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Smokeout annoys folks in Winter Park

Allen Best

WINTER PARK – The bark beetles that are munching their way through the lodgepole pine forests of the Fraser Valley are having a secondary affect: smoke.After property owners cut down trees, they are burning the timber in 15-foot by 15-foot piles to reduce the danger of forest fires. After one such big burn, public officials were besieged with phone calls from people who felt they had been smoked out.Grand County officials reported 400 such timber piles in 2000. This year they expect upwards of 5,000. Burning is permitted during winter, when danger of the fires spreading is low. The trick is to burn when weather conditions will allow the smoke to be blown out. However, a ring of mountains creates temperature inversions that often create a lid on smoke.Just how can people get rid of the excess wood? County officials have talked about a biomass plant, which would burn the wood with controls on emissions in order to produce electricity. However, biomass plants can be enormously expensive, in this case running $100 million to $120 million, and therefore hard to justify if the source of wood is temporary.While the Fraser Valley has never had particularly good air, owing to a century of railroad locomotives, sawmills, stoves and fireplaces, the Winter Park Manifest sees similarities between the valleys’ pollution and the skylines of Denver, Los Angeles and other cities.Banff grappling with growthBANFF, Alberta – Banff continues to grapple with a notion that most would find strange, if perhaps still admirable. Growth is capped.The town is located within Banff National Park, and in 1998 the federal government ruled there would be no expansion. All 350,000 square feet of commercial development then authorized has been distributed, though only a third has been used. The question for Banff residents has become whether to try get around this growth cap. Sentiments expressed at a recent public meeting suggest Banff wants to live within its existing britches, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook. This is not a unanimous opinion, however. Some think that this growth cap will leave Banff steadily more elitist. The town government plans to do a study next year that plots economic trends. The town planning director, Randall Mckay, is firmly of the opinion that Banff will thrive, not stagnate, as a result of this growth cap.


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