in 2004. Called the Telluride Amendment, it banned home-rule towns, which Telluride is, from using eminent-domain to condemn land outside their borders for open space.

Telluride sued, and a district court ruled in favor of the town. The new state law, said the district court, was unconstitutional – that it illegally stripped powers from towns that had already been conferred by the state Constitution.

But the landowner, who has turned over the 570 acres pending resolution of the legal case, argues the opposite view, namely that towns can condemn land only for those purposes expressly granted by the Constitution.

The case is expected to take until next spring for resolution by the Colorado Supreme Court. It is also assumed this case could go to the U.S. Supreme Court.


Man survives Elbert lightning strike

LEADVILLE, Colo. – Colorado has a reputation of getting more lightning than other places. Not true. It is 24th in density of cloud-to-ground lightning, says Steve Hodanish, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service and a lightning specialist.

But Colorado during the last decade rose to No. 2 in the nation in lightning deaths, up from 11th place in prior years, a ranking Hodanish says is explained by the state’s outdoor lifestyle, particularly the hobby of peak-bagging the state’s 14,000-foot peaks.

A few Sundays back, a 28-year-old man from Boulder nearly became one of those statistics.

It was about 3 p.m. Hail was falling, and lighting bolts were booming around Justin Eggleston as he and his girlfriend, Jamie Willett, jogged from the summit of Colorado’s tallest mountain, 14,440-foot Elbert. It was his first high mountain.

“The next thing you know it felt like I got swept off my feet and I thought I was rolling down the mountain in water,” Eggleston told theSummit Daily News. “Then I woke up and I wasn’t going anywhere. I was just lying there.”

His girlfriend, who had been 125 feet behind, had also been knocked over, but rushed over to him. So did a group of three hikers who had seen what happened. One of them was a doctor from Aspen.

“I started hyperventilating and crying, and then they tried getting me to calm down and breathe deeply,” he told the newspaper. Amid continued flashes of electricity, two of the hikers carried him down the trail, although it took two and a half hours. He was hospitalized, and doctors told him the unwanted electricity may have damaged his muscles, but he’s expected to recover.


Lake Tahoe sees rapid warming

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Nights have become warmer, cold days more rare, and more precipitation at Lake Tahoe is falling as rain, instead of snow.

These are among the findings of an inaugural State of the Lake report issued by scientists from the University of California at Davis. Warming is clearly evident, and the repercussions of that increased heat do not bode well for the clarity of that lake that has fascinated visitors since the time of Mark Twain.

Reliable weather records date to 1911, and the average low temperatures at night have risen more than 4 degrees Fahrenheit, say scientists. Days are also warmer. The number of days with average air temperatures below freezing has dropped from 79 to 42 days.

With that increased warmth comes more rain. A century ago 52 percent of precipitation arrived as snow. Now, it’s 34 percent.

More recent observations show the lake itself is also warming. The average surface water temperature during July has increased almost 5 degrees since 1999, with the record warmth – 78 degrees – registered in July 2006.

Geoff Schladow, director of the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center, said the persistent warmer temperatures observed since 1978 are “beginning to have a noticeable impacts on the entire Lake Tahoe ecosystem.”

For example, increased warmth has advanced runoff by two weeks, giving algae a longer season to grow. This has repercussions for the legendary clarity of Tahoe, the world’s 11th deepest lake. Clarity has declined from an average of 102 feet when Twain visited in the 1860s to a low of 64 feet in the late 1990s. Scientists, explains theTahoe Daily Tribune, have said that clarity is falling because of fine particles and nutrients that enter the lake through erosion, runoff and atmospheric deposition. The fine particles scatter light. The nutrients fuel the growth of algae, which absorb light.

During the last decade $1 billion has been spent to halt this decline in clarity. Rochelle Nason, executive director of the non-profit League to Save Lake Tahoe, said it could cost between $2 billion and $3 billion during the next decade to stabilize the lake.


Green-building chain opens its doors

CARBONDALE, Colo. – The first in what a businessman from Snowmass hopes will be a chain of green-building stores is being planned at Carbondale.

“Think Ace Hardware meets Whole Foods; it’s a high-service model,” said Christopher W. Jacobson of Snowmass Village, the chief executive officer of GreenSpot, Inc.

He tells theValley Journal in Carbondale that the store, when it opens in September, will offer lumber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, as well as paint absent volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. The company will provide documentation on invoices to allow customers the receipt of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) points on their buildings.


Winter beetle kill burn suggested

TELLURDE, Colo. – Phil Miller understands why people of Summit County, Vail, and Grand County are anxious about the dead trees killed by mountain bark beetles. As a young man after World War II, he was on U.S. Forest Service crews dispatched from Eagle and Kremmling that doused large areas of trees with insecticide.

He spent a career in the Forest Service, but chose to live in retirement in Telluride, where he is active in town affairs. Writing inThe Telluride Watch, he says there are easier and cheaper ways to deal with the fire hazard than logging the trees.

Torch them in mid-winter, he advises, when there is plenty of snow on the ground. “Torching the red-tops will burn off all of the needles and small branches. What is left, the main stem and large branches, will not carry a crown fire.”

“I can tell you it is fun,” he adds. “The people could have torching parties in the winter.”

— compiled by Allen Best

In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows