Friday, June 28, 2013

Rockies Today, June 28

Posted By on Fri, Jun 28, 2013 at 11:32 AM

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Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

Montana legislators pitch new plan to settle tribes' water claims
Two northwest Montana legislators, Sen. Verdell Jackson, R-Kalispell, and Rep. Keith Regier, R-Kalispell, said that local water-rights holders were not fairly represented in the decade-long negotiations with the state and Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes to settle the tribes' water rights, and on Thursday, the legislators submitted an alternative plan developed by the group Concerned Citizens of Western Montana and a handful of legislators, who acknowledged that they did not work with the tribes to develop the plan.
Kalispell Daily InterLake; June 28

Interior secretary addresses National Congress of American Indians
The emotional pledge of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to work with tribes to right past wrongs drew a standing ovation at the National Congress of American Indians in Nevada on Thursday.
Great Falls Tribune (AP); June 28

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Anaconda smelter stack vs. Washington Monument, once and for all

Posted By on Thu, Jun 27, 2013 at 9:00 AM

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Perhaps it's because I'm a Washington, D.C.-area native, and my visiting friends and relatives tend to put up a stubborn fight, but for as long as I've lived in Montana I've had to repeatedly defend the fact that the Anaconda Copper Mine's smelter stack is the world's largest free-standing masonry structure. It's not the Washington Monument, as my mother and father always insisted. It's not something outside of Houston called the San Jacinto Monument. It's "The Stack," and now we have some verification.

Washington Post columnist John Kelly addressed this pressing issue in a recent piece. A reader called out Kelly and his newspaper for repeatedly giving the Washington Monument credit as the world's largest free-standing masonry structure, and he looked into the complaint.

The Washington Monument is 555 feet 5.9 inches tall. The Anaconda stack is 585 feet 1.5 inches tall. However, that includes a 30-foot-tall concrete base. If you subtract the base, the Anaconda tower is 555 feet 1.5 inches high.

Aha, you say. The Washington Monument is still 4.4 inches taller than the Anaconda smokestack. But Carrie [the letter writer] points out that the top 8.8 inches of the monument is an aluminum pyramid. Subtract that, and the smokestack is taller. The beautiful homage to the Father of Our Country must cede its record to a big pollution stick.

You know this big pollution stick. It's the structure visible from I-90. It's also home to a state park that you can't actually visit because it's so polluted.

Anyway, Kelly goes on to wriggle away from Anaconda's glory and find some way to keep the Washington Monument in contention for ... something. Carol Johnson of the National Park Service went so far as to tell Kelly: "Theirs is the tallest free-standing masonry structure. Ours is the tallest free-standing stone structure.”

Oh, come on. Now you're just being silly.

Rockies Today, June 27

Posted By on Thu, Jun 27, 2013 at 8:58 AM

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Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

Grizzly bear numbers on the rise in Montana's Beartooth Mountains
Shawn Stewart, the wildlife biologist for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks in Red Lodge, said in each of the past three years, sightings of grizzly bears in the Beartooth Mountains have doubled.
Billings Gazette; June 27

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The summer of our discontent

Posted By on Wed, Jun 26, 2013 at 11:30 AM

Confession: While my homeland dries, and pillars of smoke pour out of some of my favorite places, I am far, far away in a place where I must jump over puddles in the park and almost swim my way through air thick with oxygen and humidity. I’ve moved my mobile office to Manhattan for a week, to take a quasi-vacation with my family and get a little injection of urbanity.

Yet, even way out here I can’t escape the devastation that is being wrought back home. Yesterday we were standing on a corner on the Upper East Side, trying to figure out where to eat, when an archetypical New Yorker — accent and swagger and all — offered his help (despite my New Yorker friend’s admonition to “never, ever make eye contact,” folks here are quite friendly).

“You visiting from somewhere?” he asked. “Where you from?”

“Colorado,” we said.

“Oh, so sad,” he said. “I’m so sorry.”

He wasn’t sorry about the fact that what passes for an art museum in my hometown might include airbrushed paintings of Hollywood Indians and sunsets, or that our idea of ethnic food includes ambrosia salad from way over in Utah. He was sorry about the fires that are currently gobbling up forests and homes across the West.
The fires, themselves, are the bad news, of course. But the fact that the average Joe on the East Coast knows so much about the fires is bad, too. That means that national news outlets are running image after image of flaming catastrophe, and each time the scene is repeated, someone else is canceling his Western vacation. Our economy, still fragile from the Great Recession, just can’t afford that kind of blow.

