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David Moskowitz, New York Times

New West Daily Roundup for Oct. 4, 2016

Today in New West news: Idaho’s disappearing caribou, Wyoming ranked best place to start a business, and Charter Communications’ new office tower in Greenwood Village, CO.

According to the New York Times, the contiguous United States’ last remaining caribou herd—located in Idaho’s Selkirk Mountains near the Canadian border—is in danger of disappearing. Known as “gray ghosts” for their relative rarity and excellent winter camouflage, the species is among the most endangered in the lower 48 states. From the Times:

“Right now, predation is the biggest problem, primarily wolves and cougars,” said Norm Merz, a wildlife biologist with the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, which has contracted with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to create a plan to revive the population. Not that long ago, hundreds of the animals lived in the United States.

Part of the problem is that the Selkirk herd is international. The caribou can be found in the snowy old-growth forests of Idaho and extreme northeast Washington, but spend about 90 percent of their time in southern Canada. The threat to the animals there is so serious that Canadian government sharpshooters began killing wolves from helicopters. In the Selkirk Mountains, they have killed just 19 so far.

Widespread wolf culls further north in Alberta are credited with saving the Little Smoky caribou herd in the Peace River region. But the price was high: About 1,000 wolves were killed over a decade.

The Selkirk herd is not the only one so greatly imperiled. At last count, there were some 1,354 mountain caribou in 15 subgroups in southern British Columbia. Ten years ago, there were thousands. Today, all are in steep decline and listed as endangered in Canada, primarily because of wolves.

Wolf predation, though, is a symptom of a much bigger and far more difficult problem. The fundamental cause of the caribou decline is the unanticipated ecological consequences of development.

The steep mountain forests where the caribou dwell are part of an inland temperate rain forest, a unique ecosystem characterized by frequent precipitation and the only one inland. The centuries-old cedar and hemlock trees, and the lodgepole and whitebark pines in the high country, are home to a lichen that the southern herds of so-called deep-snow caribou depend on.

For decades, the forest has been fragmented by clear-cutting, road building, oil development and mining. Where the forest has grown back, it is dominated by willows and other small trees favored by moose, deer and elk.

In 2009, wolf numbers began surging in southern British Columbia, northern Idaho and northeastern Washington, drawn to the abundant prey. The population of mountain caribou dived, including the Selkirk herd, which then numbered about 50.
Wolves focus primarily on moose and deer, but in the last two years, wolves have killed two caribou in the Selkirks; cougars killed another one. Yet another was killed by a car on Highway 3 in Canada, where salt on the road lures wildlife.

Canadian government hunters have killed entire wolf packs in the caribou’s range to keep the species from extinction. Government experts and some environmentalists say the wolf populations can easily withstand such aggressive hunting; some research suggests the culling actually stimulates wolves to reproduce more.

Other proposed measures to stimulate caribou renewal include “maternity penning,” or keeping pregnant caribou in wolf-proof enclosures until their calves are old enough to take care of themselves and (hopefully) outrun a wolfpack.

Over in Wyoming, according to the Wyoming Business Report, has ranked the Cowboy State as the “most-favorable place in the nation to begin a new business,” citing the state’s favorable tax climate and new entrepreneur rate:

Alaska and Nevada ranked second and third, respectively, in the report, despite posting the worst scores for the education levels of their populations, making up for it with high marks for their high employee availability and favorable business tax climates. The rest of the top 10 states, in order, were Texas, Delaware, Utah, Illinois, Missouri, Virginia and Florida.

“If you’re an entrepreneur, it might pay off to consider launching your latest endeavor in a business-friendly state,” said Cameron Huddleston, a columnist for “Our study found that new businesses have a great chance in a range of places across the nation – from Wyoming in the West to Delaware in the East, Florida in the South and Alaska in the far, far North.”

Of Wyoming’s neighboring states, following behind Utah’s sixth-place ranking were: Montana, 17th place; Colorado, 18th; Nebraska, 22nd; South Dakota, 26th; and Idaho, 34th.

At the bottom of the list was Hawaii, which was hampered by the fact it has the highest cost of living in the nation.

“Also, many new businesses will have to work with a potential employee education level — the percentage of the state’s population graduating from college — that ranks toward the bottom of the 50 states. These factors put Hawaii in first place for the worst states to start a business,” the report says.

Other states with low rankings were Maine, Vermont, Arkansas and Wisconsin.

Speaking of business, according to the Denver Post, a new office building being built in Greenwood Village will be solely occupied by Stamford, Connecticut-based Charter Communications, which will make use of all 12 stories:

The 306,000-square-foot office building, the third and final phase of the Village Center Station mixed-use development that also includes CoBank’s new headquarters, is expected to be completed in early 2018, developer Shea Properties said Tuesday.

The telecom company — in which John Malone’s Liberty Media owns a stake — plans to move its entire product, software architecture and development, technology services, northwest regional office, real estate and strategic procurement organizations into the building, as well as local representatives of its corporate human resources, facilities, field operations, Spectrum reach and enterprise teams.

“This state-of-the-art workplace will be well suited to support a wide range of business purposes including the design and development work powering all of Charter’s products and services,” Charter executive vice president Rich DiGeronimo said in a statement. “Charter has made a multi-million dollar investment in the Denver community, and in addition to its already large corporate presence, plans to add over 800 new high tech jobs in the coming years.”

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