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Mountain News: Arts add vitality



STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — In 2011, Colorado adopted a law encouraging the formation of creative districts with the intent of attracting artists and creative entrepreneurs, generating economic activity, and providing a focal point for celebrating and strengthening a community's unique identity.

Last week, the state added six new creative districts, most of them mountain towns: Breckenridge, Carbondale, Crested Butte, and Mancos, plus two more along the Front Range.

State officials previously certified creative districts in the mountain towns of Ridgway, Salida, Telluride, and the North Fork Valley (Paonia).

The Steamboat Springs Art Council was also in the running for this year's completion, but fell short. The local newspaper liked the idea, though. It cited Salida, an old railroad and mining support town that, during the last few decades, has swivelled into a recreation-based economy that includes arts.

Salida's main streets, it said, are lined with galleries, an outdoor sculpture garden, and signs through the downtown area marking it as a creative district. "We can see how this same emphasis on the arts could enhance the overall feel of downtown Steamboat, celebrating its rich history and incredible natural history that serves as an inspiration for local artists," the paper said.

The state's press release said that each district will get an award package with a value of US$40,000.

Will wolves ever yip and growl in Colorado?

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — In January, the Colorado Wildlife Commission rejected a proposal to deliberately re-establish wolves in Colorado. That decision was met with a sigh of relief by most ranchers, who feared wolf predation to livestock.

"Every dog has its day, and hopefully ours will last just a little longer," said one rancher from Carbondale, located down-valley from Aspen.

Not so, said Jay Fetcher, who ranches north of Steamboat Springs in the Elk River Valley. And there are, he told Steamboat Today, too darned many elk for his liking.

"I can't wait for the wolves to come back," he said.

"Too many elk," he added. "That's the short answer... I just think that the elk need to be harassed where we are, and the problem is, when hunting season comes, the elk are gone. They know when that opening season is, and they know to go to private lands. In June, they're all in my hay meadow."

Fetcher isn't alone in this view. In 1997, the late Mel Coleman spoke at a book conference in Denver. Coleman, a third-generation rancher in Colorado's San Luis Valley, related that he thought there were too many elk for the range. He said he'd welcome wolves.

But these seem to be the exceptions. The more common view was expressed by Steamboat-area rancher Marsha Daughenbaugh — "They're predators, and they can do a lot of damage," she told Steamboat Today for a story published in May.

Others are willing to accept wolves that recolonize Colorado on their own. Many think that will most likely occur in Colorado's southern portion as a result of the deliberate effort to restore Mexican wolves into Arizona and New Mexico.

But will the grey wolf, a different species, trot down from the Yellowstone area? The U.S. government transplanted three packs from Canada into Wyoming and Idaho in 1995 and 1996. Yellowstone National Park, as of December, had 99 wolves living in 10 different packs. That is a stable population, said Douglas W. Smith, who heads the Yellowstone Wolf Restoration Project.

Soon after they got comfortable in Yellowstone, though, some began drifting southward to Colorado. The first known migrant arrived in 2004. The evidence was his body, smacked dead on I-70 about 48 kilometres west of Denver. Others have followed, but none have found a happy home. The latest was a wolf, mistaken for a coyote, that was shot and killed in April near Kremmling, in northwest Colorado.

Smith, of the Yellowstone Wolf Project, told the Steamboat newspaper that he does not expect that a population will be re-established without deliberate efforts, as was necessary for Yellowstone. Packs need the resiliency of larger numbers, he explained, and there also need to be enough to have genetic diversity. In the case of Yellowstone, that turned out to be 41 wolves.

In other words, having an Adam and Eve pairing of wolves in Colorado isn't enough to produce Cain and Abel. They need company — from the start.

Will wolves ever be re-established in Colorado? Tom and Roz Turnbull would prefer not. They have been ranching near Carbondale since the early 1960s, and she grew up there. While they understand that wolves could benefit the ecosystem by reducing elk herds, they're not sure the value surpasses the harm to ranching and outfitting.

"We will have conflict and unknown results from this controversy, but public opinion and desire may make wolf reintroduction a reality," they said in a January e-mail to Mountain Town News. "What would be important from the ranching viewpoint would be a way to control wolf numbers and problem wolves without the harsh punishments often attached to the federal reintroduction legislation."

In Steamboat, Fetcher — whose father was a co-founder of the Steamboat ski area — also is foreseeing ranching with wolves.

"When they come — not if, but when — we need two things," he told Steamboat Today. "We need to be able to scare the hell out of them — shoot over their heads and put the fear of man in them. The other thing is a very quick compensation when we have loss with a fairly easy proof of that loss."

In 2004, a panel of wildlife biologists was assembled for a program at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Included were state and federal biologists, including Ed Bangs, who then headed the Yellowstone reintroduction. The question was put to them: Did they see wolves being restored to Colorado?

All four said no, they did not — not that wolves couldn't make a living. Previous studies had identified the Flat Tops, between Steamboat and Glenwood Springs, as prime habitat for wolves. But, they said, people would not accept wolves.

Of course, 30 years ago, the same thing was said about wolves in Yellowstone.

Can Silverton leverage Superfund into tourism?

SILVERTON, Colo. – OK, now that Silverton has accepted the idea that it will have a Superfund site as a neighbour, the locals are trying to make the best of it.

It will be SuperFUNDays on Aug. 5, the first anniversary of the Gold King Mine spill that turned Cement Creek orange and, downstream in Durango, the Animas River a similar other-worldly tint.

A spokeswoman for Silverton told the Durango Herald that the hope is that it will become an annual event.

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