Ted Turner howls at Aspen appearance

ASPEN – When Ted Turner started buying ranch land in Montana in 1987, there was apprehension among the locals. He was, after all, a big money guy, the founder of CNN and TNT, the baseball team in Atlanta and who knows what else.

But Turner, in his 15 ranches in the West and three in Argentina, has turned out to be something other than a money-grubbing ogre. Turner has, argues Todd Wilkinson, in a new book called Last Stand: Ted Turner’s Quest to Save a Troubled Planet, delivered an example for others about how to own land without abusing it.

Both Turner and Wilkinson were on the stage last week in Aspen, at the tail end of a lengthy conference called American Renewable Energy Day. Despite the name, the conference ran four days and included a parade of well-known billionaires, former politicians (including Jimmy Carter), and others gathered to share thoughts about energy and climate change.

Wilkinson, who lives in Bozeman, Mont., near Turner’s 113,613-acre Flying D. Ranch, said he wanted to write a book that delivered the bottom line that business and sustainability aren’t disparate goals. If the business community is not part of the movement, he said, “it will be a lost cause.”

Bison populate the ranches, and Turner explained why. He said that growing up, he learned that 30 million bison at one time grazed on prairies of the American West. In a few decades of the late 19th century, all but a few thousand had died.

Turner said that he remembers thinking, “If I can just make enough money to buy some land when I grow up, I can bring bison back.”

In fact, bison did return from the brink of extinction before Turner made his first billion dollars. But he has helped restore them in greater numbers – while also helping restore some of the over-grazed ranchlands

His trim mustache now as white as the driven snow, as is his hair, he displays a quirky humor. “I’m 75. I can’t remember my grandkids’ names,” he said at one point.

His eldest grandchild, John Seydel, was on stage with him. A student at the University of Denver, Seydel is leading a movement to divest the school’s endowment fund of carbon holdings, including coal, oil and natural gas. That was a major theme in the conference.

Wilkinson, whose book is now going into paperback, a measure of success, at one point noted that the bison provide stability, being more resilient in their interaction with wolves than cattle.

To that, Turner tilted his head back and let out a howl. Soon, everybody on stage was howling with him.

Getting victuals from within 100 miles

WHISTLER, B.C. – On Sunday, some 4,000 people were expected to mount bicycles and slowly ride to Pemberton, a town near Whistler that is mostly about farming and only a little about tourism.

Pique Newsmagazine explains that the slow-food ride was conceived by a local farmer, Anna Helmer. She envisioned a low-impact way of bringing together urbanized folk – which, essentially, people in ski towns are – with the sources of their food. In its first year in 2004, the event drew 400 riders.

Around the same time, the term “locavore” was coined by chef and food activist Jessica Prentice. It was defined as someone who consumes only food that is grown within 100 miles of where it’s purchased.

This led J.B. Mackinnon and his wife, Alisa Smith, to test the proposition of eating only those foods originating within a 100 miles. That was in 2005, and they reported their trials and triumphs in a book called The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating.

Mackinnon tells Pique what used to be novel is now mainstream. “Alisa and I often joke that if we did the 100-mile diet today, it wouldn’t make much of a book – it has become too easy,” he said. “It seems hard to believe now, but when we started, grocery store and restaurant staff looked at us like we were freaks when we asked what was local, or where different foods had come from.”

Smokey Bear has multiple fathers

TAOS, N.M. – Taoseños, as the people of Taos call themselves, filled the city’s central plaza Aug. 9 to celebrate the 70th birthday of Smokey Bear.

The mythical creature that wants you to stop forest fires, explained The Taos News, has roots in New Mexico. In 1950, a firefighting crew from the Taos Pueblo called the Snowballs helped contain a fire elsewhere in New Mexico. As crew members climbed a hill to mop up the fire, they found a small and frightened bear cub that had taken shelter in a rock outcropping.

The bear was blistered from the fire but survived, becoming the model for Smokey Bear.

Or so the story goes. But if the bear was found in 1950, then why is the 70th birthday now being celebrated?

A website titled “The True Story of Smokey Bear” has a different creation story. It says that an animal illustrator named Albert Staehle was called upon during World War II to lend his skills to a fire-prevention campaign after a Japanese sub landed near a wooded area in southern California. He first painted a raccoon, but then decided a bear would be better. The name was taken from a famous New York City firefighter, Smokey Joe Martin.

This brings to mind the adage about success having multiple authors, while failure is always an orphan.

Telluride celebrates all things fungal

TELLURIDE – Perhaps the oddest festival in Telluride’s crowded summer schedule is something informally called Shroomfest, short for Mushroom Festival. It’s now in its 33rd, or maybe 34th year, and although the lineup of speakers has changed, the basic mission has not. The festival extols mushrooms in every possible way.

