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PARK CITY, Utah — Park City's ban on plastic bags will stand, although some in the Utah Legislature wanted to quash this local environmental action.

The city in 2017 adopted a ban on razor-thin plastic bags passed out at stores of more than 12,000 square feet. That effectively excluded all but the city's two large grocery stores and a drug store.

The Utah Senate approved a bill that would have prevented local jurisdictions from adopting bag bans, as Park City has done. However, the state's House of Representatives defeated the bill. Those legislators representing Park City, both Republican and Democrats, voted as Park City wished. One of them, Rep. Tim Quinn, a staunch conservative, said he disagreed with Park City's ban but stood by the city's right to enact it.

Arizona and Idaho have enacted laws that restrict the right to bans to state governments. California, on the other hand, requires consumers be charged a dime for disposable plastic bags.

A lot of cars during summer

VAIL, Colo. — Vail has kind of an odd problem. During summer, its two big parking garages have been getting lots of cars that just sit there.

That doesn't happen in winter, because there are charges to use the garages. In summer, though, it's free. But that's about to change.

"The day the mountain closes, there's 200 cars in the structures, and they don't leave until November," said Jen Mason, a town council member, at a meeting covered by the Vail Daily. "The numbers are staggering."

Last summer, town officials counted the cars in the structures between 4 and 5 a.m. On one of those counts, they found 511 vehicles.

The Daily reported that town officials are weighing charges for extended stays of more than 14 days. It is believed that the majority of the cars belong to locals, who use the garages as seasonal storage for their cars. The town would like to free up 100 to 200 spaces per night.

Study finds major decline in snowpack

If you've been to Las Vegas, you've probably gone out to Hoover Dam, the great engineering marvel of the 1930s. It created Lake Mead, the largest of the reservoir on the Colorado River.

But will Lake Mead and the other dams and reservoirs in the West have similar utility in the rapidly warming 21st century? That's an open question.

A new study finds declines at more than 90 per cent of snow monitoring sites with long records across the western United States. A third of those declines are significant. The declines, stated the study, have occurred across all months, states and climates. However, the largest declines have occurred in spring, in the Pacific states, and in places with mild winter climates.

Lake Mead is cited in the report as a reference point. The average April 1 snow-water equivalent since the mid-20th century has declined roughly 15 to 30 per cent. Authors of the study said this decline is comparable in the capacity of Lake Mead, the largest man-made reservoir in the West.

"It is a bigger decline than we had expected," said Philip Mote, lead author of the study and director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute at Oregon State University. "In many lower-elevation sites, what used to fall as snow is now rain. Upper elevations have not been affected nearly as much, but most states don't have that much area at 7,000-plus feet (2,100 metres)."

Mote and his colleagues attribute the snowpack decline to warmer temperatures, not a lack of precipitation. But the consequences are still significant. Earlier spring-like weather means less precipitation will linger in the mountain in the form of snow. That, in turn, results in lower volumes of water in rivers and declined reservoir levels during late summer and early fall.

"The solution isn't in infrastructure. New reservoirs could not be built fast enough to offset the loss of snow storage — and we don't have a lot of capacity left for that kind of storage," said Mote in a press release from Oregon State. "It comes down to managing what we have in the best possible ways."

With eyes on Paralympics talk of local accessibility

BANFF, Alta. — While Paralympic athletes compete in South Korea, local residents of Banff and Canmore were asked to consider the work that remains to make their communities more accessible to those with physical, mental, and cognitive handicaps.

"We're not thinking with disability in mind," said Robin Slater, who suffered a brain injury in 1984 after a vehicle accident with an elk.

"There has to be an attitudinal switch, so instead of just watching Paralympic athletes we need to think in terms of what disability is like 24/7 and how it impacts people's lives."

Slater and another individual interviewed by the Rocky Mountain Outlook said that building codes require only the bare minimum. "We actually need quite a bit over the minimum to make things welcoming and comfortable for people," he said.

Telluride top still No. 4 in elevation in North America

TELLURIDE, Colo. — Does it matter whether the top lift at Telluride, servicing Revelation Bowl, reaches an elevation of 3,831 metres, as trail maps used to say, or 3,815 metres, as they now say?

The Telluride Daily Planet concluded that either way, Telluride's bragging rights don't change. The four highest lifts in North America are all in Colorado: Breckenridge at 3,914 metres, Loveland at 3,871 metres, Telluride's 3,815 metres, and then Arapahoe Basin at 3,794 metres.

The Revelation lift originally was assigned a higher elevation because of a piece of slightly higher topography nearby.

How a possum is like an elephant is like a grizzly

BANFF, Alta. — How is a possum like an elephant or wolf? They're all mammals, of course, but a new study says they're all far less likely to travel longer distances when confronted with human development.

