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Mountain News

Land owner trys to bluff Forest Service


TELLURIDE, Colo. – Another land tempest is brewing near Telluride. There, a trailhead for those hiking up Wilson Peak and two other 14,000-foot peaks is being blocked by the owner, Rusty Nichols.

Nichols has said that if he can’t get the U.S. Forest Service to give him 2,200 acres of land elsewhere in the region in exchange for his 160 acres along the trail, he will try to mine his land. The area is already heavily pocked by mining activity. Nichols told The Telluride Watch that he believes his land has $300 million to $400 million in minerals.

Nichols, who lives in Texas, said he has tried to talk to land conservation organizations and the Forest Service and others for up to 20 years without interest. But a Forest Service land specialist told The Telluride Watch that Nichols’s proposed land exchange was rejected "because the values are incredibly off."

The Forest Service has previously cowed to the bluffs of landowners who threatened development if land exchanges were not engineered. After much criticism in those cases, however, the agency has been more hard-nosed.

Donner Party clues few & far between

TRUCKEE, Colo. – Archaeologists have returned against this summer to the crest of the Sierra Nevada in an effort to get a better picture of the tragic tale of the Donner Party.

There is, reports the Sierra Sun, little to see and little new to report at the site where the 181-member party, having been overtaken by early and deep snows, was forced to spend four months during the winter of 1846-47. Eleven members of the expedition died of starvation and cold. Whether the starved members resorted to cannibalism to survive is still a matter of speculation, the newspaper says.

"We are dealing with just crumbs of artifacts," said Julie Schablitsky, a University of Oregon archaeologist.

It would seem that the only thing new established with this year’s research is where the center of the camp was. "We are very excited to find what we think is ground zero for the campground," said Schablitsky. Archaeologists can perceive where melting snow ran off the tent of the travelers and hit the ground, leading them to the conclusion of where the center of the camp was.

More compromises to wilderness proposal

SUN VALLEY, Idaho – More wilderness compromises have been offered in Idaho in what some may well be calling Half-a-Loaf Wilderness.

Rep. Mike Simpson is proposing another 40,000 acres immediately northeast of Ketchum and Sun Valley to be called the Hemingway Wilderness Area. Hemingway, an author, spent a portion of his life in Sun Valley.