Mountain Town News: Building bridges as a way to create climate solutions |

Mountain Town News: Building bridges as a way to create climate solutions

Andrew Zeiler once was a carpenter, building houses while living in the mountain town of Ward west of Boulder, Colo. Now, he lives near Durango, and he’s trying to build metaphoric bridges as a grassroots activist for a group called Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

“I am 69 years old,” explains Zeiler, now a part-time psychotherapist. “Part of my motivation is my age. I have children I am concerned about and the world they are inheriting.”

Zeiler was spurred to join CCL when listing to remembers listening to climate scientist James Hansen being interviewed. Hansen, who is on the board for CCL, said the most valuable work a layperson could do toward addressing climate change is through Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

With that motivation, Zeiler in February formed a Durango chapter. Chapters are also active in the ski towns of Aspen, Colo., Park City, Utah, and Bend, Ore. There are also many chapters in Canada, including Kelowna and Nelson, both mountain towns in British Columbia, but also Vancouver and Calgary. Altogether, there are 339 active chapters, with dozens more planned—including Whitefish, Mont., Taos, N.M., and Jackson, Wyo.

Membership has doubled or tripled annually since CCL was formed in 2007. Australia has many new chapters, and there’s even a chapter in Bangladesh.

Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s key mission is to build support for a national carbon tax, which it calls a fee, to be imposed on carbon dioxide emissions. The revenue would be redistributed to citizens in the form of reduced taxes or an outright dividend. The goal is to give the market direction to find ways to produce and consume energy in ways that cause less harmful atmospheric pollution by greenhouse gases.

Unlike many advocacy groups, CCL strictly avoids fierce rhetoric and angry accusations. The methodology is, as Zeiler is now attempting in Durango, to find common ground while building public support for a carbon tax from the grassroots.

Zeiler hashad a letter published in the Durango Herald recently and has approached the local La Plata County commissioners about their willingness to write a letter in support of the concept. He has also solicited support from a local church leader. Zeiler calls this a “grasstops” approach.

CCL members also try to meet with U.S. senators and representatives and their staff members. “Our directive is to treat everybody with respect and not be adversarial, and when meeting with our congressman to have something we can authentically thank them for,” he says. “That can open the door.”

So far, says Zeiler, he and other carbon fee supporters don’t seem to have persuaded U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, who represents Durango and many other mountain towns of Colorado.

Mark Reynolds, the group’s national director, met with CCL members in the college town of Boulder last week. “I grew up in Salt Lake City, so it’s great to be back near the mountains,” he said from the pulpit of the Unitarian Church.

Growing up in Salt Lake, he said, he loved picking fruit. Living in San Diego as an adult, he went on, he loved growing plums. But plum trees need chilly winters, and winters in San Diego have warmed so much that plum trees there don’t bear fruit anymore, he said.

The point of the story was to get people to think about what they cherish most about the natural world. Everybody, he explained has something about the natural world they cherish. The task is to find that commonality. “You don’t have to demonize people,” said Reynolds.

In June, CCL sent 1,200 people to Washington D.C. to lobby their members of Congress. Some found that they got to do little talking. They needed to listen to whatever the congressional staff person had to say. But it was part of the process, they said, of building rapport.

There is now, said Reynolds, reason to believe a bill may get introduced into Congress next year with bipartisan support. One supporter is a Republican from Florida whose district is now facing problems because of the rising seas.

In Durango, Zeiler feels urgency while exercising patience. Since February, the chapter meetings have been held in a real-estate office and at a church, without a real home. Turnouts have been modest. One month, it was just he and another individual. But Zeiler says he is not discouraged.

“I’m committed to this and whatever it takes. I’m going to keep doing it because, while there are many important things in the world, as far as I’m concerned there’s nothing more important than climate change.”

What explains Vail’s

slowed real estate sales?

VAIL, Colo. – Real estate sales have been off 14 percent this year in Vail and Eagle County as compared to last year. What’s up with that?

It was a big, big year for sales last year, Mark Bergman, director of the Vail Board of Realtors, tells the Vail Daily. He predicts a big September to bring things back up to 2015 levels. But 40-year agent Craig Denton sees a different scenario. A very active 2015 diminished both the pool of buyers and the number of high-end homes on the market.