The study, published in the journal Science, followed 803 individual animals among 57 different species across the globe to see how human development precluded mobility. The researchers concluded the animals cover distances one-third to two-thirds as far as they otherwise would in wild places.

Dr. Aerin Jacob, a conservation scientist with the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y), told the Rocky Mountain Outlook that it's the first time data on so many species across the world have been brought together.

That was also the conclusion offered by Dr. Mark Hebblewhite, one of the study's co-authors and a wildlife biology professor with the University of Montana.

"In some ways our study is unsurprising because it's predicted completely by the principles of island biogeography theory, which we've known about for 40 years. But what's so striking is that it's truly this consistent global signature on everything from a possum to an elephant."

Snow finally but not enough

California got dumped on in late February and early March, with more snow forecast during the next two weeks.

"Pretty wild in #SierraNevada," tweeted climate scientist Daniel Swain of the University of Southern California Los Angeles. The snow doubled the snowpack in California yet brought it up to only 37 per cent of average for that date.

Snow, late in coming, was also welcomed in New Mexico. Taos opened up much of its steeps. Ski Santa Fe had its upper mountain open, but this winter has been very different: 124 centimetres of natural snow as of last week, compared to 2.5 metres on the same date the year before. Two years before it was close to five metres, reported the Santa Fe New Mexican.

"We're definitely down," said Ben Abruzzo, the ski area manager, speaking of ticket sales.

The big resorts in Colorado along the I-70 corridor have been blessed more than the New Mexico resorts. Still, they've been pinched, too. Vail Resorts has four ski areas along the highway, including namesake Vail Mountain. The Denver Post reported that investors had been told early in the winter to expect between US$646 million and US$676 million in resort earnings. Last week, the company revised that prediction downward to between US$607 million and US$627 million.

Wildfires are now on the minds of some in southwest Colorado. There, rivers originating in the southern San Juans were at 54 per cent of average, compared to 73 per cent for Colorado overall.

The Telluride Daily Planet reported that fire managers in the San Juan National Forest plan to bring in seasonal fire crews about 30 days early this spring.

One manifestation of the unusual winter is that January was so unseasonably warm that Gambel oak started budding on all aspects of hills and mountains up to 2,500 metres in elevation in southwestern Colorado. They have since been nipped by frost, but the leaves can bud out twice a year on the oak brush, says Chris Tipton, a fire management officer with the U.S. Forest Service. The hope is that they will not bud again and then be nipped by frost, leaving leaves that could be combustible when spring arrives for sure.

PARK CITY, Utah — Park City's ban on plastic bags will stand, although some in the Utah Legislature wanted to quash this local environmental action.

The city in 2017 adopted a ban on razor-thin plastic bags passed out at stores of more than 12,000 square feet. That effectively excluded all but the city's two large grocery stores and a drug store.

The Utah Senate approved a bill that would have prevented local jurisdictions from adopting bag bans, as Park City has done. However, the state's House of Representatives defeated the bill. Those legislators representing Park City, both Republican and Democrats, voted as Park City wished. One of them, Rep. Tim Quinn, a staunch conservative, said he disagreed with Park City's ban but stood by the city's right to enact it.

Arizona and Idaho have enacted laws that restrict the right to bans to state governments. California, on the other hand, requires consumers be charged a dime for disposable plastic bags.

A lot of cars during summer

VAIL, Colo. — Vail has kind of an odd problem. During summer, its two big parking garages have been getting lots of cars that just sit there.

That doesn't happen in winter, because there are charges to use the garages. In summer, though, it's free. But that's about to change.

"The day the mountain closes, there's 200 cars in the structures, and they don't leave until November," said Jen Mason, a town council member, at a meeting covered by the Vail Daily. "The numbers are staggering."

Last summer, town officials counted the cars in the structures between 4 and 5 a.m. On one of those counts, they found 511 vehicles.

The Daily reported that town officials are weighing charges for extended stays of more than 14 days. It is believed that the majority of the cars belong to locals, who use the garages as seasonal storage for their cars. The town would like to free up 100 to 200 spaces per night.

Study finds major decline in snowpack

If you've been to Las Vegas, you've probably gone out to Hoover Dam, the great engineering marvel of the 1930s. It created Lake Mead, the largest of the reservoir on the Colorado River.

But will Lake Mead and the other dams and reservoirs in the West have similar utility in the rapidly warming 21st century? That's an open question.

A new study finds declines at more than 90 per cent of snow monitoring sites with long records across the western United States. A third of those declines are significant. The declines, stated the study, have occurred across all months, states and climates. However, the largest declines have occurred in spring, in the Pacific states, and in places with mild winter climates.

Lake Mead is cited in the report as a reference point. The average April 1 snow-water equivalent since the mid-20th century has declined roughly 15 to 30 per cent. Authors of the study said this decline is comparable in the capacity of Lake Mead, the largest man-made reservoir in the West.

