Mountain Town News: Native cutthroats losing purity to flashy rainbows |

Mountain Town News: Native cutthroats losing purity to flashy rainbows

Allen Best
Mountain Town News

JACKSON, Wyo. — A fish known as a “cutbow” has become more common in the South Fork of the Snake River, the result of hybridization of the native cutthroat trout and the immigrant rainbow trout.

Wildlife managers are trying to get rid of both the rainbows and the hybrids. It’s a challenge, given how much the rainbow have proliferated, with an estimated 90,000 of rainbow and hybrids in the river now.

The Jackson Hole News&Guide reports that the Idaho Department of Fish and Wildlife wants to immobilize 5,000 rainbows with electricity this spring, then move them to fishing ponds where they will be caught and eaten.

It would help if anglers in the river took the fish home to eat, too. But not many do. “It’s a hard sell, man,” explains Justin Hays, who has 32 licensed guides plying the river’s waters from the Lodge at Palisades Creek. Only a quarter of the guides encourage the clients to kill the rainbows and hybrids that they catch.

“It’s a hard sell, man. We are a business that provides memories of moments for people. Killing a fish is not the memory that gets those guests to come back to us.”Justin Hays

“We are a business that provides memories of moments for people. Killing a fish is not the memory that gets those guests to come back to us.”

The river originates in Yellowstone National Park at the confluence of three small creeks. Inside the park the cutthroat thrive. They used to thrive downstream on the river, after it has passed through Jackson Hole and into Idaho. But in the last 20 years rainbows have been taking over.

Paul Bruun, a fishing columnist in the News&Guide, said cutthroats tend to indiscriminately go for dry flies off the river’s surface, making it the “Yankee Stadium of fishing.”

The News&Guide’s Mike Koshmrl explains that anglers revere rainbow trout because they’re hard-charging and high-flying. They’re also adaptable, now found in every U.S. state outside of Florida. As recently as the 1980s, they were being stocked into the South Fork of the Snake in Idaho by the same wildlife agencies who are now trying to remove them.

Cutthroat were proposed for protected status under the Endangered Species Act in the early 2000s. The subspecies endemic to the Northern Rockies exists today in only about a third of its historic five-state range.

Student who disrupted forum must write about civility

PARK CITY, Utah — A juvenile court judge has ordered a student at Park City High School to write an essay about civility after finding the boy guilty of criminal mischief, a third-degree felony, as well as two misdemeanors.

The student released pepper spray, a type of bear spray, in the school’s lecture hall in April to prevent a school club, Turning Point, a chapter of the conservative nonprofit Turning Point USA, from hosting an out-of-town speaker.

The meeting was relocated to a middle school. Medical personnel treated 14 people, and one person was hospitalized. It wasn’t clear whether those treated knew exactly what substance had made it difficult for them to breathe, reports The Park Record.

The judge also ordered the boy pay costs of cleaning up the lecture hall and to pay the uninsured cost of hospitalization. He will also have 100 hours of community service.

How do we know that even more rich people will arrive?

ASPEN — In Aspen, it’s easy to assume that the future will resemble the past because, at least in the modern resort era, it always has.

That logic has been interrupted only briefly after the 2001 terrorism attacks and then again, more deeply during the economic recession of 2008-09. Otherwise, prices have continued to rise as yet more people arrive, mostly by airplane.

But what about the future? The Aspen Daily News’ Andre Salvail reports that late into a meeting about future growth and expansion of the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, somebody asked exactly that question. Had there been no analysis of that underlying assumption?

Gabe Preston, an economic analyst with RPI Consulting, attempted a response. While costs are rising higher and higher, Aspen-area tourism continues to grow, albeit at a slower, more measured pace than most people realize, he suggested.

“Maybe there is some point where it’s so ridiculously expensive that demand stops,” Preston said, before adding, “I’m not sure there is a threshold point.”

The meeting was provoked by a proposal to expand and reconfigure the airport runways, to be able to accommodate a new generation of jets replacing the aging fleet of CRJ-700s. Local residents took an average of one commercial airline trip last year, while visitors to the valley took 2.4 trips, according to Linda Perry, an air industry economic specialist with consulting firm LeighFischer.

