Aspen trophy homes get OK
The Aspen Daily News reports that a controversial trophy home development in Snowmass Valley has gained a preliminary OK from the Snowmass Village Town Council.The development proposal by the Texas landowner is for two 11,500-square-foot homes, two barns, outbuildings and a driveway – all of which could visibly scar the hillsides above Snowmass Village and disturb important wildlife habitat, according to the Daily News.A Colorado Division of Wildlife official said there 300 to 600 elk and several hundred mule deer in the herds that frequent the area. Developments in the area are putting “significant, cumulative pressure” on big game, according to the district wildlife manager, Kevin Wright. Some residents said the development could be the “final nail in the coffin” for the elk herd, the Daily News reports.Counties teaming up to fight wildland firesEight counties in the vicinity of the Grand Mesa, Uncompaghre, and Gunnison National Forest (GMUG) may team up and partner with federal land managers to fight wildland fires, the Creste Butte News reports.At a recent meeting, a consultant outlined a a 10-year plan called the National Forest County Partnership Restoration Program (CPR) that would join the eight counties surrounding the GMUG national forest in seeking funds from Congress to address forest fire suppression, according to the News.Buying into the program requires a $2,000 contribution from the counties to pay for lobbying efforts in Washington and the creation of an advisory board made up of local concerned parties to determine priority areas for wildfire suppression. Some local and federal officials said the scale of the project might be too large.Lynx program getscash infusionRestoring a threatened species like the Canada lynx to Colorado is not easy – or cheap. But the state effort got a big boost recently when the Colorado Wildlife Heritage Foundation announced it will help fund the lynx program with a $500,000 donation – the biggest donation ever handed to the Colorado Division of Wildlife, according to the Durango Herald. Vail Resorts also helped get the program off the ground several years ago with a one-time $200,000 donation.The total cost of the lynx program over the course of the next two years is estimated at about $2 million, according to the Herald. Other funding for the lynx program comes from Great Outdoors Colorado and the Division of Wildlife non-game check-off fund on state income-tax forms.”The lynx project is a great opportunity for people who want to make a difference to see the results of their efforts and contributions within their lifetime.” Karin Ballard, executive director of the Colorado Wildlife Heritage Foundation said in a press release.Aspen think tank gets new chiefThe Aspen Institute announced that outgoing CNN chief Walter Isaacson will become the new president of the think tank this spring, the Aspen Daily News reports.In a prepared statement, Isaacson said, “I have valued my varied experiences at CNN and Time, but it is a time in my life to move to a different role. The Aspen Institute is uniquely positioned to make a key difference on policy issues that truly matter to people.”The organization’s board of directors includes former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former White House aide David Gergen and former AOL Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin. It addresses issues including the environment, economic development, international economies, education and national security.Grand Targhee swap appealedAs expected, a coalition of seven conservation groups has appealed a proposed land trade at Grand Targhee Ski and Summer Resort that would give the resort 120 acres of national forest land at the base area in exchange for a 400-acre chunk of grizzly bear habitat near Yellowstone, the Jackson Hole Local reports.The exchange has been contentious from the beginning. In the appeal, the conservation groups allege that the Forest Service violated federal environmental laws and its own regulations by failing to do adequate property appraisals. The trade was delayed once by a federal judge who ordered the Forest Service to evaluate a “no-action” alternative.The Forest Service simply generated paperwork to justify its original position instead of conducting a meaningful analysis as ordered by a federal judge, Marv Hoyt, of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, said in the Local. The judge had ordered the Forest Service to give a more accurate portrayal of a no-action alternative to better illustrate the environmental impacts that would occur under both a land swap and no-swap alternative.Feds to live-testdeer for CWDThe Grand County Daily Tribune reports that Rocky Mountain National Park wildlife biologists will conduct biopsies on deer to test for chronic wasting disease. Those found with the disease will be killed. Park officials said the plan is part of an interim proposal “pending implementation of a plan to provide long-term management objectives and adaptive management strategies for CWD.”Chronic wasting affects deer and elk, always killing the infected animals. The Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) conducted a widespread testing program during the hunting season to try and determine the spread and prevalence of the disease.Under the park’s proposed screening project, the deer will be anesthetized with a dart rifle and fitted with a radio collar. After biologists get the test results, those deer testing positive for CWD will be located and euthanized. Up to 500 deer may be screened. According to the Daily Tribune, nine cases of CWD have already been confirmed in Rocky Mountain National Park, five cases in elk and four in mule deer. Five percent of the park’s deer population is believed to be infected.VR sells $10 million worth of Breckenridge real estateBuddy passes may be big news for skiers, but it’s small potatoes when compared to the recent announcement that Vail Resorts sold almost $10 million worth of slope-side real estate at Peak 8 in Breckenridge.The sales occurred during a one-week period in early January, the Denver Business Journal reports. The 18 ski-in, ski-out home sites sold at average price of about $550,000 each. Upcoming Vail Resorts projects in Breckenridge include an additional four-site offering at Timber Trail and a condominium development at the base of Peak 7, scheduled for 2003.Mammoth avy guns malfunctionMammoth Mountain in California experienced its third snowiest December ever, the Mammoth Times reports. More that 10 feet of snow fell during the second half of the month, with snowfall rates sometimes approaching five inches per hour.Ski patrollers were kept busy blasting for avalanches and also experienced some problems with their recoilless rifles, used to fire shells into the starting zones. At the end of December, the resort reported that crews experienced a second in-bore explosion that destroyed the rifle. There were no injuries but the program has been suspended. An investigation showed that the explosion was caused by faulty ammunition.