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Mountain News: Window-shopping bruin pays price

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TRUCKEE, Calif. — A 91-kilogram female bear called Butterscotch by locals, because of its blondish fur, found an open window and climbed through it, looking for food. In so doing, the bear caused damage. Worse, somebody was in the house.

According to the regulations followed by California wildlife authorities, that infraction warrants a death sentence.

The Sierra Sun reports that many locals were outraged. A Facebook page maintained by a group called the Bear League had more than 200 comments.

Ann Bryant, the group's president, said the state violated its own policy that states all avoidance tactics are to be pursued before a bear is killed. "Isn't simply closing a window a pretty easy avoidance tactic?" she asks.

$1 million in shrooms, but arrests were illegal

LAKE LOUISE, Alberta — In October 2009, two men were driving a small pickup truck west from Lake Louise, in Banff National Park. Cops seemed to think the windows were illegally tinted and stopped the truck. The two men inside seemed nervous, the smell of air freshener was evident, as were discarded food wrappers.

The cops were suspicious. The windows were legal, but a check of identification revealed that one of the men had been charged with a violation of drug laws two years prior.

Their suspicions further whetted, the cops separated the two men, who provided conflicting stories. A drug dog was called in. The cops said the dog found 160 pounds of hallucinogenic mushrooms, which they estimated had a street value of $1 million.

The men were arrested, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook, but they will not be prosecuted.

A judge ruled that the police did not have reasonable evidence in detaining the two men. "Even when considered collectively, the evidence was too ambiguous to suspect drugs, wrote Judge Judy Shriar. "Driving an older model vehicle with air freshener is not suspicious, and the food wrappers are less suspicious."

Given the absence of legitimate grounds, calling in the drug dog was illegal, the judge ruled. Further violating the men's rights, the evidence was inexplicably destroyed.

Ski town bankruptcy legitimate or a ruse?

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. — Last week, the municipality of Mammoth Lakes filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection. Offices in the town of 7,700 people pointed to a $43 million legal judgment that they say they cannot pay, as it's three times the town's annual operating budget.

The case stems from a development agreement entered in 1997 with a company called Hot Creek. The agreement, according to the Los Angeles Times, required the developer to make improvements to the Mammoth Yosemite Airport. In return, the developer would receive rights to develop a $400 million hotel on 25 acres and get an option to buy the land.

In 2007, according to the court decisions, Mammoth Lakes changed priorities. The Federal Aviation Administration had found that the project would interfere with the town's vision for use of the airport. The town wanted to extend the runway to accommodate Boeing 757 passenger jets.

The developer filed a breach of contract lawsuit against the town after the town refused to move forward with the hotel project until after the FAA policy issues were resolved. According to the Times, the court had found the city failed to live up to its end of the bargain.

The Sheet, a newspaper in Mammoth Lakes, finds the town government to be disingenuous in its explanation of what went wrong. The newspaper talked with Gary Katz, a former bankruptcy attorney who is principal of a New York-based firm Downtown Capital Partners. Familiar with municipal bankruptcy, Katz said he is dubious about Mammoth's ability to dodge its debts by getting bankruptcy protection.

"Everyone tries to blame their troubles on just one thing, but if you look deeper, you'll find it's the culmination of years and years of mismanagement and neglect. At worst, the mismanagement is deliberate. At best, it's just basic incompetence," he said.

"But generally, there are municipalities around the country that have made errors similar to Mammoth's. And the vast majority of them have not filed for bankruptcy. They make painful political decisions. Careers are ruined. But they take their medicine and move on."

In Colorado, officials in Snowmass Village have been watching the Mammoth Lakes story. Snowmass has a half-done real-estate development called Base Village, where construction was halted in 2009. The project is emerging from bankruptcy, and town officials have said they think eventually new plans for development will need to be put together, because the market for mountain resort real estate was changed dramatically. But instead of commissioning market research, says Russ Forrest, town manager, town officials will wait to see what the developer proposes.

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