Rico rejects molybdenum mine

RICO – Rico will remain a former mining town, at least for the time being. A proposal to mine a large molybdenum deposit adjacent to the town was rejected unanimously by the Dolores County commissioners last week.

The deposit of molybdenum – a mineral used for hardening of steel, among other uses – is believed to be one of the world’s largest and purest, with an ore concentration of 0.3 percent. In comparison, the average molybdenum percentage of remaining ore at the Climax Mine, between Leadville and Copper Mountain, is 0.165 percent.

The Telluride Watch reports that Rico residents were almost uniformly against the proposal. “We are a town of young families,” said Rico Mayor Barbara Betts. “This application jeopardizes the safety of our children, the quality of our water, and the quality of our air.”

Just one of the 35 speakers advocated approval. Steve Garcher, who lives in another town in Dolores County, said the income from mining can be used to build improved drinking water systems, sewer systems and roads. “This project is an opportunity not to be missed,” he said.

However, the commissioners uniformly found the application from mining engineer Mark Levin wanting. One commissioner, Ernie Williams, said he had thought he’d never vote against an oil or mining proposal, but that Levin’s plans needed greater detail.

Trophy home extinction may be near

KETCHUM, Idaho – Has the end arrived for the era of 13,000-square-foot mansions? Gene Dallago, writing in theIdaho Mountain Express, argues that big and especially energy-consuming houses that were the hallmark of the economic boom from 1988-2008 are already being seen as white elephants.

Dallago points to an auction of an estate near Ketchum as evidence of changing economic realities. “As the nation becomes more indebted to China and the emerging markets continue to grow,” he writes, “America is experiencing an economic paradigm shift that will gradually transform our way of life.”

Although the United States certainly won’t become a Third World nation, “reduced consumption for most Americans will be a matter of necessity, and even the rich will express their wealth in more subdued ways,” he argues.

“The excess of a log home six times larger than the national average just isn’t right,” he insists.

Some readers objected to Dallago’s comments. “Thank God this country was built on free enterprise, and to the victor go the spoils,” wrote one blogger on the newspaper’s website. “Not everyone, like you, believes in the direction our socialistic president is taking us.”

Beetle moves into Roaring Fork Valley

ASPEN – Since 1996, when the current mountain pine beetle epidemic got under way in Colorado, the hardest hit areas have been mostly north of Interstate 70. But this year, Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley have been warned to expect their lodgepole pines to begin turning rust colored as fungus carried by the beetles into the trees cut off transport of water and nutrients to the needles.

But Jan Burke, of the U.S. Forest Service, said the impact won’t be as great as in the Vail, Frisco and Winter Park areas. The lodgepole pine in the Roaring Fork Valley, she said, have greater age diversity and are not as extensive. But there is no chance of stopping the spread of beetles, she said.

Meanwhile, Rick Cables, the regional forester, was in Washington, D.C., to present his case for larger appropriations from Congress for harvesting of dead and dying trees in Colorado and Wyoming.

Cables has been making the case that tree-cutting will be necessary to avert forest fires. Those fires could be extremely damaging to watersheds used for municipal and agriculture water supplies, he maintains.

Reports warns of grizzly bear die-off

BANFF, Alberta – Grizzly bears have been dying in Banff and six other national parks in the Canadian Rockies more rapidly than scientists believe their populations can sustain.

Parks Canada, which administers the parks, reports that of the 63 grizzly bears which died in the mountain parks between 1990 and 2008, 48 deaths were human-caused and the majority were females. One relatively small area, Lake Louise, accounted for 25 percent of human-caused deaths.

The report also found that the single largest killer of grizzly bears in the parks has been the Canadian Pacific rail, which slices through Banff, and the Canada National Railway, which crosses Jasper.

Of special concern has been Banff, which has a population of 60 grizzlies. The known human-caused mortality of independent female bears has exceeded the 1.2 percent target for the past seven years.