During March, up to 27 planes landed and embarked from the airport daily, almost a third to Denver, but the others to Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and other cities.

Pitkin County gained nearly 10,000 jobs in the 21st century, peaking in 2008 at nearly 22,000 jobs before declining by about 1,000 jobs.

The population grew 1.8% between 2004 and 2013. As of two years ago, the year-round population was estimated at 17,747. During July, the busiest, if not necessarily the most economically lucrative month, the population swells to 53,062.

Direct air service links Telluride and Denver

TELLURIDE — It’s a minimum six-hour trip from Telluride to Denver if you drive, but still close to 90 minutes of driving if flying from Montrose to Denver.

Now there’s another option for local residents: flights on 30-seat Dornier 328 jets between Telluride and Denver. The jets land and take off from the airport on the mesa just outside of the town. At 9,018 feet, it’s the highest commercial airport in North America.

One-way fares run from $350 to $200.

Can water efficiency avoid the big costs of new infrastructure?

WHISTLER, B.C. — Decision time in Whistler is approaching, with the critical question being whether to build new water infrastructure.

The community taps both surface water sources and a field of 13 wells for the domestic water supply. To meet future needs, it could augment those sources with new supplies along with the expanded or new treatment facilities needed to make the water potable. Doing so would cost about $20 million.

Or, can the community continue to scale back its needs more efficiently using the water already available? Pique Newsmagazine reports that water officials favor this latter approach, especially given that Whistler is approaching build-out.

Squaw Valley snow now 700+ inches for season

TRUCKEE, Calif. — It was another snowy weekend in the Sierra Nevada. Total snowfall for this season at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows has pushed above 700 inches, making it the third most on record. But it will have to be a very, very snowy late May for the resort to get above the record of 810 inches that fell during the 2010-11 season.

Squaw will remain open seven days a week until Memorial Day, when it will switch to three-day weekends through the Fourth of July.

In Colorado, Aspen Ski Resort has enough snow to reopen for Memorial Day. Arapahoe Basin Ski Area goes until June 16.

Big winter is over, but the digging out still continues

ASPEN — Much of the “roar” in the Roaring Fork River has been diminished, as the Aspen Times’ Scott Condon observed some years ago, because of transmountain diversions from the river’s headwaters near Independence Pass. This year, there was much roaring of avalanches.

Those avalanches and the uncommonly deep snowfall have made life more challenging for caretakers at Grizzly Reservoir, where water is stored for diversion under the Continental Divide. The primary customers for the diverted waters are Colorado Springs and Pueblo, located at the foot of the Rocky Mountains 200 miles away.

The Aspen Times reports that the year-round caretakers at Grizzly Reservoir were snowbound for 16 days this past winter. Their cabin at the reservoir is located 6 miles up a gravel road from Highway 82. The highway during winter months is closed 6 miles below, a few miles outside of Aspen.

To buy groceries, they commonly drive through the 3.8-mile tunnel under the Continental Divide during winter, emerging on a plowed Highway 82. In March, though, the highway that then goes to Leadville and Buena Vista was blocked by four avalanches, the caretaker, Glenn Schryver told the Times in an email interview. That left them for 16 days unable to leave except for snowmobiling or skiing.

Now that spring has arrived, more or less, he has plowed the road out to Highway 82, but that took 13 days, compared to the three or four days that has been more common in the last decade.

The opening of Highway 82 across 11,995-foot Independence Pass — under which the tunnel passes, more or less — has similarly been delayed. The Aspen Daily News reports the road for the last decade has been opened by the Thursday before Memorial Day. But Colorado Department of Transportation officials are reluctant to say when they think the highway will open this year.

Crews have encountered many avalanches that have left snow festooned with the trunks of pine and aspen trees. Helicopters were to be dispatched to drop 40 to 60 explosive charges on cornices overhanging the highway, to preemptively trigger any avalanches that might happen in the next few weeks on their own.

Owner of Fairmont hotels sells 50% of stake

BANFF, Alberta — The Toronto-based real estate company that owns four Fairmont hotels in resort areas of Canada has sold a 50% stake in them.

The Rocky Mountain Outlook says the hotels at Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper and Whistler collectively have 2,200 rooms. The company, Oxford Properties Group, invested $300 million in the properties after buying them in 2006.

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