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Mountain Town News

Grizzly bears in Wyoming are being delisted from the endangered species list. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service says there are enough grizzlies now after 30 years of protection under federal laws. Hunting seasons conducted under Wyoming state laws could occur as early as 2008.The bears in Wyoming are limited to the Yellowstone ecosystem, but with some as far south as the Wind River Range.”An endangered species is one that is likely to become extinct, and a threatened species is one that is likely to become endangered,” said Chris Servheen, U.S. Fish & Wildlife grizzly bear recovery coordinator. “The grizzly bear is neither one of these.”Conservation groups think the delisting is premature, especially in light of new evidence of climate change. If traditional food sources in Yellowstone become more scarce, due to warmer weather, the bears will go to lower elevations, where conflicts with people will become more common. They want the terrain of the bears expanded to include other mountain ranges in Wyoming.Servheen disagrees. He says the lawsuit being readied by the group will ultimately be harmful to the cause of endangered species. “The Endangered Species Act really needs success stories to demonstrate that the act works,” he told the Jackson Hole News&Guide.

Even before the hammers have begun to swing at the new ski resort, Revelstoke has been experiencing tightening housing prices. More people from Banff and Whistler and also from cities have arrived to enjoy the mountain lifestyle, but at lower costs than elsewhere.In doing so, they are driving up prices. Almost no single-family homes have been available for rent, and those that are go for $1,800 a month. While that might seem like next to free in some resort areas, in Revelstoke, it’s about triple the rates of just a few years ago, reports the Revelstoke Times Review.Girding for a real estate boom, the City Council is trying to construct an affordable housing policy. The possibilities include what are called inclusionary zoning and linkages, which require affordable housing in all development, both residential and commercial. As well, there is talk of a lodging tax, sometimes called a tourist accommodation tax.There is talk of discouraging the creation of vacation homes, or second homes. One mechanism would be a higher property tax on homes that do not include full-time residents. “This is something we could do as an incentive to dissuade people from buying residential property they won’t use more than once a year,” said one Jill Zacharias, at a housing committee meeting. “Across the board, it is the out-of-town home buyers who buy in residential areas who are responsible for rising prices,”Does that statement reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the economics currently in play? Another Revelstoke resident, Tuulikki Tennant, seems to think so. “People who can afford to play here can afford higher taxes.”One thing that Revelstoke has going for it that many resort towns in the American West would dearly love is an abundance of land available from the provincial government that could be used specifically for affordable housing.The Revelstoke Times Review argues that the experience of other resort communities underscores the need for government action.

Maps of Summit County show a checkerboard of private and public lands, a legacy of the mining era when prospectors were allowed to stake claims of 10.2 acres. The larger homesteader tracts were generally along the valley floors.But in recent years, with the valley floors getting heavily developed, those wanting a house in the nestling pines have been looking at more remote locations – to the great concern of fire departments as well as county officials concerned about environmental impacts.To that end, Summit County is trying to limit – not stop, but limit – how much building is done on private land in the backcountry. A new plan proposes rezoning 3,615 acres of private land into a new backcountry zone.The regulations, if adopted, would affect 275 properties in the Snake River Basin near Keystone and the town of Montezuma. Another 66 properties would be affected in the Tenmile Basin, near Copper Mountain.The Summit Daily News explains that the regulations would restrict size of buildings. A 2-acre parcel, for example, would be permitted a 750-square-foot cabin, and so on up to 35 acres, where the landowner would be permitted a home of up to 2,400 square feet. Landowners would be allowed to consolidate these scattered lots for purposes of building size on one lot, but they would lose the right to build on the other lots.



Want to get away from it all? If remoteness is defined by the absence of roads, then Hinsdale County, located in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, is the most remote place in the lower 48 states.This distinction is based on new computer technology developed by the U.S. Geological Survey. Traditional tools for analyzing roadless space have ranked a plot of land one mile from a road the same as one several miles from a road, explains Discovery News. But this method ignores the fact that the farther a place is from a road, the less it is affected.Using this new technology, the Geological Survey created three-dimensional pictures that finds Hinsdale County, between Gunnison and Silverton, is the nation’s most remote. Although heavily mined, it has several wilderness areas, plus five 14,000-foot peaks.The county is also among the least-populated, with a 2002 census of 790 full-time residents, more than half in the county’s only town, Lake City.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a case involving 155 acres of land near Crested Butte that the Bureau of Land Management transferred to a mining company. The decision, however, was no surprise to anybody.”It was a long shot at best,” Crested Butte Mayor Alan Bernholtz said of the effort by various parties, including the town, to overturn the transfer of land to Phelps Dodge Corporation. Phelps Dodge has since transferred the land to another mining company, U.S. Energy.The case has been under way for decades, owing to a deposit of molybdenum within the bowels of Mount Emmons described as world-class. Amax pursued the ore deposit in the 1970s, but put the project on hold after the price of molybdenum plummeted in 1980 and 1981.The surging world economy in recent years has resulted in rapidly escalating prices for all building materials. Molybdenum strengthens steel, among dozens of other purposes.Does this mean that U.S. Energy will soon start burrowing into Mount Emmons? Don’t count on it, say opponents. While Phelps Dodge now owns the land without dispute, getting a permit to mine the land is another matter. The Crested Butte News reports the company is currently creating an operations plan.”The bottom line is that there is a 155-acre donut hole surrounded by public lands,” says Roger Flynn, an attorney for the Western Mining Action Project. “If a mine ever gets proposed, they will have to have numerous federal and state permits … the community is confident it will win in the end.” Allen Best compiles Mountain Town News. He can be reached at bestallen@earthlink.net.


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