In the ski town of Crested Butte, Colo., purchases of everything from a rack of lamb to rock-climbing hardware will now go toward buying a piece of paradise. Thanks to the efforts of a local sporting goods store, businesses this month began offering a 1 percent surcharge on all purchases for the acquisition of open space.


While Crested Butte is close to the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness and the Raggeds Wilderness, fast-food outlets and 35-acre subdivisions have boomed. That led local business owners to take matters into their own hands.


"The nonsense just has to stop," Ethan Hicks, manager of The Alpineer, told the Crested Butte Chronicle & Pilot. "We can no longer just walk out of town and find ourselves in wild places like we used to. We have lost a lot, but acquiring open spaces can preserve what we have left."


Stores and restaurants that display a "1 percent for open space" placard on their windows offer the surcharge to customers at the cash register. Salespeople report positive response from residents and tourists alike. Based on last year's sales tax revenues, proponents of the plan estimate that more than $300,000 could be raised to purchase open space.


* Shara Rutberg