Mountain News: More towns consider ban on plastic bags 

click to enlarge In the bag
  • In the bag

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. — Some 2,000 signatures have been collected in the towns of Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte to put the kibosh on plastic bags.

The idea is being promoted by the non-profit Office for Resource Efficiency. A survey taken by the local chamber of commerce showed 52 per cent of responding businesses in favour. The general feedback seems to be to eliminate plastic bags and offer paper bags with no fee.

The Crested Butte News reports that businesses with stores in other ski towns seem to be on board with the movement.

In California, Truckee on June 1 required retail stores, including groceries, to cease putting merchandise in disposable plastic bags. Shoppers are instead charged a dime for a recycled paper or reusable bag.

The Sierra Sun reports some grumbling in the town along I-80, but also acceptance. Roughly a dozen businesses were given exemptions for use of their remaining stock of plastic bags. That grace period runs out on Dec. 1, however.

Mama bear a no-show

BANFF, Alberta — A 24-year-old considered the matriarch of grizzly bears in Banff National Park hasn't been seen this spring. Wherever can she be?

Maybe holed up in the high country, to avoid predation of her cubs by male bears, called boars. Or perhaps dead.

"She has lived a long life, and she's getting right up there with the oldest ones we know of," says Mike Gibeau, a grizzly bear expert. "She's getting to the end of her lifespan and certainly to the end of her reproductive stage."

The Rocky Mountain Outlook explains that residents of the Banff-Canmore-Lake Louise area are fascinated by the bear, known to scientists and hence the public as No. 64, because "she has managed to escape death on the highways and railway lines and carve out a living on a very busy landscape."

The sow was captured in 1999 as part of a research project. She had not yet had cubs, but since then she has had two, possibly three litters. In 2010, being without cubs, she was videotaped in the company of several male grizzlies, and one in particular. The next spring she emerged from her den with three cubs.

She might still be with those cubs. "Females with cubs can remain scarce for security reasons," explained Michelle Macullo, a Banff National Park spokeswoman.

Fearing fires, Telluride bans creation of hash

TELLURIDE, Colo. — Telluride has banned the manufacture of hash oil, and a similar ban is contemplated in broader San Miguel County.

The ban is a response to reports from elsewhere in Colorado of explosions and fires since sale of cannabis for recreational consumption became legal on Jan. 1.

One way to make hash oil is by packing the leaves and stems of cannabis plants into a pipe, pouring highly flammable butane through it, then heating it to burn off the liquid fuel.

Home town removes welcome for Bergdahl

HAILEY, Idaho — Balloons had been ordered, 1,825 of them, to represent the days that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl had been held captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan. A company had agreed to donate the helium, and Carole King, who lives near Hailey, in the Ketchum-Sun Valley area, had agreed to perform.

Then, Bergdahl was released, and "bring him home" turned into "welcome home." Now, the carpet has been rolled up amid questions about how Bergdahl was captured and whether his freedom was worth the exchange of five prisoners held in Guantanamo.

"In the interest of public safety, the event will be cancelled," said a press release issued by officials in Hailey, a town of 8,000. It is 19 kilometres from the smaller but better known towns of Ketchum and Sun Valley.

The Idaho Mountain Express explains that precipitating cancellation of the event were plans by an anti-Bergdahl group from California to send 2,000 protestors.

Bergdahl grew up in Hailey, working at Zaney's Coffee House before he enlisted in 2008. The Wall Street Journal talked with soldiers who served with him in Afghanistan.

"Like many soldiers heading into a war zone for the first time, the 22-year-old Army private was eager to get into the fight... The bravado didn't last," reported the Journal. Fellow soldiers say he began spending time with Afghani soldiers and then, in June 2009, disappeared. His disappearance came as little surprise to his fellow soldiers.

"It seemed like he was this die-hard, Rambo-esque soldier who wanted to kick ass and take names who then became this Peace Corps kind of guy who wanted to help the people," said Zach Barrow, a 27-year-old Army gunner who rode in the same truck as Bergdahl.