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I wrote recently about the surprisingly positive economic impacts of wildfire on some sectors of the local economy. But the effects of fire — and drought in general — are almost purely negative when it comes to tourism. Travelers are no more enthusiastic about vacationing in a burning state than they are eager to hang out on the beach in a hurricane. No matter that the worst fires might be confined to one corner of a great big state: In the minds of much of the outside public, the entire state is on fire.

And that hurts. Last year’s Waldo Canyon Fire near Colorado Springs was the state’s worst ever, charring 350 homes (the 2010 Fourmile Canyon Fire near Boulder had been the worst, with 168 homes burned, before that). During and after the fire, the lodger’s tax — a good reflection of the health of tourism — plummeted. July’s revenues were down 18 percent from the previous year, with August and September down 5 and 8 percent, respectively. Local economic development officials estimated that small businesses lost some $8.6 million in potential sales as a result of the fire.

Waldo Canyon didn’t hold its worst-fire-ever distinction for long. This summer’s Black Forest Fire, which still smolders as I write, burned more than 400 homes, also near Colorado Springs. At the same time, the Royal Gorge Fire burned a stone’s throw away from that major tourist attraction. Forests also went up in flames to the east, west and north of Santa Fe, N.M., one of the region’s major tourist meccas; the 150,000-acre Las Conchas Fire of 2011 was blamed for bad business in Santa Fe for the next several months. Las Conchas was the biggest fire in the state until last year’s Whitewater Baldy Complex Fire in southern New Mexico dwarfed it and dealt a severe blow to tourism down there. Now the Silver Fire, also in the south, is threatening the small town of Kingston. A fire is burning near Yosemite National Park, and people all over are changing their summer travel plans.

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My hometown of Durango, Colo., which relies on tourism for about one-third of its economy, has thus far dodged the bullet this summer. But its air is smoky, thanks to fires burning everywhere else, particularly in eastern Utah, and it holds the stigma of the other fires in the state, especially Black Forest. Back in 2002, when the Missionary Ridge fire raged for a month near town, ridership on the tourist train dropped by 30 percent and Mesa Verde National Park saw about 25 percent fewer visitors than the year before. If the smoke isn’t enough to scare folks away, the drought might just do it. The Animas River, a favorite for commercial rafting trips, is running at less than 500 cubic feet per second and dropping. The median for this time of year is about 2,500 cfs.

The good news is that tourists are generally amnesiacs, and the drag on the tourist economy during fires doesn’t seem to last that long afterwards. But as one devastatingly dry summer is piled upon another, and mega-fires become the norm, not the anomaly, one has to wonder when that amnesia is going to fade away. It’s not hard to imagine a day when travelers simply avoid the West during the ever-lengthening fire season. Sad, indeed.

This is cross-posted from High Country News, hcn.org. The author is solely responsible for the content.

Rockies Today, June 26

Posted By on Wed, Jun 26, 2013 at 11:01 AM

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Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

Montanans interpret President Obama's Keystone XL pipeline comment differently
On Tuesday, President Obama announced his plans to address climate change that includes putting new limits on power plant emissions, building renewable-energy generation projects on federal lands and approval of the Keystone XL pipeline project only if "...this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution," a statement that Montana U.S. Rep. Steve Daines said was a clear indication that the project would not be built, but U.S. Sen. Max Baucus said it was an indication that it would.
Great Falls Tribune; June 26

Federal judge blocks more timber sales in Montana over lynx
Since May, U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen has blocked four timber sales in two national forests because the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not adequately address how those projects would affect threatened Canada lynx.
Flathead Beacon (AP); June 26

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Your future, a little early

Posted By on Wed, Jun 26, 2013 at 9:00 AM

Find Rob Brezsny's "Free Will Astrology" online, every Wednesday, one day before it hits the Indy's printed pages.

ARIES (March 21-April 19): "To know when to stop is of the same importance as to know when to begin," said the painter Paul Klee. Take that to heart, Aries! You are pretty adept at getting things launched, but you've got more to learn about the art of stopping. Sometimes you finish prematurely. Other times you sort of disappear without officially bringing things to a close. Now would be an excellent time to refine your skills.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Rockies Today, June 25

Posted By on Tue, Jun 25, 2013 at 11:44 AM

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Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.

