Thursday, August 28, 2014
What's New in the New West
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Tag Archives: colorado

Gas Prices Dropping – But Not in Idaho, Rocky Mountain West

The good news is that gas prices have plunged more than $0.14 a gallon in two weeks, to an average U.S. price of $3.08. The bad news is that Idaho’s gas prices haven’t. Gas prices in the Gem State have barely budged from the $3.28 record high last month; now the average price is $3.26, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report. The record U.S. average price of $3.23 was set on May 24. In light of that miniscule drop in cost since May, AAA Idaho has reported that the state by state ranking shows Idaho has the sixth highest gas prices in the country. Hawaii’s the highest at $3.42. And several Northwest states are among the highest ranking with New Mexico at $3.31, Utah, Colorado and Montana at $3.25, and Wyoming at $3.16. Read More »

Guest Column: We Ought Not Grow Cows In Dry West

George Wuerthner

In a notoriously dry region like the American West, guest columnist George Wuerthner minces no words when it comes to the suitability of turning domestic livestock loose on the public range: Cattle and sheep, he says, do not belong. Portraying beef cows as a yoke hanging around the necks of wild ecosystems and fragile natural resources, he says livestock production is "by far the worse environmental catastrophe to befall the West." It's especially bad, he claims, because of the natural aridity. In an age of global warming when hotter temperatures are expected to cook the deserts even more, and where even wetter places will endure rises in heat that last longer and suck the moisture out of the ground faster, he believes it's time for society to truly assess if the mythical land of cowboys is really a good place to produce red meat. -Todd Wilkinson Read More »

Professor Emeritus: Have We ‘Nuked’ Pinedale’s Big Game Herds?

The federal Bureau of Land Management continues to take a pounding over its greenlighting of additional natural gas drilling in a corner of western Wyoming known for its wildlife, an area that has been compared to Africa's Serengeti Plain. Last week, Congress heard concerns expressed by former veteran government biologist Rollin Sparrowe, today a board member with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnershp, over the effects of natural gas drilling on big game herds in and around the Upper Green River Basin near Pinedale, Wyoming. Now another wildlife expert, William Alldredge, professor emeritus from Colorado State University (a renowned training ground for government and independent field scientists in the West) weighs in with this guest essay that calls the BLM under further scrutiny. Will the BLM respond with an explanation for why it justifies further drilling when its own analysis shows that expanding the footprint of drilling will likely displace animals from vital habitat? - Todd Wilkinson Read More »

What Jackson Hole Can Learn From The Big Apple

When Westerners get their city fix in the Big Apple, some return home with nothing but relief. Lifestyle statistician and commentator Jonathan Schechter got something else: A revelation about the similarities between the green heart of New York City and his own turf in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. His epiphany grew out of conversations he had with investment gurus who told him the best strategy for ensuring sustainable prosperity is to plan ahead and take a long view of the mountainous horizon that, more and more, Americans are coveting. Despite Jackson Hole's reputation as being a refuge for the ultra rich and famous, Schechter notes that the way it approaches growth and plots its own future is still bamboozled by a poor man's mentality in thinking about development. As always, his essays deliver lessons about where the West has been and where it's headed. Read More »

EPA Walks the Walk on New Denver Headquarters

It's cool to be 'green' these days. Sustainability is the new standard for communities, lifestyles and building codes. And in Denver, the Environmental Protection Agency is putting its practices where its policies are with its new Region 8 headquarters. The Denver Rocky Mountain News reports that the building in downtown Denver sports a garden roof, replete with 40,000 plants -- half of which were obtained locally -- thus reducing even the emissions required to move the materials to the site. Opus Northwest, the developer of the building, has applied for a Gold rating under the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. The gardenscape roof will capture rain and filter out pollutants, and reduce the warming effects generally caused by sunlight reflecting off concrete. Read More »