There are lectures, a food fair, and a forest foray in search of tasty morels. For locals, there’s a parade down Telluride’s main street, a drum being banged joyously in a procession led by a Japanese imported pickup painted red with white dots, like the Amanita muscaria.

This year’s conference included a report from a researcher at the Johns Hopkins University. There, psilocybin has been administered over 400 times to more than 200 people as part of a series of double-blind studies. A current investigation is whether psilocybin can be used to ameliorate depression and anxiety in individuals diagnosed with cancer, and also whether it can help people quit smoking.

Art Goodtimes, a local county commissioner who has helped put on the shroomfest for most of the last three decades, calls it the “zaniest, wackiest, if almost entirely serious” festival in Telluride. He urged Telluridians to get into the spirit of the parade by dressing up as their favorite mushrooms and making a sign.

One suggestion: “I’m a fun guy.”

Ramps for runaway trucks, not bikes

GUNNISON – Highway 50 tops Monarch Pass at an elevation of 11,312 feet before whooshing 5,000 feet down to Salida. Along the way there’s a ramp filled with gravel for runaway trucks. There’s no such equivalent place to slow down bicycles.

The pass is one leg of the USA Pro Challenge this week. The stage starts at Gunnison and goes over the pass to Salida, where the riders will have two 9-mile loops before the slog back up the pass and a finish line at the Monarch ski area, about 600 vertical feet shy of the summit.

The Gunnison Country Times reports that riders can be expected to scorch down the pass at speeds up to 70 mph. That sounds frightening. The speed limit for cars and trucks is 45 mph, and while you can expect to safely travel at 55 mph during summer months, 70 mph on narrow bicycle tires sounds maddening.

Will they crash? Like ski racing, there’s always the possibility. The Country Times explains that the key to winning this stage will be the use of domestique, a French word meaning “servant.” In bicycle terms, they lead the way, allowing the top riders on the team to follow in their wake, preserving energy.

– Allen Best

Tetons someday will shake, rattle, and roll

JACKSON, Wyo. – People with a heightened sense of anxiety about earthquakes are said to have seismophobia. For seismophobiacs, Yellowstone, the Teton Range, and Jackson Hole are places to avoid like the plague.

This isn’t particularly news to anyone. The U.S. Geological Survey periodically evaluates earthquake risks in the United States, and this newest seismic hazard map shows only a “slightly greater” risk than previously estimated, University of Utah geophysicist Bob Smith tells the Jackson Hole News&Guide.

“It’s an area of well-above-normal earthquake hazard,” Smith said of the Greater Yellowstone area.

The Teton Range continues to rise, and in the context of geology, rapidly so: 1.5 millimeters a year. “That doesn’t sound like much, but it means that in 1,000 years you have got a meter of stored energy,” Smith told the paper.

Someday, that stored energy will be released in the form of an earthquake. It’s been a while since the last one: 4,800 years, and that quake had a magnitude of 6.8. That’s far less than the earthquake that struck Madison Canyon, located in Montana just west of Yellowstone National Park when?. Measuring 7.3 to 7.5 on the Richter scale, the quake killed 28 people and triggered a landslide that created what is now called Quake Lake.

Yellowstone is not the only place with heightened earthquake risk. Utah’s Wasatch Range between Park City and Salt Lake City also has a small red zone, as does much of California and the West Coast.

The biggest blotch of red ink, however, is along the Mississippi River in southeast Missouri and adjacent portions of other states. It was site of the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811 and 1812.

Goggle-maker’s future in Ketchum uncertain

KETCHUM, Idaho – Smith Optics, the manufacturer of ski goggles, sunglasses and glasses, has been in Ketchum for nearly 50 years. The company’s founder, Bob Smith, invented the double-lens ski goggle and chose to do business from a place he liked to live.

But manufacturing was relocated to Clearfield, Utah, several decades ago, and now Smith may remove its corporate presence from Ketchum altogether. The founder died a number of years ago.

The Idaho Mountain Express explains that Smith is now owned by Safilo Group, an eyewear company based in Padua, Italy. Smith’s role in the company’s sport and outdoor lifestyle market is being elevated. “Smith has been primarily a snow business in North America, and we’re trying to turn it into more a global eyewear brand,” explained Eric Carlson, Smith’s vice president of product and design.

One decision yet to be made is whether Ketchum is the best place for Smith’s global headquarters. The company isn’t rushing into a decision. A conclusion is expected by 2018.

Allen Best For more, go to www.mountaintownnews.net