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Mountain News: Bilingualism an issue in U.S. resorts

PARK CITY, Utah — There seems to be an inverse relationship between the wealth of resort valleys of the West and immigration of Spanish-speaking workers, most of them from Mexico

PARK CITY, Utah — There seems to be an inverse relationship between the wealth of resort valleys of the West and immigration of Spanish-speaking workers, most of them from Mexico.

The richest of the rich, Aspen and Vail, with their hyper real estate economies, seemed to be first in attracting large numbers of immigrants. In parts of their outlying communities, immigrant children now are the majority of schools.

Immigration was slower to other resorts, and in some places, such as Colorado’s Winter Park, has yet to really begin. The time of most rapid change for Park City was about 1999, as the town geared up for the Olympics. Hispanics, many of them immigrants, now comprise 11 per cent of children in local schools, and about as much of the local population, although immigrants may be undercounted.

The Park Record notes that the first surge of immigrants provoked some community fears and resentments, including protests about Hispanics congregating at a community park. However, the community is now gearing up to meet immigrants at more than just the paycheque.

One crucial question in Park City, as well as across the United States, is how much government agencies, particularly police departments, should deliberately staff up with Latinos. In Park City and broader Summit County, there are relatively few bilingual police and even fewer bilingual Latinos.

The county sheriff, Dave Edmunds, does not oppose hiring more Latinos, and in fact welcomes diversity while seeking more bilingual employees. But he also dismisses deliberate attempts to recruit Latinos as wrong-headed political correctness coming from university campuses.

"If you treat people fairly and equitably, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Mexican-American officer, white officer, or Oriental officer," he told the Record.

The city’s police chief more openly indicated preference for bilingual speakers, all other qualifications being equal, as well as more women and greater racial diversity.

However, if police just wait for Latinos to put in applications, it will be a long time before police forces across the United States become more diversified with Latinos. Experts tell the newspaper there are fewer Latino applicants than available positions, although they do not say why.

Mandatory English opposed

ASPEN, Colo. — A new policy at Aspen Valley Hospital requires all employees at the shoptail to be able to read, write, and communicate in English. But why, asks one dishwasher contacted by The Aspen Times.

"If I could speak perfect English I wouldn't have this position," Juan Rios said through an interpreter. "I'm not dealing with patients. I'm in the kitchen. My whole department speaks Spanish. I'm worried tension will grow because of this policy." He said the policy was discriminatory.

Less money for firefighting

DURANGO, Colo. — As the Bush administration continues to cinch federal agencies, in order to fund the various foreign wars, the U.S. Forest Service is seeing cutbacks, including a loss of $277 million in the firefighting budget.

In places like Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, where only an average fire season is expected, the budgets have been reduced even more, in order to provide money for what is expected to be a bad year of fires in Montana, Idaho, and the Pacific Northwest.

The Forest Service has stepped up efforts to thin forests and set prescribed fires during recent years, thereby reducing the threat of catastrophic fires. Still, it takes a while for preventative measures to matter much, foresters tell the Durango Telegraph.

But The Wilderness Society thinks the Forest Service still has the strategy all wrong. Tom Fry, a representative of the group, said that when push comes to shove, the Forest Service will find a way to suppress fires. He also believes the Bush administration’s Healthy Forest Initiative emphasizes how many acres are treated, not how well they are treated to prevent fires.

Development potential curbed

OURAY, Colo. — Steadily but somewhat quietly, thousands of acres of privately owned land in the high country of Colorado are being removed from the potential of development.

One area of focus is the high country located in the triangle Ouray, Silverton and Telluride. There, a consortium of local governments and the federal government, working with non-profit groups, has acquired nearly 8,000 acres.

While some of the land was not suitable for development, the greater worry was that the high country of the San Juans would eventually become sprinkled with summer and even winter vacation homes, removing the sense of solitude but also creating major impacts of their own to water and even air quality as well as wildlife habitat.

One of the prime movers in this effort is the Trust for Public Lands, which does the complicated work of determining prices and engineers the purchases. In turn, the organization sells the land to the federal government, as Congress appropriates money. Most of the lands, which were originally patented for mining, is put under administration by the U.S. Forest Service. So far, Congress has spent more than $14 million for purchases in this area of the San Juans.

Doug Robotham, Colorado director of the Trust for Public Lands, says his group is trying to curb what he describes as a "backcountry sprawl." Nobody seems to mind a few cabins, but those few often turn into many more, a trend noted in several areas.

"We are seeing development pressure that 20 years ago I never would have imagined," he said. "We decided there was no better time than now to get out in front of this increasing trend toward development in Colorado’s backcountry."

Robotham’s group is in the midst of a major effort to prevent development on old mining claims in the area from Crested Butte to the small town of Marble. The land straddles the Elk Range, hence the name for the project, called the High Elk Corridor. To date, the groups have purchased 1,000 acres, with another 700 to 800 acres under option.