Western Developments Produce Changing Shades of Gray Zones

Affordable housing, wildlife habitat and open space – all are issues of concern to communities in the Rocky Mountain West. But unintended consequences of a buildling moratorium in one Colorado city are hobbling affordable housing efforts there. Concerns about wildlife habitat compelled the Idaho Fish and Game Department to issue an uncommon protest against a proposed development in Blaine County. And a desire to keep a cluster of new homes from cluttering up open space at the confluence of a Montana river and a prized blue-ribbon trout stream led to the creation of a zoning tool known as a citizen-initiated zoning proposal – a zoning district created at the behest of a group of concerned residents who opposed an Oregon developer’s plan to build 36 homes on 505 acres on Rock Creek. The Aspen Times reports that the Aspen City Council, which had enacted a 10-month moratorium on building projects last April — voted on Wednesday to extend that deadline to May 31, 2007. That decision also denied the request by proponents of an affordable housing project that the project be exempted from the moratorium. Citing the resort town’s obvious need for affordable housing, members of the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority urged the City Council to exempt projects that would allow the demolition of 25 low-cost rental apartments, 14 at the private Park Avenue complex and 11 at the city's Smuggler Mountain, and replace them with 22 units of affordable housing on the two sites. But the Council denied the exemption, putting the projects on hold until after the moratorium expires on May 31. In Idaho, the Cove Springs development in Blaine County garnered a rare thumbs-down from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. The Idaho Mountain Express reports that wildlife agency officials criticized the developers for their unwillingness to work with the agency to alleviate concerns about the effect of the proposed 338 housing units on 600 acres of a 4,630-acre ranch five miles south of Bellevue. Read More »

New Report Says West’s Drought Cycle Not Unusual

Officials across the Rocky Mountain West gave a collective nod of agreement to the findings of a new report that said the West is dry and getting drier. The New York Times’ article on the report, issued by the National Research Council, the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences, found that the extreme drought suffered by the region in the late 1990s and early 2000s was a return to “normal” conditions after decades of higher than normal precipitation. The report culls information previously published in scholarly journals and presents it in a straightforward manner. And the primary understanding regional officials pulled from the report is that some of the fastest-growing regions of the country are going to have less water from historical resources. The Colorado River Basin covers 240,000 square miles in Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California and Mexico, and encompasses some of the nation’s fastest-growing areas: Colorado’s Front Range, Utah’s Wasatch Range, the Phoenix metro area in Arizona and Las Vegas. Read More »

Some say Colorado County Should Limit House Size

Last year, Pitkin County commissioners capped house sizes at 15,000 square feet in the Colorado county, and now some folks in Boulder County are suggesting the county commission there impose a similar restriction. The Boulder Daily Camera reports today that the average size of homes in the Colorado county nearly doubled between 2002 and 2006. In 2002, the average home was 3,627 square feet, and by last year the average size of a home was up to 6,290 square feet. Those statistics show the Colorado county is slightly ahead of the national trend, where home sizes were an average of 2,095 square feet in 1995 , and are now 2,459 square feet. The White Hawk Ranch, a large subdivision where lots often sell for a million dollars, has about 50 mega-sized homes, and that development is the one that has Boulder County officials starting to discuss capping the size of homes. Michele Krezek, manager of special projects for the Boulder County Land Use Department, said limiting the size of homes should take a back seat to other planning concepts, such as building new homes out of environmentally friendly materials or building sustainable homes that use little energy. And there is some indication that folks are stepping away from larger homes in favor of homes built with top-notch materials. Apparently. Tim Blixseth, who is building a the much-touted “world’s largest spec home" – which is both large (53,000-square-feet) and built with top-notch materials, at Montana’s Yellowstone Club, has decided to embrace both the "bigger" and "better" trends. Read More »

New Twist on Colorado Development

Infill development--a mixed bag of retail and residential spaces--has been touted as just what downtown areas in Salt Lake City, Denver and Boise needed to re-energize those areas. And the street-level retail space with upper level condos and townhouses have done just that. Another planning trend is a master-planned community--a stand-alone development--that offers the amenities of small town living, i.e. retail spaces within walking distance of a mix of single-family homes and townhouses, nearby open space and some that even include affordable housing. Two separate developments, one near Vail and another near Denver, offer other angles on crafting growth. The Rocky Mountain News reports that a developer wants to plunk an urban, mixed-use development down in the middle of suburbia. Keith Simon says his Commonwealth Heights in RidgeGate, about two miles southwest of the Park Meadows mall, will look a lot like Larimer Square with narrow, tree-lined streets, alleys, retail, apartments, condos and townhouses. But the development will also have single-family homes, an element usually found in suburbia. Read More »