Mountain High 

Missoula is well known for its lousy income-to-cost-of-living ratio, but next time you find yourself hocking a pair of skis to pay your moving costs, don’t even think about heading to Jackson, Wyo., brah. More than $900 million in real estate was sold there last year—an impressive number at face value but approaching insane when you consider that the number was attained through fewer than 938 real estate transactions. For the record, single-family dwellings in Jackson averaged $615,000, proving that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.

The Alliance for the Wild Rockies says that although bull trout gained protection five years ago under the Endangered Species Act their numbers remain critically low. Ski resort expansion, housing developments, dams and nonnative predators are mostly to blame, according to last week’s report, which called Plum Creek Timber Corp. a prime trout-killer. (Plum Creek owns 8,000,000 acres nationwide, and after cutting most of its Montana holdings has reorganized into a Real Estate Investment Trust, or REIT. Plum Creek calls this “an ideal, tax-efficient way to own timberlands,” but that’s an entirely different story.)

Still, the company patted itself on the back last week, winning an award from the American Forest and Paper Association trade group. While Plum Creek was noted for its compliance with rather ambiguous “sustainable forest” practices, Montanans looking to see for themselves can observe these techniques in action by driving up the razed Gold Creek, a tributary to the Blackfoot River.

In the meantime, EarthFirst! co-founder Mike Roselle has teamed up with former Indy staffer Josh Mahan to crank out an online enviro publication dedicated to shedding “the pretentious skin of objectivity” in a “fourth dimension cocktail party.” The e-rag is written for those living the life of modern-day gypsies, monks and adventure junkies with a protectionist eye on the environment. Check it out at: www.lowbagger.org

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) brought its roadshow to a Missoula seafood restaurant last week, hammering home the point that fish have feelings and belong in the water, not your creel. While Montana has long been known as a place where even the vegetarians eat meat, a PETA rep claimed (from inside a giant fish costume) that 18 billion fish die annually to feed Americans.

More importantly, the PBS show NOW! reported last week that “one-in-six children…have been exposed to mercury levels so high that they risk learning disabilities and cognitive impairment.” They made the link specifically to fish, a mercury-accumulator that carries the toxin until passing it along to the brains of fish eaters.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) seeks comment through Feb. 14 on a proposed recreation permit system on the Blackfoot River. The new rule would require a permit for commercial use, competitions or organized group activity on the Blackfoot and adjacent public land. Interested parties can participate in public hearings Feb. 2 at 6:30 p.m. at the Lincoln Community Hall and Feb. 3 at 6:30 p.m. at Ruby’s Inn & Convention Center in Missoula. Get in the know by logging on to the FWP website at www.fwp.mt.gov.

Experts estimate that as many as a few dozen bears call Missoula’s city limits home, and now is the time to learn about these most reclusive neighbors. The International Wildlife Media Center & Film Festival’s Conservation at the Crossroads Series presents “The Bears Among Us” Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. at the Roxy Theater. You’ll catch films and discussions on bear biology, management, threats and bear-smart communities in Montana. FWP Bear Specialist Jamie Jonkel and a host of other experts will be in the house for discussion and questions, so pony up the $4 ($3 students/seniors, $2 kids) or contact the center at 728-9380 or www.wildlifefilms.org for more info.

A dearth of precipitation and wildly fluctuating temperatures have combined to create truly lousy snow conditions for skiers across the region, but alpine junkies looking for a fix can join The New Rocky Mountaineers as they push to the summit of Little St. Joe’s Peak in the Bitterroots Jan. 29. The 4,700-foot climb is a stiff one, but on clear days the views are spectacular. Those with a nose for it might even find hidden powder shots on the descent, so call Gerald Olbu at 549-4769 to join in on this boot, ski or snowshoe adventure.

Chairlift users might fare well this week by seeking not the powpow but instead the corn, a condition most commonly seen in the springtime after the freeze/thaw cycle has hammered the snowpack for weeks on end. The effect is a consistent and highly skiable medium—after the sun’s had a chance to melt the freeze out of it mid-morning. As such, there are no first tracks to gain, and the wise skier will sleep in and let the sun do its work before heading to the slopes.

Forecasters are predicting that this ridge of sunny high pressure will be temporarily broken up by a weak weather system over the weekend, but the longer-term forecast calls for more blue skies.

Of course anything is possible weatherwise, so call before you go. As of press time, Snowbowl is reporting a 46-inch base on top with “6,000,000 gallons of man-made snow at the base”; Big Mountain has 20-60 inches of “springlike conditions;” Lost Trail has a 51–57-inch base; Discovery has a 12–30 inch base; Blacktail Mountain claims 28 inches; Lookout Pass has a 20–45-inch base; and Silver Mountain is temporarily closed due to lack of snow.

Pray vigorously for copious amounts of roof-crushing, fish-saving snow, then send your play calendar to: photo@missoulanews.com.

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