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Mountain News: Bring back griz to the Sierra Nevada?



TRUCKEE, Calif. – California's state flag has a grizzly bear on it, but the grizzlies that inspired it disappeared from California in the 1920s. Does that need to remain the case?

The Center for Biological Diversity, an advocacy group, wants the federal government to expand its recovery plan for grizzly bears to California and several places across the West.

"If we're serious about recovering grizzly bears, we need more populations around the West and more connections between them, so they don't fall prey to inbreeding and so they have a chance of adapting to a warming world," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director for the Center for Biological Diversity.

The group calls for reintroduction of grizzly bears into the southern Sierra Nevada in California but also Utah's Uinta Mountains, a range stretching eastward from Park City toward Dinosaur National Park.

The Grand Canyon could also use some grizzlies, the group says, as could the Mogollon Rim and Gila Wilderness complex in Arizona and New Mexico.

As many as 100,000 grizzly bears once lived in western North America. Now, there are 1,850 in the United States.

How realistic is the reintroduction to California? The Sierra Sun talked to Ann Bryant, who directs the Lake Tahoe-based BEAR League. "(People) can't even co-exist with black bears," she said. "How in the world do we think we can co-exist with grizzlies. There's just no room, no mentality for it."

The cost of preserving Telluride's mining past

TELLURIDE, Colo. – What price history? That's the question before Telluride as it faces a deadline next spring if it is to avert demolition of the Pandora Mill.

The mill was at the center of the town's mining economy from the 1920s until the mid-1970s. It once processed ores for lead, zinc, gold, and other metals and in 1974, the last year of profitability, employed 500 people. This was just a year after the ski lifts of Telluride began operating.

The mill sits a mile or so east of downtown Telluride at the end of the box canyon, a place wondrous in its visual appeal. But to restore it will cost at least $30,000 for an engineering assessment, probably more. Then the real work will begin. But the site is too contaminated to be easily adapted to affordable housing or public meeting space, notes the Telluride Daily Planet.

"It's not a clean site by any stretch of the imagination," historical commission member John Wontrobski said.

Still, he wants to see the three-level, steel-framed structure saved, as ordinary as it is. "I'm a believer that you need to remember our history, both the good and the bad. And that's what I think the Idarado mill represents," he said, using the name of the mining company that operated the Pandora Mill.

Tart reminder that onus is on uphill skiers

KETCHUM, Idaho – A district court in Idaho has issued a $447,000 judgment against a man who hit another downhill skier from behind on the slopes of the Sun Valley resort last year.

Taking note of the hefty figure, the Idaho Mountain Express says that the message is loud and clear "that skiing too fast, losing control and injuring another person is not only not acceptable, it's punishable in a court of law."

The decision shows that responsibility for avoiding collision rests with the person who is uphill.

Heartburn in Tetons on short-term rentals

JACKSON, Wyo. – Jackson and Teton were in a mini-uproar in recent weeks as the result of a decision by local governments to start enforcing a law adopted in 1994. That law bans short-term rentals in residential districts.

The law was so widely overlooked that one company, Clear Creek, was in the sole business of helping rent private homes, 52 of them. All but one are illegal rentals under the law.

The Jackson Hole News&Guide says some are gauging that local governments are trampling on private property rights. But another interesting issue is whether the homes in question meet standards of the International Building Code designed for short-term rentals. It seems that few, if any, would comply.

Welcoming drilling rigs instead of despising them

STEAMBAOT SPRINGS, Colo. – Colorado has been engaged this year in what many call the fracking war. As oil and gas drilling has expanded rapidly during recent years along the state's Northern Front Range, hostilities have escalated into what appeared sure to be a giant battle at the November election with dueling ballot initiatives. Many millions of dollars were already allocated for 15 and 30-second television sound bites.

The Niobrara formation has been one of the sources of this oil and gas, and it also exists west of Steamboat Springs, in the state's northwest corner. But there, at least in Craig, located 42 miles west of Steamboat, the drilling rigs are embraced.

A company called Southwestern Energy has purchased $234 million in leases this year. Just a handful of drilling operations are planned at this point.

"I hope they strike it rich," Moffat County Commissioner John Kinkaid told the Steamboat Today.

More hydroelectric on irrigation canal

MONTROSE, Colo. – Efforts to make electricity from fast-flowing irrigation waters continue east of Montrose. The waters are diverted from the Gunnison River through a tunnel, and when they emerge they flow downhill rapidly and with great energy.

For a century the idea was talked about, and a few years ago the Delta-Montrose Electrical Association completed a small hydroelectric plant on the canal, which delivers water to farms and orchards.

Now, according to The Telluride Watch, a fourth installation is being planned. It would, during irrigation season, produce up to 4.8 megawatts of hydropower.

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