Mountain News: As temperatures rise so will vegetation 

click to enlarge WWW.SHUTTERSTOCK.COM - mountain news Vegetation in the Sierra Nevada could move upslope as temperatures continue to rise.
  • mountain news Vegetation in the Sierra Nevada could move upslope as temperatures continue to rise.

FRESNO, Calf. — The Christian Science Monitor reports on the result of a new study that set out to measure the relationships between evapotranspiration, altitude, and temperature in vegetation of the Kings River Basin, located on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada.

Assuming constant precipitation through the 21st century but a temperature rise of 1.23 degrees Celsius (about two degrees Fahrenheit), vegetation currently at 1,980 metres will migrate another 198 metres in elevation by late this century. This will lead to a 10 per cent increase in evapotranspiration, reports the Monitor's science writer, Pete Spotts.

Evapotranspiration is the water plants extract from the ground and eventually release to the atmosphere from leaves or needles as water vapor. It is also the amount of water that evaporates from soils and waterways.

If temperatures rise more dramatically, plants will hike nearly 700 metres up the slopes, boosting evapotranspiration in the basin by 28 per cent.

The upshot is a potential reduction in water flow from the river by one-fourth. The study results imply that the same type of risk holds for another 10 major river basins along the western Sierra, although to varying degrees.

Dogs acting like dogs doggone unacceptable

JACKSON, Wyo. — Dogs acting like dogs have town and public health officials weighing whether to ban dogs at the farmers' markets in downtown Jackson.

Even when kept on leash, dogs cause havoc at the Saturday morning gatherings by snatching food, fighting, and piddling on vendor booths.

"When people are not watching their dogs and dogs are lifting their legs on vendors' tables or taking food off tables, then that becomes a more specific problem," said Sloane Bergien, board president of the Farmers Market on the Town Square.

"Leashed or unleashed, it's become an issue," Bergien said. "It's time that we respond maturely and responsibly."

Wedding ring reunited after five-year absence

VAIL, Colo. — In 2009, David Brenner went skiing at Vail and when he returned home to his wife, Susan, the ring was absent his finger. Wouldn't you know it, the ring finally turned up below a chair lift in July, spotted by a lift maintenance worker.

The Vail Daily says the Brenners, who have been married 32 years, had purchased a new ring. This one fits more tightly. But they plan to put the old ring in a conspicuous place in their home in metropolitan Denver.

Crested Butte seems to survive beer brouhaha

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. — Crested Butte seems to have survived its brouhaha about beer and brands. Rapper Jay-Z performed and a lot of beer flowed in the promotional event sponsored by Bud Light. At least one local resident says it was fun — if just one glass of Bud Light was plenty enough.

It remains to be seen whether this issue lingers when town council elections are held next. Some people in Crested Butte seemed to think all the council members needed to be sent packing after they approved the event, which to some was seen as a sell-out to a major corporation. The town got $500,000 for being Bud Light party central for a day or two.

Dick Cheney happy for wilderness work

CASPER, Wyo. — The 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act was celebrated in the United States on Tuesday, and there has been much talk about wilderness preservation efforts of the past and those efforts underway now.

Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney says that wilderness protection for Wyoming was "the most important piece of legislative business (he) did for the state of Wyoming" during his time in Congress.

A Wyoming native, Cheney ran for Wyoming's lone House seat in 1978, when the state was primed for a decision on its public lands, explains the Casper Star-Tribune. Huge swaths of forest had been identified as potential wilderness areas. Until Congress made a decision, the land was frozen in limbo, neither protected wilderness but not open to other uses such as logging and mining.

Cheney said his appreciation for untrammeled land came from time as a youth spent in Wyoming and trips into proposed and existing wilderness areas with the Forest Service.

"I am a conservative. I ran one of the world's largest energy service companies (Schlumberger) after I'd been in Congress," Cheney told the Star-Tribune. "I felt then that it was important that some parts of the state be preserved and protected on account of development would permanently alter and change the territory."

But that was the last wilderness preservation in Wyoming, observes the Jackson Hole News&Guide. "If, in 1984, you had told me that in 2014 we would not have designated any more areas in Wyoming, I would not have believed you," said Phil Hocker, who lobbied for wilderness in the 1970s and 1980s.

Few people are visiting wilderness, though. That makes the areas more wild — but it also means less support for more wilderness additions, suggests Linda Merigliano, the recreation and wilderness program manager for the Bridger-Teton National Forest.

In Colorado, the Forest Service in late August held a gathering on the shores of Trappers Lake. The agency celebrates it as the "cradle of wilderness" because Arthur Carhart, the agency's first landscape architect, in 1919 had been dispatched to the lake to scout a road for several hundred cabins. Instead, he recommended that the best use of the lake would be no road or cabins.

Areas now being evaluated for wilderness preservation "didn't make the first cut for a reason," said Jill Ozarski, senior natural resources advisor to U.S. Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado. "It's not that they aren't incredible landscapes," she added, but usually for other reasons they fell on the cutting-room floor.

Ozarski also sees frustrations with the strict rules of wilderness specified by Congress in 1964. People want to let their dogs run unleashed, as they can in ordinary national forests or BLM lands. There are concerns about allowing management of forests to protect adjacent communities from wildfire. Now, with the landscape of dead trees caused by various epidemics of various beetles, people justifiably worry about the potential to get hit by falling trees while hiking on trails.

New coalitions of human-powered users are being formed, said Ozarski. They want fewer restrictions, but have a common interest in excluding extractive industries, including mining and in some cases logging.

The result is a hybrid. "They're like Brown's Canyon, half wilderness and half something else, and what is that something else is a complicated issue for agencies," she said.

That is also the case of a proposal to add 40,000 acres of wilderness in the Breckenridge-Vail areas. The Summit Daily News notes that Vail Resorts, the operator of four of the six ski areas in the two valleys, was conspicuously absent, as were snowmobilers.

No need to get excited about plastic bag ban

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — With a legislative vote now completed, California is set to ban free distribution of plastic bags by grocery stores. In San Jose, where a ban has already been adopted, the Mercury News advises against anxiety.

"Those of us in pioneer bag-ban cities like San Jose mostly have found bringing your own bags gets to be second nature, even if we do occasionally miss the convenience," the newspaper says in an editorial.

"What we don't miss is bags blowing round city streets, clogging streams, killing wildlife and making their way to the sea, where they last forever. They are relics of a throwaway society."

Coloradans flocking to Taos to make it all legal

TAOS, N.M. — Although they've been together for 34 years, Reg Stark and Dale Schuette in late May celebrated their first anniversary as husband and husband. This was also the first same-sex marriage conducted in Taos County.

Since then, reports The Taos News, 241 marriage licenses have been issued, or nearly half of all marriages. About a quarter were for couples from Taos County, but others came from elsewhere, particularly Colorado.

Some county clerks in Colorado had started issuing same-sex marriage licenses but were curbed pending legal resolution of the constitutionality.

What's it like to be married after 34 years (together)? "It does feel different," said Schuette. "It's hard to describe, but finally we're recognized."

Other than that, asked the Taos News?

"It's the same old, same old."


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