Allow boating on the rivers of Yellowstone National Park? |

Allow boating on the rivers of Yellowstone National Park?

Compiled by Allen Best
Special to the Daily

JACKSON, Wyo. – Where do you draw the line in the sand — or in the water? That’s the question du jour in Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks.

The two national parks currently restrict access by kayakers and packrafters to the creeks and rivers. A bill recently introduced into Congress by U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) would increase the paddling access. The National Park Service opposes the increased access, reports E&E.

In the Jackson Hole News&Guide, longtime fishing and hunting columnist Paul Brawn frets about “bludgeoning visual impacts guaranteed with expanded aquatic recreation” but even more so about the potential spread of imported mussels, weeds and fish.

Braun admits he’d like to raft the Madison and other rivers. “But would I allow myself to consider such a reckless endeavor, knowing the harm it would ultimately bring to such a treasured domain? That answer is a resounding no,” he writes.

“Asking eager and selfish recreation seekers to consider future damage they will inflict gets the same attention as requesting drivers not to talk and text while maneuvering Jackson streets or begging dog owners to pick up after their pets.”

Todd Wilkinson, also a regular columnist in the News&Guide, argues that packrafters have falsely invoked the name of Edward Abbey in their argument.

He turned to Doug Peacock, an expert on grizzly bears who was also the figure after whom Abbey modeled his fictional monkey-wrenching character “George Washington Hayduke.”

Peacock says Abbey saw Yellowstone as a sacred place.

“He believed there are some rare remaining spots on this plant that should not be exploited just to serve the interests of a few more thrill-seeking humane egos,” Peacock said, speaking of Abbey.

“You never negotiate surrender of a sacred place. If you are a recreationist who either can’t understand that or refuses to accept the power of self-restraint and leaving some places alone, then you have no business preaching to the rest of us what a conservationist is or isn’t.”

How tall is too tall in

Jackson’s buildings?

JACKSON, Wyo. – And how much up is too much in buildings? In Jackson, that’s been the center of debate for a decade. Town officials have argued it’s better to grow up instead of out — especially because there isn’t much private land to grow out onto in Teton County.

Now, reports the Jackson Hole News&Guide, 48-foot-tall apartment buildings have been authorized behind the local Kmart discount store. The apartments are to house employees of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.

While there was some dissent on the town council about that approval, there is likely to be even more significant debate as the town looks at just how much higher buildings should be allowed in the town core. Right now, it’s just two stories for buildings.

Keeping ghost signs but

without the legal hassle

BOZEMAN, Mont. – Many towns have old advertisements painted on the sides of brick buildings. In Salida, Colorado, for example, you can still see a giant pitch for Snow Drift, a laundry detergent.

In Bozeman, Montana, they’re called ghost signs. But retaining the fading relics has been a hassle. Now, according to the Daily Chronicle, the city commissioners are preparing to adopt legal changes that makes retaining the ghost signs less of a hassle as historic buildings are redevelopment.

The redevelopment of one such building has triggered the city’s regulations limiting the sizes of commercial signs, requiring a variance and an application fee.

“These kinds of community signs really do put us in touch with our roots,” said Mayor Jeff Krauss. “If you’re preserving history, we want to make sure we’re not making it harder to do.”

Snow-short Telluride

still sets skier record

TELLURIDE, Colo. – Not much fresh snow? No problem for Telluride, which saw 478,000 skier visits this past winter, a record.

Greg Pack, the general manager for the ski area operator, Telluride Ski and Golf, attributes the gain to increased marketing to key demographics, particularly in Australia and South America, that produced visitors in January when there was no snow.

Telluride’s marketing effort also focuses on enticing Dallas/Fort Worth residents with an increased number of direct flights. An uptick was also observed from Durango, Colorado, and Farmington, New Mexico, as well as Phoenix, Arizona, all within driving distance.

A long slog back from

lows of the recession

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – Although every airport serving ski towns of the West stumbled during the Great Recession, the Yampa Valley Regional Airport has been slower to return to pre-recession numbers than most.

Steve Horton, of Leibowitz & Horton, an airport management consultant based in metropolitan Denver, told local elected officials at a recent meeting covered by Steamboat Today that passenger emplanements peaked in 2007 at 149,765 enplanements and dropped to 95,917 in 2014.

That 34 percent decline compares with a 24 percent drop for Eagle County Regional Airport, which serves the Vail area. It had a peak of 228,4221 in 2007.

But airports serving Jackson, Wyoming, and Aspen, Colorado, have come within 2 percent of the pre-recessionary peak.

Ex-mayor says tunnel

in Wasatch a bad idea

PARK CITY, Utah. – The Mountain Accord would knit the ski areas on the two sides of the Wasatch Range, allowing somebody in Park City, for example, to more readily access the slopes of Alta or Snowbird.

But Dana Williams, a former mayor of Park City, is pushing back. The Park Record reports that Williams appeared before the local municipal council that he headed for many years to warn of dangers of trying to drive a tunnel under the narrow range to connect the ski areas by rail.

Blasting new tunnels, he warned, could imperil Park City’s drinking water, much of which comes from old tunnels created during Park City’s silver-mining era.

California ski areas

hope for hip implant

TRUCKEE, Calif. – Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows are a step closer to becoming connected at the hip by a gondola.

In mid-April, Squaw Valley Ski Holdings announced it had reached agreement with the owner of private land located between the two ski areas south of Truckee.

The gondola would make it easy for skiers and riders to explore both mountains with a single life ticket or season pass, without needing to travel between the two by car, notes a press release posted at the company’s website.

