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Mountain Town News

Compiled by Allen BestAspen Times Weekly

The future of the proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort is knotted. The ski area and potential 6,400-bed resort has been pushed forward by the provincial government, but stubbornly resisted by two organizations, Wildsight and the Jumbo Creek Conservation Society. A disputed plebiscite conducted last year in the Invermere area found 80 percent of voters opposed.The latest twist is a procedural one. The provincial government agreed to transfer the right to operate a ski training facility on Farnham Glacier. The new company, Glacier Resorts, was building an 800-meter road to the glacier and planned to install a portable platter lift.Wildsight, one of the environmental groups, riled the public into creating a blockade. The government is not challenging that blockade, reports Whistlers Pique Newsmagazine.A more local newspaper, the Invermere Valley Echo, says that two First Nations groups are tilting in opposite directions on Jumbo Creek. Ktunaxa Nation has joined the blockade although it is also negotiating with the resort proponents. Another First Nations people, the Shuswap Indian Band, had previously gone on record supporting the project. The Shuswaps insist that the development is within their traditional territory.

Two mountains west of Silverton have memorable names: Grand Turk and Sultan. A mountain newly named, Spencer, has a more prosaic name, but the individual for whom it was named, Donald C. Spencer, was anything but.The Durango Telegraph explains that the namesake developed an entire new field called Spencer cohomology, which combines algebra, calculus and geometry. Perhaps more saliently, while teaching at Princeton University in the 1950s, he was mentor to John Nash, the mathematician made famous by the book, A Beautiful Mind, and later a movie of the same name. The author, Sylvia Nasar, called Spencer a brilliant theorist, teacher and mentor, and later, a bearded environmental.Retiring to Durango in 1977, Spencer was bitterly opposed to a dam on the Animas River, among other issues. He particularly loved the montane and alpine environments around Silverton.

Jackson, the heart of Jackson Hole, is a stew of cultures, part dusty cowboy boot and part Teva sandals, in some places a beat-up pickup truck and at other times a yellow Hummer.Originally a ranch headquarters, it acquired much of its current sheen from the post-World War II age of automobile tourism. More recently, it has been changing again. An election challenge this fall reflects an ongoing debate about the nature of those changes. The mayor, Mark Baron, has held office since 2002, a time of rapid growth. Baron, who owns a laundry and dry cleaning service in the towns downtown area, has advocated a more densely developed town core. This is necessary, he insists, in order to reduce sprawl into the rural pastures near the town and to continue to make Jackson the vibrant center of Jackson Hole, which has no other town.Through successive town votes, the community has argued the merits of growth, whether it can be prevented, or how it can best be channeled. The elections have tilted on whether Jackson will retain the feel of a small town, such as it had 30 years ago, or become more urban.In all cases there have been majority opinions, but no consensus. Nor is there now.Although Baron appeared to have avoided any opposition in this years election, the Jackson Hole News&Guide reports a challenger has emerged from various write-in candidates. The challenger, Mike Lance, a state highway worker and former city councilman, objects to new regulations that allow four-story buildings up to 46 feet tall.This commercial growth, even with housing mixed in, creates more jobs that further strain the housing market. The more commercial we get, the more people we need, said Lance. Were having a hard time housing the ones we have.The News&Guide last year found that town councils have approved 752,000 square feet of commercial development since 2000. No number has been put to the amount of residential development authorized during the same time.

