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Mountain News

Activists believe Vail arson sets back cause



VAIL, Colo. — More than seven years after arson-caused fires caused $12 million damage to a cafeteria and other buildings atop Vail Mountain, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has named two suspects.

Whether the FBI has a good case remains to be seen, but mainline environmental activists who had opposed the ski area expansion say the fire, at best, was a mixed blessing.

The fires helped raise awareness nationally of the concerns of environmental activists, said Sloan Shoemaker, of the Aspen-based Wilderness Workshop. "That event certainly brought the issue of ski-area expansion and wildlife habitat to a national audience," he said. But it also stymied local opposition in Vail and the Eagle Valley. People on both sides of the issue felt attacked by an outside threat, he said.

Rocky Smith, the first environmental activist to work against the expansion, told the Vail Daily that the arson backfired. "A lot of people had sympathy for big, bad Vail Resorts after that."

Critters going up in Yosemite

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. — Maybe the little critters of Yosemite National Park have been reading Mountain Gazette.

Motto of the Colorado-based magazine is, "When in doubt, go higher." And that’s exactly what the rodents and other creatures have been doing, scientists tell the Seattle Times. They suspect the upward flight is a response to global warming.

Among the most provocative discoveries is that of pikas. Once found as low as 7,800 feet, the pika now cannot be found below 9,500 in Yosemite.

James Patton, curator at the University of California, Berkeley, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, told the newspaper that a team of scientists from the museum were retracing the research of Joseph Grinnell, a biologist who 90 years ago catalogued the mammals, birds, and reptiles of the park. In retracing his steps during the last three summers, they found an environment that has seen a remarkable shift.

The Yosemite Valley, they said, has had a 50 per cent turnover in types of birds it harbors. And several species of rodents have shifted their range by as much as 3,000 feet. For example, the rare Inyo shrew, once found no higher than 8,000 feet, now ranges as high as 10,000.

While some species have merely expanded their range uphill, others have moved uphill. Such is the case with pikas.

Adapt to warming now

BANFF, Alberta — Nobody in Banff seems to doubt that climate change is occurring. And the prevailing attitude seems to be that the emissions of greenhouse gases that are at least partly responsible for the change must be curbed.