Federal judge in Montana says ski-slope Jesus can stay
On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen issued a ruling clearing the way for the Flathead National Forest to reissue a permit to the Knights of Columbus to maintain a statue of Jesus on Big Mountain.
Kalispell Daily InterLake; June 25

Renewable-energy advocates urge Montana PSC not to change rules
At a three-hour meeting before the Montana Public Service Commission, renewable-energy developers and advocates said the significant reduction in the size of renewable-energy projects that NorthWestern would be required to contract is too small to make such projects financially feasible.
Montana Standard; June 25

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Monday, June 24, 2013

Rockies Today, June 24

Posted By on Mon, Jun 24, 2013 at 11:40 AM

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USFS tells Idaho it cannot support megaload plan from Idaho to Montana
The U.S. Forest Service told the Idaho Department of Transportation that the federal agency could not support a plan to move a 655,000-pound, 225-foot-long, and 21-foot-wide water purification vessel from the Port of Lewiston through Idaho to Montana.
Billings Gazette (AP); June 24

Montana senator's bill requires land agencies to act on climate change
U.S. Senate Bill 1201 introduced Thursday by Montana U.S. Sen. Max Baucus and Rhode Island U.S. Sen. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse requires the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Bureau of Land Management to work together with state agencies to adapt land management policies to reflect the changing climate.
Missoulian; June 24

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How to make your baby poo on cue (and more from In Other News)

Posted By on Mon, Jun 24, 2013 at 9:00 AM

Curses, Foiled Again
Authorities charged Scott Simon, 24, with first-degree murder after he “pocket dialed” 911 and was overheard telling someone he was going to follow a 33-year-old man home from a Waffle House in Broward County, Fla., and kill him. Minutes later, the victim was shot and killed while driving on Interstate 95. “He had no idea he called 911,” sheriff’s official Dani Moschella said of Simon. “He basically told on himself.” (The Miami Herald)

Authorities charged Natasha Myers, 23, with criminal mischief after they said she used a key to scratch a crude sketch of male genitalia on the hood of a stranger’s SUV in a supermarket parking lot in Wesley Chapel, Fla. She then went to the supermarket’s customer service desk, asked for a Post-it note, scribbled a message scolding the driver for not stopping for pedestrians—saying “Don’t be a dick”—and left the note on the SUV’s windshield. The vehicle’s owner saw the damage and the note, then went into the store and called 911. Security camera footage showed Myers writing the note, and sheriff’s deputies traced her to her home. (Tampa Bay Times)

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Friday, June 21, 2013

Prepare to board, it's Go Skate Day!

Posted By on Fri, Jun 21, 2013 at 10:12 AM

Falling on your ass is a right of passage for the 12-and-under demographic, and if you had a skateboard when you were younger, you fell 10-times more. Remember how good it felt when you were a kid and had four of your closest friends pushing around your mom’s driveway trying to ollie over a stick? And then you got older. You became an angsty teen, wrapped up in the drama of high-school lifestyle. Maybe you went off to college to learn how to be a thriving citizen and/or smoke weed.

But a dedicated few stuck with skateboarding, and continued to throw their bodies into the asphalt for years to come. As time went on, numbers thinned, and joints grew sore. To this day, when people see a mid-20s or older skateboarder still pushing around town, they all say the same thing: “Yeah, I used to skate, too.”

Skaters of all shapes and sizes hit the pavement during last years Go Skate Day.
  • Photo courtesy of Matt Hudson
  • Skaters of all shapes and sizes hit the pavement during last year's Go Skate Day.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, now is the time to put your wheels where your mouth is. Or something. Today is Go Skateboarding Day—a Congressionally recognized national holiday aimed at appreciating the rattiest group of athletes to ever hang around your parking lot.

Edge of the World will be hosting the festivities this year at Mobash skatepark, featuring a Best Trick competition, Highest Ollie (you remember how to ollie, right?), as well as a game of S.K.A.T.E (think H.O.R.S.E, but with skateboard tricks) and prizes for the winners. Music, barbequed goodness and a raffle for a slew of sponsor goodies are also on hand to keep people entertained. But rest assured, if the weather isn’t going to cooperate, the festivities will simply be held at Edge of the World headquarters (618 S. Higgins), and everything will be there, including the barbeque.

Go Skateboarding Day didn’t come about so that skateboarders could pat themselves on the back for doing something they already know is cool. It’s a day of inclusion, probably some bruising and, depending on your age, maybe a little boozing, too. But all people of all skill levels are encouraged to, at the very least, step on a skateboard once today. Then, once you’ve busted your ass, go ahead and have a burger. You did good, kid.

Go Skate Day takes place at Mobash Skatepark, below the Orange Street bridge, from noon to 4 PM. Free.

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