For several years now scientists have known that species within mountain ecosystems are reacting to the changing climate. Pika, for example, are moving up in elevation.But few places have such a strong empirical record for comparison as Yosemite National Park. There, a museum director named Joseph Grinnell set out nearly a century ago to seek specimens for his museum in Berkeley, Calif. Unlike other collectors, however, he and his assistants took elaborate notes on everything.The Sacramento Bees Tom Knudson explains that because of those elaborate notes, researchers today can trace Grinnells footsteps to study what is different. Much has changed.For example, during his traipsing in Yosemite, Grinnell found a species called the pion mouse in the forests at around 7,000 feet. But when retired zoology professor Jim Patton went looking in 2003, he found the same species at 10,240 feet.Rodent populations do expand and contract dramatically, but researchers think that global climate change has pushed the mouse up the mountain.Historic records for Yosemite indicate theres been about a 5-degree Fahrenheit increase in the maximum summer temperature for any given elevation, said Les Chow, a data manager for the National Park Service.Some species, such as bushy-tailed wood rats and water shrews, have also become uncommon. Another species, the alpine chipmunk, is virtually non-existent.Other species, such as the golden-mantled ground squirrel, remain but are moving upward. However, few species are migrating upward as rapidly as the alpine chipmunk. In 1915, the small chipmunk was omnipresent at Tuolumne Meadows. Now, it has retreated 2,000 feet upward.Maybe its the warming temperatures that it does not like, reports Knudson. Or perhaps it is the landscape changes that follow climate change such as the creep of conifers up the mountain that are pushing it higher onto the talus slopes. Alpine chipmunks prefer open areas, not shadowy forests.Heat alone may not be driving the creatures upward. For example, in this case scientists speculate that snow deposition may have changed, causing a different distribution of plants. That could impact the diet of the chipmunks, which feed primarily on seeds. Whatever the reason, if the current pace continues, the chipmunk will start running out of real estate in 35 to 40 years.What does this matter?Patton, the retired zoology professor, says its not known whether loss of the chipmunk from the High Sierra will have any incredible detrimental effect to human welfare, but its possible that it would. The big concern is that these changes are happening so fast that we dont have a chance to understand both why they are happening and what the potential effects might be until its too late.

Does climbing 14,000-foot peaks cause you to lose brain cells, because of hypoxia? A study done in Spain came to the conclusion that time spent at high elevations resulted in a significant loss of brain cells, leading even to permanent damage.But a study conducted by Tellurides Institute for Altitude Medicine is coming to a different conclusion. Dr. Peter Hackett, the centers director and one of the nations foremost experts in high-altitude medicine, has spearheaded a study of climbers of Alaskas 20,320-foot Mt. McKinley, a.k.a. Denali. Brains of the climbers were analyzed by magnetic resonance imaging both before and after their climbs.Results of the study remain incomplete, but Hackett told The Telluride Watch it appears that climbing the occasional 14er wont cause irreparable damage.

Vail town officials last year had 35 Australians with H-2B visas driving buses. With none of them coming back, the town is scrambling to recruit drivers, going to Yosemite and other national parks to see if summer-time bus drivers want winter jobs. The town isnt ready to cut back service, but if it has to do so, then the evening schedule will be hit first. Some routes to outlying neighborhoods currently get buses every 15 minutes, notes the Vail Daily.

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The U.S. Forest Service has been cracking down on campers who overextend their legal welcome on national forests. The law specifies 14 days, but some campers have stayed much, much longer in effect, making a home on the public lands.The message that the Forest Service wants to send, spokeswoman Leeanne Loupe tells the Crested Butte News, is that the national forest is a place to visit, not live.

Scott USA is looking for a new bicycling team. The Ketchum-based manufacturer of ski equipment also has a bike division, and in 2004 it began sponsoring the Spanish bicycle-racing team Saunier Duval, which became Scott-American Beef.But one of the teams riders, Riccardo Ricco, tested positive after a fourth stage of the Tour de France for a variant of a banned substance commonly known as EPO, or erythropoietin. When injected into a racers body, the hormone helps stimulate red blood cell production, which allows more oxygen to be delivered to muscles.Adrian Montgomery, the marketing and public relations director for Scott USA, told the Idaho Mountain Express that his company is actively looking for another team, and that the team must be in on the big tours of Europe. Were in the business of selling bikes, he said. If you cant be in the grand tours, we cant be part of your team.

Taos will become the site of a major installation of solar panels. Work has begun on a solar farm of 2.5 to 3 acres adjacent to the University of New Mexico-Taos.When operational next year, college officials tell The Taos News, the solar farm will provide 160 percent of electricity consumed by the campus. However, the electricity will not be created precisely when it is needed, as storage media for solar power is still being developed. For those non-sunny times, the campus will still be connected to the electrical grid.The Taos area is supplied by Tri-State Generation and Transmission.

Still whooping with exuberance a year ago, the real estate market in Steamboat Springs and Routt County this year is slumbering. The Steamboat Pilot & Today reports $501 million in sales through July, compared with $1 billion during the same time period in 2006.

Allen Best compiles Mountain Town News. He can be reached at allen.best@comcast.net.

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