Jim Pissot, executive director of Defenders of Wildlife Canada, described the situation as shameful. “If this rate continues, deaths will exceed births in Banff National Park, and park management appears to be absolutely dumbfounded as to how to respond,” he toldRocky Mountain Outlook.

Pissot called for a grizzly bear conservation strategy and pointed to an approach used at Yellowstone National Park as appropriate. That approach involves gathering specialists, land managers, and adjacent land managers to take steps to reduce the likelihood of exceeding the threshold.

Alternative home retreads in Granby

GRANBY – The Hagar home near Granby has a typical description: two bedrooms, three baths, and a two-car attached garage. That’s where its commonality ends, because the house was constructed of 17,000 tires compressed into bales and then fashioned into 6-foot-thick walls.

Using tires for construction has great merit, in that it uses a plentiful material that has been literally stacking up over the decades: 128 million of them, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association. As well, the thick insulation creates a thermal mass that keeps the home at 60 to 70 degrees in summer, and sometimes warmer in winter. That minimizes the need for fossil fuels. Most of the heat can be delivered by passive solar.

Sounds wonderful, does it not? But there is a problem, Laura Hagar tells theSky-Hi Daily News. Financing construction of this home was not possible through conventional sources. The United States has only a handful of such houses. As such, the Hagars were rejected by 30 different mortgage brokers and lenders.

“There are no other houses like this, so if you can’t find comparables, you can’t get an appraisal. If you can’t get an appraisal, you can’t get a mortgage,” Laura Hagar said.

But Hagar also was annoyed with building codes. The amalgamation of all those codes, she said, results in people sticking with what is known instead of trying something new.

Paonia embraces locavore movement

PAONIA – Paonia, Hotchkiss and other communities in Colorado’s North Fork Valley have become part of the locavore movement. In other words, people have been moving there specifically because they like the idea of locally grown food and wine.

For some time, notesThe Aspen Times’ Stewart Oksenhorn, restaurants of Aspen and Snowmass have been importing food grown in the valley, located about 65 miles west, and bragging about it on their menus.

Now, some of the chefs and others from Aspen have made Paonia their new homes. Dining with them at the Fresh & Wyld Farmhouse Inn one evening, Oksenhorn concluded that a lot of Paonians are on the fence between gardeners and farmers. The former, he explains, grow some of their own food, while the latter grow full time.

One restaurant, Flying Fork, uses herbs, fruits and tomatoes grown in its own backyard garden. More than half of the wines featured are made within a few miles of the restaurant.

Park City celebrates 125 years

PARK CITY, Utah – On a recent Saturday evening, Park City toasted its own birthday, now at 125 candles.

The town’s roots were in mining, which created the narrow, slightly twisting main street that even today remains the public face for the community and its three ski areas. Less public is the fact that old mining tunnels also provide the town’s water.

After mining slumped in the 1960s, the ski areas began operations. Success was not immediate. “It was a ghost town,” says Gene Carr, describing the scenes he photographed in the early 1970s.

Main Street, he says, was so empty he could have fired a cannon without hitting someone, he toldThe Park Record.

– Allen Best

Taking stock of its community now, the newspaper reflected upon its contradictions: rural yet cosmopolitan, small but bustling, out of the way but well known. Therein, said the newspaper, lies the charm.

Revelstoke takes on herbicides

REVELSTOKE, B.C. – Revelstoke’s municipal council has outlawed the spraying of toxic chemicals to kill weeds and insects on public ball fields. Among the banned chemicals would be 2, 4-D.

The Revelstoke Times Reviewreports that the ban was supported by the local school district, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Revelstoke Rod & Gun Club, and various environmental organizations.

Another 130 communities across Canada, including the British Columbia towns of Kelowna and Invermere, have also stopped using the so-called cosmetic pesticides and herbicides. Chemicals such as Roundup will still be allowed on private property.

– 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