Breck opts for low-profile solar

BRECKENRIDGE – Breckenridge has held back on plans to install solar panels at two prominent locations, the local golf club and a venue called the Riverwalk Center often used for weddings.

The town, reports theSummit Daily News, will move forward with less visible solar panel installations at nine other public buildings, including the community recreation center, the police station and the ice arena.

People who spoke out against the panels said the solar panels would damage the historic feel of the town, might impact property values of nearby homes, and would lock the town into technology that might change or improve in coming years.

As measured financially, however, the technology works well already. At the Riverwalk, 10 stand-alone panels 18 feet high would have been erected along the parking lot, producing 23 percent of the electricity consumed by the building and saving the town $6,700 in just the first year alone. The electrical bill would have been dented even more severely at the golf club.

As a majority of electricity in Colorado comes from burning coal, a major source of carbon dioxide emissions, the solar panels help to reduce the town’s carbon footprint. Breckenridge residents have mostly indicated their support of that goal.

Understandably, some council members were vexed. “We want to be green as long as we don’t have to see it,” said Councilman Mike Dudick.

Aspen passes up plastic bottle ban

ASPEN – A ban on plastic bottles? Not in Aspen, which has instead decided to emphasize the positive, the high quality of its native waters high in the Rocky Mountains. The idea for the ban came up after a councilman noticed all the plastic bottles littering the water in the British Virgin Islands while on a vacation earlier this year, notesThe Aspen Times.

But Aspen has decided to follow in the footsteps of Telluride to discourage plastic bags, and it hopes for coordination with other municipalities in the Roaring Fork Valley in adoption of a policy.

Whistler has also talked about crimping the proliferation of plastic shopping bags. But the city’s environmental coordinator, Nicolette Richer, recently said that the initiative must come from the business community, particularly the three grocery stores that account for 70 percent of plastic bags issued in Whistler.

Pique Newsmagazine, talking with two of the groceries, reported “two sides of the coin” hedging by one store over but clear enthusiasm from a second. “It does make sense to change over and get rid of the plastic, so we’re fully supportive of something that will work for Whistler,” said Kent Dawson of Whistler’s Creekside Market.

Whistler goes dark for Earth Hour

WHISTLER, B.C. – During the last Saturday evening in March, the light switch went off at many places on the planet in an observance called Earth Hour. In San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge turned dark. In London, it was Big Ben.

Whistler and Blackcomb ski mountains also went dark, save for a few snow groomers, while in the town below, many restaurants turned off lights and lit candles for the hour of observation and one high-end restaurant served cold cuts.

To further make the point, four bicycles were outfitted with generators to produce sufficient electricity for 57 minutes to amplify sound and provide lighting at a concert that attracted 400 to 500 people.

The lesson drawn from this hour of restrained electrical use and sturdy pedaling was that “energy conservation can be tackled in a meaningful way,” according to Mayor Ken Melamed. “Events such as Earth Hour serve to bring the initiative to the foreground and show that being conscious of our actions and impacts is the first step to deeper action.”

Strictly by the numbers, the effort just nicked electrical use in Whistler, a reduction of 4.35 percent.

Bears rise and shine all over the West

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS – The same week that snowfall for the year reached 400 inches mid-mountain at Steamboat, the first bears of the season were reported lumbering around town.

Similar reports were filed in Crested Butte and Jackson Hole. And in all cases, wildlife officers wanted the public to know it was time to start putting trash in wildlife-resistant containers, hoisting the bird feeders high enough that bears couldn’t get them, and in other ways forcing the bears to earn their meals honestly, out in the wild.

Meanwhile, Durango is cashing in on Aspen’s ursine leftovers. The electronic surveillance collars placed on bears in the hills surrounding Aspen are now being removed, to next be used in a study of bears on the outskirts of Durango.

The Aspen Times explains that the collars had been placed on 62 bears during the last five years in an attempt to better understand whether bears get addicted to human food. Sharon Baruch-Mordo, a doctoral candidate at Colorado State University, who led the study, concluded that bears will remain in the wilds when natural food, like berries and acorns, are plentiful. In years they are not, then the bears look to glean what they can amid dumpsters, garbage cans and even houses and garages.

The Times explains that with this first study done, wildlife graduate student David Lewis is starting another study. “We’re trying to find out if Aspen is a source for the bear population or a sink for the bear population,” he said. “Aspen should be a source, because it has such good habitat, but it may be a sink because of the euthanizations – because of conflicts.”

Animal rights group takes on dog killer

WHISTLER, B.C. – A Los-Angeles based group called North American Animal Liberation Front has claimed responsibility for vandalism to the store front of a company in Whistler involved in the killing of unneeded sled dogs.

A number of sled dogs no longer needed for a commercial operation in Whistler were reportedly killed last year in a blood-bath that shocked British Columbia and many others beyond. By one account, the killings numbered 100 dogs. They came to light earlier this year.

Just what role the targeted company had in the killings is not clear. Outdoor Adventures Whistler then had a partial financial interest in the company, and it has admitted it knew some dogs would be put down for quality-of-life reasons. But the killings seem to have gone far beyond that, to economic reasons. There wasn’t enough business after the Olympics to justify so many dogs.

Whistler Animals Galore, or WAG, has plans to find homes for remaining dogs no longer used for commercial sledding, but warns that these are not your normal pound puppies. They need high doses of regular exercise and are not particularly domesticated.

Revelstoke studies possibility of tsunami

REVELSTOKE, B.C. – With Japan’s misfortune fresh in mind, theRevelstoke Times-Review asked the local emergency preparedness officials about what the greatest threat to Revelstoke is. Although far inland, a tsunami could occur.

That scenario could occur if a mass of land along the Columbia River, upstream of the Revelstoke Dam, should let loose. Electronic sensors have been installed in that ancient landslide to detect movement. The fear is that the earth and mud could plop down into the reservoir, creating waves that slop over the dam.

In 1963, that’s exactly what happened, when a landslide created a wave that went across the Vajont Dam, flooding the valley below and killing 2,000 people.

But the biggest threat facing Revelstoke, says the emergency coordinator, Jerry Silva, is the potential for a wildfire in the urban-wildland interface. Also high on the list is the potential for a hazardous waste spill on either the TransCanda Highway or Canadian-Pacific Railway, both of which pass through the town.

Starbucks rental plan stirs up Ketchum

KETCHUM, Idaho – Ketchum has been getting worked up about plans to let Starbucks rent space in a taxpayer-funded facility. The group that controls the space, the Ketchum Urban Renewal Agency, had advertised it was looking for bidders, but only Starbucks applied.

Opponents cite a violation of the law, but reading between the lines of theIdaho Mountain Express several comments suggest that the real quarrel is about allowing a chain franchise the right to use the space.

– 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