Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Two Elk issues still simmer
The news last week that two hippies in Eugene, Ore., Chelsea Gerlach and William Rodgers, were named as suspects (though not charged with anything) in a federal investigation of the 1998 burning of buildings at Vail prompts us to look back at what the fuss was all about. After all, whoever burned Two Elk Lodge was upset about something.
In this case, it was concerns over the lynx. Vail wanted to (and eventually did) expand south into an area called Blue Sky Basin that was rumored to be one of the last places in the state where wild lynx lived. No one had ever seen this big-footed cousin of the bobcat in the area, but a decade before a trapper had spotted what he thought was a lynx track. The argument was, if you build Blue Sky Basin, it's curtains for the lynx.
Almost 10 years later we know better. Blue Sky Basin hasn't ruined the lynx population's chances.
Starting in 1999, Canadian lynx were released into the San Juans where they appear to be doing quite well. According to the Division of Wildlife, in spring 2005 there were 34 female lynx from the releases that had active radio collars. Twenty-three possible mating pairs were documented during breeding season, with 46 kittens. Numbers are still extremely low, and the division has had problems with poaching, but it seems like lynx can live here and raise young.
But the story isn't over. As the lynx are expanding their range, so is Vail. The resort plans a private ski area above the town of Minturn, just southwest of the current resort. There will probably be another battle among the forest service, the ski company, and people concerned with leaving some public land for the wildlife.
Both have serious backing. Skiing is one of the main industries in the state, but the inherent value of untouched public land is not lost on most state residents either.
If things get heated again, let's hope those opposed to the expansion leave their matches at home.
By the way, a question for readers: Is it ethical for journalists to refer to the alleged group of saboteurs living in Eugene as a "cell" or does this bias the reader? - Dave
Posted by Dave Philipps at 9:00 AM