Heard around the West

 

Vail Resorts Inc. should be on top of the world. The already enormous ski area is about to swallow the Breckenridge and Keystone ski areas, making it gargantuan. And Vail president Adam Aron is not just a formidable businessman but also something of a wizard with words.

The former cruise-line president recently "mused aloud" to the New York Times: "The ski lodge is the ship's cabin, and the mountain is the recreation area." But there's a storm brewing outside the resort's snug cabin, on the mountain, which is owned by the Forest Service and therefore subject to the 1872 Mining Law. Thanks to that law, the Rock Hard Mining Co. has staked mineral claims in east Vail, and while the ski slopes are safe, the mining claims border homes that cost up to $2.5 million. Kelly Kawiter, who lives in one of the down-scale homes - only $800,000 - and who found the stakes, told The Denver Post, "I want this stopped."

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As we remember, Boy Scouts are supposed to tell the truth, be cheerful, and help people across the street. But, hey, this is the late "90s. So in Yosemite National Park recently, a group of Boy Scout leaders stoned to death a bear that had stolen their (improperly stored) food. Charges have been filed.

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Messing with a mountain biker can be fatal if you're a cougar in northern California. A 60-pound male lion was killed by state officials after it chased a bicyclist down a trail in the Auburn State Recreation Area. The cat may have been killed because it didn't play fair. While the biker was keeping to the trail and thereby not creating erosion, the cat was cutting cross-country and greeting the sweating biker at each switchback. Eventually, the cougar lost interest in the game, but its fate was already sealed, reports the Sacramento Bee.

Meanwhile, in the town of Mullan in northern Idaho, at least three domestic felines were snapped up by one of their wilder cousins. Resident Ron Hayes first saw a lion crossing the street with a fur ball in its jaws; a moment later he happened on Cathy Welker, who asked if he'd seen her pet kitten. There was a happier ending in Montrose, Colo., where Sugar, a 10-year-old quarter horse, fought off a mountain lion, suffering only scratches and puncture wounds.

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The August immigration raids in Jackson, Wyo., that resulted in 115 deportations, are still reverberating. At the Spring Creek Resort, 16 workers were hauled off in a horse trailer even though the resort offered its 21-passenger buses to move the maids, busboys and cooks that kept the resort running. Jackson Police Chief Dave Cameron told the Casper Star-Tribune that while "using the horse trailer was regrettable, ... the people who were in that trailer made quite a mess of it. They left it far dirtier than it was when they entered it."

People just have no respect for property anymore.

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The congressional squeeze on the National Park Service budget is having repercussions. This year, about 80,000 volunteers helped staff 367 short-handed parks and monuments. The volunteers bring a style all their own, according to a Newhouse News Service story. Volunteer Walter Tishma, in Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park, told one young man planning to climb Longs Peak: Once you get near the top "you will probably know where to go because on your right is a 2,000-foot drop."

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Finally, tourism is tough on the woods. The coal-burning narrow-gauge railroad out of Durango, Colo., often sets fire to the national forest it hauls tens of thousands of tourists through. Not only is this bit of nest-fouling bad for the scenery, it is potentially bad for the railroad's bottom line. The Forest Service has been trying to collect $550,000 it spent fighting a railroad-caused fire in 1994. The railroad is resisting. Like the West's miners, hikers and ranchers, it doesn't think it should have to pay to use the national forests.


Heard around the West invites readers to get involved in the column. Send any tidbits that merit sharing - small-town newspaper clips, personal anecdotes, relevant bumpersticker slogans. The definition remains loose. Heard, HCN, Box 1090, Paonia, CO 81428 or HCNVIRO@aol.com