"It is a bigger decline than we had expected," said Philip Mote, lead author of the study and director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute at Oregon State University. "In many lower-elevation sites, what used to fall as snow is now rain. Upper elevations have not been affected nearly as much, but most states don't have that much area at 7,000-plus feet (2,100 metres)."

Mote and his colleagues attribute the snowpack decline to warmer temperatures, not a lack of precipitation. But the consequences are still significant. Earlier spring-like weather means less precipitation will linger in the mountain in the form of snow. That, in turn, results in lower volumes of water in rivers and declined reservoir levels during late summer and early fall.

"The solution isn't in infrastructure. New reservoirs could not be built fast enough to offset the loss of snow storage — and we don't have a lot of capacity left for that kind of storage," said Mote in a press release from Oregon State. "It comes down to managing what we have in the best possible ways."

With eyes on Paralympics talk of local accessibility

BANFF, Alta. — While Paralympic athletes compete in South Korea, local residents of Banff and Canmore were asked to consider the work that remains to make their communities more accessible to those with physical, mental, and cognitive handicaps.

"We're not thinking with disability in mind," said Robin Slater, who suffered a brain injury in 1984 after a vehicle accident with an elk.

"There has to be an attitudinal switch, so instead of just watching Paralympic athletes we need to think in terms of what disability is like 24/7 and how it impacts people's lives."

Slater and another individual interviewed by the Rocky Mountain Outlook said that building codes require only the bare minimum. "We actually need quite a bit over the minimum to make things welcoming and comfortable for people," he said.

Telluride top still No. 4 in elevation in North America

TELLURIDE, Colo. — Does it matter whether the top lift at Telluride, servicing Revelation Bowl, reaches an elevation of 3,831 metres, as trail maps used to say, or 3,815 metres, as they now say?

The Telluride Daily Planet concluded that either way, Telluride's bragging rights don't change. The four highest lifts in North America are all in Colorado: Breckenridge at 3,914 metres, Loveland at 3,871 metres, Telluride's 3,815 metres, and then Arapahoe Basin at 3,794 metres.

The Revelation lift originally was assigned a higher elevation because of a piece of slightly higher topography nearby.

How a possum is like an elephant is like a grizzly

BANFF, Alta. — How is a possum like an elephant or wolf? They're all mammals, of course, but a new study says they're all far less likely to travel longer distances when confronted with human development.

The study, published in the journal Science, followed 803 individual animals among 57 different species across the globe to see how human development precluded mobility. The researchers concluded the animals cover distances one-third to two-thirds as far as they otherwise would in wild places.

Dr. Aerin Jacob, a conservation scientist with the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y), told the Rocky Mountain Outlook that it's the first time data on so many species across the world have been brought together.

That was also the conclusion offered by Dr. Mark Hebblewhite, one of the study's co-authors and a wildlife biology professor with the University of Montana.

"In some ways our study is unsurprising because it's predicted completely by the principles of island biogeography theory, which we've known about for 40 years. But what's so striking is that it's truly this consistent global signature on everything from a possum to an elephant."

Snow finally but not enough

California got dumped on in late February and early March, with more snow forecast during the next two weeks.

"Pretty wild in #SierraNevada," tweeted climate scientist Daniel Swain of the University of Southern California Los Angeles. The snow doubled the snowpack in California yet brought it up to only 37 per cent of average for that date.

Snow, late in coming, was also welcomed in New Mexico. Taos opened up much of its steeps. Ski Santa Fe had its upper mountain open, but this winter has been very different: 124 centimetres of natural snow as of last week, compared to 2.5 metres on the same date the year before. Two years before it was close to five metres, reported the Santa Fe New Mexican.

"We're definitely down," said Ben Abruzzo, the ski area manager, speaking of ticket sales.

The big resorts in Colorado along the I-70 corridor have been blessed more than the New Mexico resorts. Still, they've been pinched, too. Vail Resorts has four ski areas along the highway, including namesake Vail Mountain. The Denver Post reported that investors had been told early in the winter to expect between US$646 million and US$676 million in resort earnings. Last week, the company revised that prediction downward to between US$607 million and US$627 million.

Wildfires are now on the minds of some in southwest Colorado. There, rivers originating in the southern San Juans were at 54 per cent of average, compared to 73 per cent for Colorado overall.

The Telluride Daily Planet reported that fire managers in the San Juan National Forest plan to bring in seasonal fire crews about 30 days early this spring.

One manifestation of the unusual winter is that January was so unseasonably warm that Gambel oak started budding on all aspects of hills and mountains up to 2,500 metres in elevation in southwestern Colorado. They have since been nipped by frost, but the leaves can bud out twice a year on the oak brush, says Chris Tipton, a fire management officer with the U.S. Forest Service. The hope is that they will not bud again and then be nipped by frost, leaving leaves that could be combustible when spring arrives for sure.

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