Turner loses ag status for his ranch

TAOS, N.M. – Ted Turner will have to pay $90,000 more in property taxes on that portion of his Vermejo Park Ranch located in New Mexico’s Taos County, but Turner’s representatives say it’s unfair.
The half-million acres sprawl across northern New Mexico and into Colorado. The Taos News notes that the website for the ranch describes it as a full-service guest ranch.
The assessor for Taos County has concluded that because it’s not a working ranch, it should not get the lower rate given to agricultural properties.
Leslie Dhaseleer, the natural resources manager for Vermejo Park, protested that the forests on the ranch are still recovering from “aggressive over-harvesting by the previous owner, Pennzoil, between 1974 and 1984.”
In the letter cited by the Taos News, Dhaseleer wrote that the ranch is implementing various treatments to reduce the damage to the watershed from possible wildfire, increase forage for bison, and pursuing other goals of ecosystem restoration.

Heat, dust causes earlier Rockies runoff

CRESTED BUTTE – Jim Schmidt has been in Crested Butte since 1976, and he says that in the last 15 years or so, there has been a clear difference in the weather.
It’s warmer in winter, with fewer of the 30-below temperatures. But the sharper difference is in the shoulder seasons, spring and fall. There’s more rain and less snow. And if the snow arrives, it melts.
“It was 69 degrees here yesterday,” he said one day last week, as the East River swelled with runoff.
Partly because of warm weather, the river’s volume in April was its third highest in 92 years of records. Frank Kugel, director of the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District, tells the Crested Butte News that the inflow to Blue Mesa Reservoir was 167 percent of average during April.
But there’s something else going on. Dust storms have been blowing in. Bill Trampe, a local rancher between Crested Butte and Gunnison, tells Mountain Town News that spring dust storms always occurred, but he believes that they have become more intense in recent years.
“It was bad, real bad,” said John McClow, an attorney for the water district after a storm in late April.
Schmidt said the snowpack around Crested Butte has turned salmon colored. He also remembers skiing on dusty snow 20 to 25 years ago. “It was like skiing on sandpaper,” he says.
“But I only remember that happening once ... now it seems to be happening almost every year that we’re getting a fair amount of dust.”
Scientific investigations during the past decade focused in the San Juan Mountains have concluded that the dust causes the snowmelt to accelerate. Also, because of the accelerated melting, more of the water is lost to evaporation through sublimation.
The dust comes primarily from deserts of the Southwest, and evidence suggests this is due to the activities of humans.

Hydrogen experiment results differ

TRUCKEE, Calif. – California is eagerly putting in the pieces of a hydrogen highway. But in British Columbia, at least in Whistler, the hydrogen experiment has not worked out so well.
The California Energy Commission has announced it will invest $46.6 million to accelerate the development of public hydrogen fueling stations throughout California. The goal is to promote a consumer market for zero-emission fuel-cell vehicles, which could be widely available as early as next year, notes the Sacramento Bee.
Although most of the stations will be in Southern California or in the Bay Area, a few locations will be more inland. One of them is at Truckee.
Hydrogen-fueled buses were also a large part of the fanfare of the 2010 Winter Olympics. But the investment of nearly $90 million in Whistler buses has been yanked.
Pique reports that the decision comes as no surprise. “The understanding was always that it was just a way of showcasing British Columbia technology,” writes editor Clare Ogilvie.
For a province intent on battling greenhouse gases, she notes, there was a good argument for focusing on transportation. In 2011, passenger vehicles were responsible for 51 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in Whistler. That compares with 28 percent in Canada overall, according to the Suzuki Foundation.
The hydrogen for the buses in Whistler was created by hydropower in Quebec then hauled across Canada by truck. Even so, it was a net gain for greenhouse gas reduction.
But the buses struggled in cold months. Water in the fuel cells froze and prevented the buses from starting or running efficiently.
Ogilvie contends that a better investment would have been in diesel/gas-electric hybrids. Greenhouse gas emissions would have been cut 40 percent, and the buses would still be in use today.

Old railroad depot may get new home

GRANBY – A railroad arrived in Granby in 1904, creating the town and serving as a way to ferry vacationers to Grand Lake, at what is now the west entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. The depot might seem the logical place to celebrate that railroading history, but the original is long gone.
So how about bringing in a depot from elsewhere? That’s the plan, according to the Sky Hi News. It seems all the drilling north of Denver has resulted in plans to scrape and trash an old railroad depot that was built in 1901 to assist sugar-beet farming near Loveland.
David Naples, president of the Moffat Road Railroad Museum Board of Directors, says his organization can afford to dismantle the depot near Loveland and have it hauled across the Continental Divide to Granby. But his group will have to pass the hat and then some to come up with the $120,000 to pour a new concrete slab and otherwise make the old depot usable in Granby.
It’s still cheaper than building a replica from scratch. “It has all the correct architectural structure of a 1900 depot, and you can’t do that cheaply anymore,” he says.

Ideas Festival notes corporate sponsors

ASPEN – In organizing conferences, where do you draw the line with sponsors? That’s the question being asked in Aspen, where the Aspen Institute is selling tickets for the annual 10-day talkathon called the Ideas Festival.
The festival in late June and early July includes everybody from Al Gore to Tony Blair to Newt Gingrich, as well as columnists for the New York Times, Katie Couric, chief executives, and scores of others. Topics will range from health care, global dynamics and creativity, among others.
“We’ll have writers and musicians and architects, but also mathematicians and neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists talking about this whole notion of the creative enterprise,” said Kitty Boone, vice president of public programs.
The Aspen Daily News points out that Monsanto is among the sponsors. The company has been controversial due to its history as a developer of Agent Orange, DDT and genetically modified crops.
The Aspen Institute takes the position that “corporations are incredibly important to American society, and we owe them the opportunity to explain themselves,” according to Boone. She also notes that the Environmental Defense Fund is a sponsor this year, as is the Gates Foundation and Mount Sinai Hospital.

Opera lover gets extra year in prison

BEAVER CREEK – Alberto Vilar’s name graces the Vilar Center for the Performing Arts in Beaver Creek, the result of his significant donations.
His philanthropy across the world, especially to opera, was legendary. So was his fall from grace, when he stole up to $40 million to further allow his lavish lifestyle and honor his pledges. All of this was recounted in a New Yorker profile several years ago.
But the story is not getting any better. The Vail Daily reports that Vilar, 73, was resentenced to 10 years in prison, a year longer than his original sentence. A judge in New York said a longer term was justified because Vilar had taken steps to prevent victims of his crimes from being repaid.

Allen Best


In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

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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