In Hailey, police chief Jeff Gunter, a close friend of the Bergdahl family, said he was besieged by calls and emails after Bergdahl's release. "The emotions felt five years ago when he was captured have now been reversed. Women have called saying they have not been able to put their makeup on because they can't stop crying."

Then came the national discussion about whether the soldier had, in fact, been a deserter. Norco, a medical supply company, withdrew its offer to provide helium for the balloons. Miss Idaho's visit to the event was cancelled. And Debbie O'Neill, an organizer, said she got threatening e-mails. "One of them said there will be 'consequences' if we proceed," she told the Mountain Express.

A childhood friend told the Express her thoughts: "Bring him home and leave him alone."

Interviewed by CNN reporters, Pam Morris, publisher of the Express, said she and her staff were waiting to know the facts of the case from Afghanistan.

"We do not believe people should be tried by sound bite or by social media, in which there is no accountability," she said.

Wounds remain 10 years after rampage

GRANBY, Colo. — It was 10 years ago this June that Marv Heemeyer exacted revenge on town officials, the local newspaper, and anybody else who just happened to cross the path of his home-made armament of war.

Heemeyer was aggrieved by a rezoning of land across the road from his muffler shop that permitted a batch plant. He clandestinely fortified a Komatsu bulldozer with 20 tons of armor and mounted rifles. Then, on the sunshine-splashed morning of June 4, he spun his contraption out of his muffler shop to spread terror.

First, he rammed the home of the mayor and the town hall and library. Then, he set out more randomly to avenge the wrongs he had perceived. In the case of the local newspaper, the Sky Hi News, the editor who had always run his letters of complaint ran out the back door as Heemeyer's bulldozer crashed through the front.

Nobody died, except Heemeyer, who took a gun to his own head after his lumbering bulldozer fell into the basement of the Gambles store. Others could easily have died, though.

The Gambles store has been rebuilt, but it took seven years for Casey Farrell, the owner, to do so. "My world just turned upside down," he told the Sky-Hi on the 10th anniversary. "But I thought 'Well OK, we've got insurance.' We did. Just not enough."

Gambles had been a hardware store with five employees. Now it's an appliance and mattress store with two.

But beyond the physical changes, there's a mental change in the minds of Farrell — and others.

"It's not that I don't feel safe, but it's changed the way that you look at people, at stuff," he said. "I don't know how to put it into words, really."

Glen Trainor was the undersheriff for Grand County. During the bulldozer rampage, he jumped atop the bulldozer and attempted to breach the hatch. Now the police chief of nearby towns of Winter Park and Fraser, he believes local emergency preparedness has improved. "We're not always going to be this sleepy place where nothing bad ever happens."

Patrick Brower was one of two newspaper editors who ran out the back door as the Komatsu's blades crumpled the front. Brower has written a book about the case, and he's tried to come to terms with how this one case fits into patterns across the country.

"I've seen that the ways people have venerated Marv and praised him after the fact," he says.

"How many people lose petty zoning fights with government in America? Everybody, all the time. That's not an excuse to go out and tear the town to pieces and shoot at people."

Lone bookstore on the sales block again

ASPEN, Colo. — Aspen's celebrated Explore Booksellers is on the sales block. The store occupies a prime location in downtown Aspen and the asking price of $6.5 million presumably reflects that value, not the revenues of a bookstore.

The store had been established by Katherine Thalberg in 1975. But after she died in 2007, it wasn't clear the store would remain in business. Finally, Sam and Cheryl Wyly, part-time residents in Aspen, stepped forward.

The Aspen Daily News explains that in 2007, the Wylys described their purchase of Explore as an act of stewardship. At the time, the Aspen Daily News asked him how important the bookstore was to Aspen. Sam Wyly responded: "How important is Ajax?"

Ajax is the local name of Aspen's mountain.

But that was then. "For many years, it was a labour of love. In the business world, that's what you call an investment that provides a greater good to the community which far outweighs any story the balance sheet tells."

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