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Mountain Town News

Instead of becoming more sullied, Lake Tahoe may be regaining the clarity that Mark Twain described as a noble sheet of blue … not merely transparent, but dazzlingly, brilliantly so.Scientists say the lakes clarity has actually improved since 2001 possibly because land-use restrictions and erosion controls legislated several decades ago have been having an impact, reports the Sacramento Bee.The findings mark the most encouraging development in 40 years of monitoring the clouding of Lake Tahoe, according to Charles Goldman, a professor at the University of California, Davis, who in the 1960s was the first to foresee Tahoes troubles, and then take action its behalf.Theres promise in these data that weve crossed the line, Goldman told the Bee.Tahoe still dazzles as when Mark Twain visited it, notes the Bee, but erosion, construction runoff and air pollution have caused its clarity to decline by nearly one-third since 1968, or an average loss of a foot a year.The $500 million in federal, state and lake funds designated for cleanup in recent years has paid for roadside basins to capture runoff from lakeside highways, a major source of lake pollution.Scientists were unwilling to say absolutely that the pollution had been reversed. But the seven-year trend is enough to raise hopes of a bluer Tahoe.

To keep up with the Joneses down I-70 street, Loveland Ski Area is investigating expansion of snowcat skiing.Two nearby ski areas, Keystone and Copper Mountain, already offer skiing with the aid of snow coaches. Loveland, which is located around the eastern portal of the Eisenhower Tunnel, has changed little since 1999, when a lift was installed to the Continental Divide.The land in question, Forest Service officials tell the Summit Daily News, has been identified since 1997 as suitable for guided skiing. Such backcountry-with-help skiing is sometimes called backcountry lite and in various ways has been a major theme in ski area expansions during the last decade. The newspaper reports sharply worded conversations on forums such as that hosted by Teton Gravity Research, as backcountry skiers react to incursions of motorized users into the area, called Dry Gulch.

Thinning of the ponderosa pine forest has begun in an area near Durango called Log Chutes. The area is frequented by mountain bikers, who have appropriated the old logging roads from more than a century ago into single-track trails.But the U.S. Forest Service, which administers the area, says the forest is unnaturally thick, and to make it less susceptible to major fires, has begun to thin it. Still vivid in local minds is the 71,000-acre Missionary Ridge Fire of 2002. That fire in the same area burned 57 homes in the wildland-urban interface.Trails 2000, a local mountain bike trails advocacy group, tells the Durango Telegraph that the logging will interfere with mountain biking for years to come, but concedes it is necessary to mitigate the risk of fire to nearby homes.

British Columbia is instituting new taxes on carbon-based fuels beginning in July as part of its strategy to dampen production of planet-warming greenhouse gases. The rate is $10 per ton of greenhouse gases, but rising $5 a year until it hits $30 per ton.What this means in practice is that the gasoline tax will rise 2.4 cents per liter, and that has politician Norm MacDonald cranky. Writing in the Revelstoke Times-Review, he charges that the tax will unfairly hurt his constituents in the Columbia River Basin.Rural residents must drive farther, whether to jobs in the forests or to services in towns, he says. And the tax will achieve only 7 percent of the reductions being targeted by the plan.The carbon tax also is being applied to natural gas, propane, coal and home heating oil.

Hailey has started work toward reducing its carbon footprint. The city, located about 10 miles downvalley from Ketchum and Sun Valley, signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement last year. That agreement says participating towns should strive to achieve the principles of the Kyoto Protocol, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent below 1990 levels by the year 2012.Haileys town government has first focused on its internal operations, retrofitting lights at city hall, installing programmable thermostats in all city buildings, and encouraging more car-pooling and mass transit by employees. An emissions inventory conducted by the city finds a 3.3 percent decrease from 2005 to 2007.The inventory showed that a major user of electricity is the wastewater treatment plan. Pumping of water is also a major consumer of electricity. The Idaho Mountain Express says town officials hope that limiting lawn irrigation to two days a week will reduce pumping costs and hence the communitys carbon footprint.Apparently still unaddressed is the broader community footprint, such as is the focus of inventories conducted over the last several years in Aspen, Jackson Hole and now other ski towns and resort valleys.Allen Best compiles Mountain Town News. He can be reached at allen.best@comcast.net.


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