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Roadkill might tell the story of resort growth

While you are sitting at home this week reading this, I will be in the hostile environment in the north known as Steamboat Springs at a three-day conference on “Mountain Resort Planning and Development in an Era of Globalization.”

If nothing else, my goal will be to learn what that means. I am not sure, and my mind is an open vessel.

When I first heard the name of the conference I immediately thought of the World Bank meetings, and other world economic conferences that have resulted in buildings being burned and cars tipped over all in the name of not having globalization of our economy.



My personal feeling is that it already has happened, so we just need to deal with it.

This brings me to my presentation at the conference. It is titled: “Social and Economic Impacts of Ski Area Expansions: The Case of Breckenridge, Keystone and Copper Mountain in Summit County, Colorado.” Whew! As my good friend Gary pointed out, I could use my entire presentation time just reading the title.



I think there is enough here to write a doctoral dissertation. The subject is vast and is growing every day. We are just coming off a 20-year boom and now are in a glut of development in Summit County – if you want to believe what you read over the weekend.

The whole thing is a moving target.

I think a couple of events that affected me in the past week are good examples of impacts. I was driving to the Breckenridge Recreation Center at around 6 a.m. last Friday and saw a raccoon in my headlights.

The raccoon went one way so I swerved the other way. Of course, the raccoon decided to change directions again and ended up under my wheels. Smashed. Dead. It was probably on its way to the river for a drink or on its way back from foraging in a trash can.

Regardless, it died, and I felt bad. I have thought about it on a regular basis for the past week. I do not like to kill anything. I am not a hunter and was a vegetarian for more than 16 years. Rats. I wonder how much development and ski-area expansion might have affected the raccoon habitat. I wonder if the raccoon would have been there 40 years ago, before the county was developed so much.

Then – I am not making this stuff up folks – Monday morning, I was at about the same place at the same time and came across a sheriff’s deputy putting down the biggest bull elk I had ever seen. Apparently, several elk were crossing Highway 9 and were hit by a pickup and a small passenger car.

Both vehicles were wrecked, and two elk – a cow and the bull – were injured beyond repair, and the officer had to put them down. I was driving by the officer just as he fired several rounds into the head of the bull at very close range. So sad.

Alex Chappel, our former state wildlife manager, used to say development actually brought about an increase in wildlife. His theory was that development causes predators to move away, as they do not like people. With the predators gone, the herds and other wildlife numbers increase.

Regardless, I believe all of the people and all of the traffic, including my car and the two cars that hit the elk, are hazardous to wildlife.

The road is built at the bottom of the valley that was caused by the river that is used as a water source for our game animals. Sometimes, not all of that mixes very well.

Columnist Gary Lindstrom appears in this space every Thursday.


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