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Mountain News: Wildlife in Banff

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CANMORE, Alta. – Bear 148 made quite a name for herself this year. Born in 2011, the grizzly had learned to use the crossings over the Trans-Canada Highway in Banff National Park, how to skirt the edges of the local towns, Banff and Canmore, and how to use wildlife corridors to stay away from places where people congregate.

If people approached as she was grazing, she did as she had seen her mother do, huff then go back to feeding. It was a signal to stay away.

This summer, 148 strayed onto a high-school rugby field, charged a person walking with a stroller, and chased dogs out for a walk with their owners, CBC reported in July. It was time, wildlife officials decided, that the bear had to be moved entirely away from the Banff-Canmore area to a more remote spot in northern Alberta.

That relocation along with other, similar issues has motivated Canmore Mayor John Borrowman to convene a community conversation. "We need a complete overhaul of how we deal with bears and how this community deals with its own residents and visitors when bears are present," he said.

Wildlife has always been a big issue in the Banff area. The only comparable situation among mountain resorts is at Jackson Hole. But there are two problems identified by the Rocky Mountain Outlook.

One is the continued residential development of private lands in the Canmore area. Banff, the town, is severely limited in its expansion. Canmore, however, can double in size.

The other is a matter of the culture of outdoor recreation. Very simply, mountain bikers, hikers, and others don't necessarily think that the rules restricting access apply to them.

A recent camera study of a designated wildlife corridor in Canmore found that 94 per cent of the use came from humans, not wildlife, and an "alarming number of those people had off-leash dogs with them," the Outlook reported.

"I think what (this summer) has illustrated is there is a real appetite in the public to be good stewards of the environment and a desire for more information around wildlife management and human-wildlife conflict," Borrowman said.

The Outlook, in an editorial, was skeptical the study would accomplish anything. It sees a need for a cultural shift. It described a "growing, rather than diminishing, sense of entitlement to pursue personal priorities, rather than taking steps to live with wildlife."

The answer the newspaper sees is stepped-up enforcement of existing laws designed to give wildlife space apart from mountain bikers and dog-walkers. That enforcement of laws will meet resistance, the newspaper conceded, "as they believe it interferes with personal freedom. But somehow, in some way, we all need to accept the need for living with, rather than despite, our wildlife in this valley."

Town gets crabby about fruit dangling from trees

CANMORE, Alta. – Town officials in Canmore have been reminding residents that it's against the law to leave crabapples and other fruit on trees. Nobody has anything against the fruit. Rather, it's the fact that bears are drawn to pluck the calorie-rich apples.

This causes bears to be relocated and sometimes put to death. Last year for example, a large male bear camped out in a neighbourhood day and night, bedding down below a backyard deck.

That bear was transplanted, noted the Rocky Mountain Outlook. Up to 19 bears have been relocated each year in recent decades.

Drones used to attack flames in Banff blaze

BANFF, Alta. – While skies across the North American West remained smoky over the weekend, firefighters in Banff National Park were proclaiming success in the use of drones.

At the Verdant Creek wildfire, crews from Parks Canada were using drones that provide images from infrared cameras at night. The software offered by a company called Hummingbird Drones, from Kamloops, B.C., accurately detects hotspots that, coupled with GPS technology, allows firefighters to sometimes find the exact location with their smartphones.

Jed Cochrane, incident commander on the fire, told the Rocky Mountain Outlook that the drones are cheaper to operate than helicopters and they can get closer to the fire, too.

Firefighting this summer has been challenging across the West. Banff has been hot and dry, abnormally so.

Is Aspen's luxury real estate market getting overbuilt?

ASPEN, Colo. – Time for a correction in the luxury real estate market? A couple of real estate professionals at a forum in Aspen speculated 18 months to two years ago that a correction was 18 months to two years away.

It's still not there, but William Small suggests it bears attention. He's chief executive of Aspen-based Zenith Realty Advisors. This is the eighth year of an economic expansion, one of the longest on record.

Following the dot-com crash at the turn of the century, there were seven years of economic growth. Then came the Great Recession, which bottomed out in March 2009. Luxury real estate sales since then have shattered all records.

It all comes down to supply and demand. The Aspen market currently has 122 homes — 29 of them new spec homes — priced at $10 million or more. It would take three or four years for all those new spec homes to be sold and more than four years for all homes worth $10 million or more. This assumes no additional spec homes are delivered to the market.

Small reports no obvious warning signs, such as preceded the tumbling prices of 2008 and 2009.

"However, the first signs of a sea change will likely be a correction in the stock market or a slowing of the national economy," he concluded. "If we start to witness either or both of these events unfolding, it could be a warning sign that a decline in sales volume and number of transactions will follow."

Wildfire destroys lodge in Glacier National Park

WEST GLACIER, Mont. – If cars and planes are how we all get around now to see the scenic sights of the North American West, railroads once were the big story. That's how Sun Valley came to be, the creation of Union Pacific by railroad tycoon Averell Harriman.

Railroads also play into the resort-era founding stories of Aspen, Steamboat Springs, and Winter Park.

The late, great Sperry Chalet in Glacier National Park was also a production of the railroad era, explained the Flathead Beacon in reporting the loss of the backcountry lodge last week.

"It took more than a year to build. It took less than an hour to destroy," the newspaper said. A lightning-caused wildfire was blamed.

"Immediately after Glacier National Park's creation in 1910, the Great Northern Railway began to build a series of lodges and wilderness chalets to entice people to ride their trains to America's newest park," the Beacon explained. "The railroad even launched an ad campaign urging wealthy easterners to visit the 'American Alps' before venturing overseas for holiday."

Visitors would often stay at the Sperry Chalet as part of week-long horseback tours of the park. But then came mass ownership of automobiles and the Going-to-the-Sun Road across Logan Pass. By the 1950s, only Sperry and one other chalet survived, and in 1953 the Great Northern stopped serving food.

Great Northern also built the Many Glaciers Hotel. It remains in operation, but it might better today be called Receding Glaciers Hotel. At the current rate of melting, all the glaciers of Glacier National Park may well be gone by 2030.

More pushes for 100% renewables in ski towns

DURANGO, Colo. – The Sierra Club has been pushing Durango to commit to 100-per-cent locally produced and renewable electricity by 2050.

The argument of petitioners, reported the Durango Herald, is that in addition to cutting carbon emissions, the local, renewable energy would create local jobs and stabilize energy rates as the cost of fossil fuels continues to rise.

The petition in Durango fits in with a broad pattern across the country of calls for municipalities to embrace goals of 100-per-cent renewables during the next few decades. In Utah, for example, Salt Lake City, Moab, and Park City have all embraced that goal. In Colorado, so have the Front Range communities of Fort Collins, Boulder, and Pueblo.

That goal no longer seems so far-fetched. Major investor-owned utilities have been rapidly investing in renewables not because they have to, but because of tumbling prices for wind, but also solar. Cost of utility-scale storage has also started sliding.

Last week, Colorado's largest utility, Public Service Co., a subsidiary of Xcel Energy, announced that it would seek approval of state regulators to retire two coal-fired generating plants at Pueblo, which began operations in 1972 and 1974.

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