Firefighters remember

9/11 in Snowmass run

SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo. – Sunday, Sept. 11, will be the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City.

In memory, firefighters and paramedics at Snowmass intend to put on their full bunker gear and air masks and climb up 950 vertical feet along local roads, roughly the same as the 78 floors of the South Tower that firefighters climbed on 9/11.

The Aspen Daily News reports that they hope to raise money to support first responders who are dealing with cancer, other health issues, and financial challenges.

Lightning fast record

set in Sawatch Range

ASPEN, Colo. – Amazing stuff has been happening this summer among Colorado 14,000-foot peaks. First, there was a new record set for using a bicycle to get to and from all the 54 of the peaks spread across Colorado. Then, there’s the more recent achievement of Ted Mahon of Aspen.

Mahon, 44, climbed 14 of the peaks in the Sawatch Range in the span of 55 hours, 37 minutes. He did it all on foot, and in the process he covered 100 miles and 48,000 or so vertical feet.

The Aspen Daily News says that Mahon had become a regular at ultra-marathon athletic events, including the 100-mile race in the San Juan Mountains called the Hardrock 100. He’s been in the Leadville 100.

Mahon encountered little lightning but did get snowed on while crossing Mount Princeton. He got in 45 minutes of sleep the first night, an hour the next night. Along the way he was met by a cast of friends, who provided him with dry clothes, food, or a cup of coffee. He went through three pairs of trail running shoes.

When it was all over, he slept for 13 hours, awaking with swollen joints and puffy eyes. Then, after a cup of coffee, he immediately started thinking: How could he have done it faster. Such a compulsion, he admitted, may be a little scary.

Do helicopters belong

in mountain towns?

PARK CITY, Utah – People in the Park City area are again talking about helicopters. Private companies began shuttling passengers into Snyderville Basin, located along I-80 north of Park City, last winter. Responding to neighbors, Summit County officials set a moratorium. But they’re reluctant to ban the practice permanently. Instead, they are seeking to set the terms.

“I think they are going to be a part of transportation and we need to have a way to accommodate that,” Mike Franklin, chair of the Basin Planning Commission, told The Park Record.

Not everybody agrees. “As a 30-plus-year resident of Park City I have seen this beautiful place cave again and again to the whims of the developers,” protests Celeste Raffin, a physician.

“We’ve lost our ridgelines, allowed high-rise hotels, lost trails to gated communities, and allowed behemoth second, third, and fourth homes to sprout up like mushrooms all over our mountainsides. Time and time again our planners and leaders choose the whims of the developers and ‘part-time Parkites’ over the desires and well being of the people who actually live and work here,” Raffin writes.

Glad winter tidings

for northern resorts

TRUCKEE, Calif. – If those bearing bad news tend to get beat, what happens to a person delivering glad tidings? The person in this case is meteorologist Chris Tomer, who is based in Denver but tracks weather across the West. And for beleaguered California resorts, he has good news.

“I’m forecasting for Lake Tahoe roughly 350 to 400 inches (of snow),” Tomer told the Sierra Sun. “And toward the end of the season, certain areas may be 5 to 8 percent above normal.”

He said that his optimism about average or better snow extends from Tahoe to the Pacific Northwest but also to areas in the interior West: Sun Valley, Bridger Bowl, Jackson Hole, and Steamboat.

Conspicuously absent are resorts to the south, including California’s Kirkwood and Mammoth.

Ski areas announce

big reinvestments

BIG SKY, Mont. – Ski area operators continue to reinvest in their products.

Boyne Resorts has announced $150 million improvements in Big Sky Mountain during the next decade. The ski area is between Bozeman, Mont., and West Yellowstone, Mont. The company owns more than a dozen resorts across the United States, including Brighton in Utah and Sugarloaf in Maine.

In Colorado, the Steamboat Ski Area is kicking off a review process of two new lifts, a new gondola, and new terrain. Not clear is whether Intrawest, the ski area owner, will bankroll the upgrades if they’re authorized by the Forest Service.

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