The Trust for Public Lands is now turning its attention to Colorado’s Mosquito Range, in the general area of Breckenridge, Fairplay, and Leadville. The range includes a cluster of four of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks that, unbeknownst to most of the peak-bagging hikers, are blanketed with private plots.

Elk attracted cougars

BANFF, Alberta — In January of 2001 Banff seemed to be a town under attack by cougars. A cross-country skier was killed in the area, and the same day a Banff woman was stalked by another cougar. That same winter dogs were attacked.

But since then, cougar sightings have been minimal. What happened?

A new study, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook, suggests that the cougars, which are also known as mountain lions and pumas, were drawn to the elk that winter in the Banff area. At the same time, they were trying to avoid wolves that were recolonizing the more backcountry areas. Five cougars are sometimes found in the Bow Valley between Canmore and Lake Louise.

Big gains in real estate

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. — Real estate in all the resort areas has been soaring, but new appraisals for next year’s property taxes are based on the period from 2002 into 2004. So, among the ski towns in Colorado, who gained the most during that time of the post-9-11 economic shock?

Writing in the Vail Daily, the Eagle County assessor gave the results in this order: Summit (Breckenridge) and San Miguel (Telluride) both 24 per cent; La Plata County (Durango) 20 per cent; Eagle County (Vail) 17 per cent; and Pitkin County 8 per cent. She reported that Routt County (Steamboat) gained 19 per cent, but The Steamboat Pilot reported only 15 per cent.

Steamboat gets tough

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — Steamboat Springs is likely to impose a more restrictive smoking ban than was being considered by the Colorado Legislature. A city ordinance tentatively approved bans smoking in a gamut of places, from offices to restaurants to sporting events. It would also ban smoking from within 25 feet from the doors and windows of those places.

War continues on pine beetles

WINTER PARK, Colo. — The snowpack entering May was at average in the Fraser Valley. As such, it’s not a scary year for fire in Winter Park-Granby area. Still, with so many trees dying from pine beetles, there are worries.

The Forest Service has spent $1 million each during the last two years in removing trees. Meanwhile, the town governments of Winter Park and Grand Lake, which both are located primarily amid forests of lodgepole pines, have also launched independent, tax-supported tree-thinning efforts.

Aesthetics is partly at issue. The pine needles turn rust coloured as the trees die, visually unappealing to most eyes. But the broader issue is of fire. For a time after the trees die, the risk of crown fires increases considerably. In addition to the resort towns themselves, perhaps hundreds of homes in outlying areas are dangerously nestled amid pine trees.

In all of this, the coverage of the Winter Park Manifest and sibling newspapers has varied somewhere between abject seriousness and self-parody. Publisher Patrick Brower has gleefully declared "war" on the pine beetle while issuing a supplement titled "Revenge of the Mountain Pine Beetle" that has the look of a marquee for a sci-fi horror movie.

Fines for setting out trash early

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — Last year bears regularly visited trash cans in Steamboat Springs, and so the city council in January passed a law mandating that no trash be set out before 6 a.m. on the day of pickup nor left out after 8 p.m. The exception? Those who have wildlife-resistant trash containers.

Ads announcing the new law were run on radio stations and in a local newspaper, and free brochures were distributed. Then, the police department dispatched an officer to see who had violated the new law. Some 52 tickets were handed out, each with a $100 fine.

City officials denied the fines were levied to raise revenue. "I want people to do the right thing, to get the wildlife- and bear-proof containers," said Wendy DuBord, the deputy city manager.

Some people did see the law coming. The Steamboat Pilot notes 200 people ordered the wildlife-proof trash containers, which cost $180 to $200, depending on size.

Flooding possible

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. — For the first time in a decade, Crested Butte will have sandbags at the ready, in case the creek that flows through the town gets a big head of water.

Much will depend upon the weather in coming weeks. The snowpack is at 125 per cent of average. If it melts steadily, as it did 10 years ago, the last time a well-above-average snowpack was recorded, there probably will be no problems. If it gets hot and stays hot, then there could be trouble, notes the Crested Butte News.

Revelstoke still smoking

REVELSTOKE, B.C. — Agitation continues in Revelstoke about the smoke emitted by teepee burners, also known as beehive burners, which are used to burn sawdust.

One activist, Julie Laverdiere, says these burners, as well as wood-burning stoves and other causes, produce a level of particulates in the air that reach unacceptable levels 227 days a year in Revelstoke. As well as posing dangers to public health, the air pollution could hamper Revelstoke's efforts to position itself as an outdoor tourism mecca, notes the Revelstoke Times Review.

The sawmill operator, Downie Street Sawmills, says it has been hurt financially because of the decreased prices of softwood lumber and hence it cannot afford to install a more efficient, less-polluting burner.