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Know the West

Protests proceed at Vail

  The White River National Forest near Vail, Colo., was a busy place on the morning of July 1. After a springtime break for the elk calving season, work was scheduled to begin anew on the controversial expansion of the Vail ski area, which will increase the size of North America's largest ski area by 25 percent (HCN, 12/7/98).

Protesters arrived early to erect a 20-foot log tripod on a Forest Service access road, and when ski area crews arrived with a cherry-picker, two of the protesters locked themselves to the equipment.

Construction crews used alternative roads to reach the expansion area, and the Forest Service closed off 4,000 acres in and around the site.

The protesters' roadblock remained until after the July 4th weekend, when law enforcement officers from the Forest Service dismembered the tripod and arrested some of the protesters at the site. On July 22, another protester was arrested after she refused to move from a tree inside the expansion area. There have been nine arrests.

Many activists say the approval of the Vail expansion was a triumph of politics over science; they point to internal Fish and Wildlife Service documents recently obtained by Boulder-based environmental lawyer Ted Zukoski, which show that agency biologists' recommendations to protect lynx habitat near Vail were ignored by their superiors.

Construction crews continue to fell trees in the expansion area, and Vail Resorts officials expect limited skiing on the new terrain as early as this coming winter.

*Allen Best