Squaw Valley Ski Holdings will partner with Troy Caldwell, the owner of the private land dubbed “White Wolf.” The press release said the gondola needs approval from both Placer County and the U.S. Forest Service. The press release indicated that SE Group is being retained to design the gondola to minimized the overall footprint and potential visual impacts to the adjacent Granite Chief Wilderness.

Fewer Snowmass trees

to lower the skier bar

SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo. – Ski areas continue to get bigger, even if just within their own britches. That’s the case at Snowmass, the hardest-working ski area of the Aspen Skiing Co.’s quartet of operations.

The Forest Service has granted the company permission to thin trees on 63 acres. The Aspen Times says that the gladed areas to be thinned are already skied, but the trees are tight.

Rich Burkley, the vice president of mountain operations, said skiers and snowboarders must be at the top of their game when they venture into the gladed areas. By removing deadfall and some live trees, the glades will become more inviting.

A world different than

the one we grew up in

ASPEN, Colo. – Aspen’s elected officials have a new report to study that may guide their decisions about infrastructure as it relates to a warming climate. The study, prepared by the Aspen Center for Global Climate Institute, details a longer summer, earlier spring snowmelt, and longer dry periods interspersed by storms with greater intensity.

Aspen has already warmed 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1950, with 2 degrees of that since 1980. That has also produced an average 23 fewer frost-free days annually, reports the Aspen Daily News, citing the report.

How much warmer will it get this century? That depends upon global emissions of greenhouse gases, pointed out Katzenberger, director of the institute, in a recent appearance before Pitkin County Commissioners.

“Temperatures could rise another 2 to 9 degrees. We’re likely to be in between, which means that the temperature of the Earth will be (up) more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit, and hopefully less than 8 or 9 degrees Fahrenheit,” he said. “That’s a world that is very different than the world that we grew up in.”

The report did not go into depth on what this means in terms of new insects, but a columnist for the Aspen Daily News did think it means “only a matter of time before we have tropical cockroaches roaming our kitchens.”

Cloud-seeders make

pitches for funding

HAILEY, Idaho – If not the whole answer to snow-short winters, might cloud-seeding at least help on the margins?

That’s the argument being made in both Idaho and Nevada during recent weeks.

In Hailey, representatives of Idaho Power Co., an electrical utility, and a local irrigation ditch company made the case for a new cloud-seeding program to induce snow in the mountains about 30 miles west of Ketchum and Sun Valley.

“This is not a cure for drought, but part of a long-term water management plan,” said Shaun Parkinson, from Idaho Power. The company would help to generate more electricity at dams if, as the company expects, snowfall could be augmented by 10 percent. The company already seeds clouds in the Payette River Basin between Boise and McCall.

The Big Wood Canal Co. says that adding 100,000 acre-feet of water to the mountain snowpack would double the days that irrigating water would be available to farmers in the Snake River Plain downstream from Sun Valley.

The irrigators and the power company called the meeting at Hailey, located 20 miles downstream from the ski slopes, because they want to get $180,000 in local funding for the program.

In the Sierra Nevada along the Nevada-California border, cloud-seeding generators last week continue to spew silver iodide into passing moisture-laden clouds with the intent of inducing snowflakes.

Scientists at the Reno-based Desert Research Institute continue to insist that cloud-seeding pays off, even in winters when storms are rare, as has been the case for the last four years.

But funding, like clouds, has been intermittent, reports the Reno Gazette-Journal. The newspaper says that the dismantling of five generators in the Lake Tahoe-Truckee area of California was beginning when last-minute funding was produced. Now, Nevada legislators are considering a proposal to add money.

In the Walker River Basin, between Lake Tahoe and Mono Lake, a $1.3 million cloud-seeding program has operated since 2010. It uses both ground-based generators and, at times, manned aircraft that spray the seeding chemicals, notes the Journal-Gazette.

But does it work? A decade-long study conducted in Wyoming last year found hard evidence that was slim of the efficacy of cloud-seeding. That speaks partly to the great difficulty of understanding atmospheric processes.

Still, it was enough for Wyoming legislators, who authorized a $1.4 million cloud-seeding program for several mountain ranges next year. An additional $650,000 for cloud-seeding was approved in the Wind River Mountains, reports the Associated Press. The range is south of Jackson Hole but contributes to a tributary of the Colorado River.

Utility for Tahoe area

divesting of coal power

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – The utility that delivers electricity to 49,000 customers in California in the Tahoe-Truckee area is removing coal from its power portfolio.

The Lake Tahoe News reports that Liberty Utilities has announced an agreement to eliminate power from a coal-fired plant in Nevada. Liberty seeks to buy and operate two solar plants that can together produce a maximum 65 megawatts and, if that is unavailable when needed, from other renewable sources.

The company expects to save $200 million a year.

This doesn’t mean the end of fossil fuels for Tahoe-Truckee customers, however. Natural gas was doing the heavy lifting as of last September, providing 52 percent of electricity, followed by 22 percent from renewables, 4 percent hydro, and 1 percent nuclear. Coal provides 20 percent until replaced by the added solar and other renewables.

Orange tint to clothing

evidence of neighborhood

WHISTLER, B.C. – A hint of orange on that T-shirt? It might be evidence of your residency in the Alpine Meadows neighborhood of Whistler. The neighborhood is the last in Whistler to be served by an unlined cast-iron water pipe.

“Any of us who have seen rust-coloured clothing (from the laundry) will know it’s because the water has been going through these iron pipes,” said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Mordem. The municipality, explains Pique Newsmagazine, will replace the pipe with a plastic one.

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