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New Big Mountain Master Plan More People-Friendly

Whitefish’s Big Mountain presented its new master plan to the Whitefish City-County Planning Board on April 20th, but decisions on the plan were postponed in order to sort out zoning issues. The new plan, which is intended to make the ski area’s village more people-friendly, includes three new lifts, dispersing development around a downsized village concept, and establishing an enlarged beginner skiing area away from the village.

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New Website Celebrates Montana’s Swan Range, Encourages Keeping it Wild

We love them, we hike them. We bike them and camp in them. And they’ve always been there. But it’s time to stop taking our forests and natural playgrounds for granted. We need to keep them wild, sacred and motor-free. These were the ideas behind creation of the new website about Northwest Montana’s Swan Mountain Range, Swanrange.org. I asked Ben Long, one of the website’s co-creators, whose brainchild the website was. “It was much more organic than that,” he told me. Look a little closer at the site and you’ll see what he means. The site, it turns out, was the result of a lot of collaboration between people who love the same wilderness. A page titled “People of the Swan” has pictures and testimonials from artists, business people, hikers and your basic outdoor-loving Montanans. Hell, even Miss Montana USA loves the Swan.

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Betting on Blizzards: The Future of the Snowsports Industry

Has this been the best year in history for the ski resorts of the Rocky Mountain West? With less than a month remaining for most resorts in Colorado, the numbers certainly indicate so. The state's ski areas should top the 12 million mark for the entire season, according to the latest figures. During January and February, the mountains welcomed 5.25 million skiers and riders, up 5 percent from last year and topping the previous Jan.-Feb. record by nearly a quarter of a million visits. "The snow is the best it's been in 20 years, and the resorts have done a phenomenal job delivering that message around the globe," Rob Perlman, the president and CEO of Colorado Ski Country USA, told the Denver Business Journal last week. You can join Perlman and two other of the ski industry's leading figures at the inaugural New West Live Event in Boulder on Tuesday, March 21 at Trilogy Lounge, from 6:00-8:00 p.m. Along with Bill Jensen, co-president of Vail Resorts, and SKI Magazine executive editor Greg Ditrinco, Perlman will participate in a panel discussion on the future of the snowsports industry. The hour-long discussion will be followed by networking and cocktails. Join us for an in-depth look at one of the Rockies' most important industries. We'll see you Tuesday night.

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Great Bear Compromise Sets Stage for Wilderness Future

This week’s historic agreement to protect British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest—the world’s largest remaining swath of coastal temperate rainforest, an area twice the size of Yellowstone—marks the culmination of 10 years of haggling, negotiating, and compromising among divergent agendas. It also marks what might be the future of wilderness preservation. The plan, which places four and a half million acres off limits to logging and regulates logging practices on the remaining 10 million acres, is backed by environmentalists, industry, native people, and the provincial government.

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NW Snowtography Skyscraper

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Montana Coalition Seeks Wilderness, Economic Development

County officials seek economic development. Environmentalists want to save roadless areas. Snowmobile associations want to ensure continued public access. Federal lawmakers are interested in carrying legislation to Congress to create a wilderness in their state, something that hasn't happened in decades. If you’re thinking these seemingly unrelated issues together make up the controversial Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act (CIEDRA) that Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson is fighting to get through Congress, you’d be mistaken. No, they are the components of a new plan touted by a Montana coalition of intereted parties that run the gamut from Lincoln County commissioners to snowmobile associations to environmental groups, and the land they’re hoping to bring some multi-use sensibility to lies within their Montana county. Michael Jamison’s article in the Missoulian mentions only in passing that the bill might be the only wilderness bill to come out of Montana in decades, but given that the proposal has been submitted to Montana’s congressional delegation, it appears the plan may be the foundation for a new, proposed Wilderness Area in the Treasure State.

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Cougars In The Cross Hairs

Funny thing, those unintended consequences. A decade ago, back when the Clinton presidency was still young and vigorous, Oregonians collectively sighed and said, "Oh, that's so mean!" and voted to ban sport hunters from using dogs to bag cougars. The cougars' population growth is such that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) is proposing to cull the cougars. A new plan,released this month, calls for ODFW agents to actively reduce cougar populations in problem areas. Birth control by bullets, one might say.

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Fewer Hunters = Less Conservation

The Cascadia Score Card blog has interested connect-the-dots editorial on the decline of hunting and fishing in Oregon (and nationally), stories in The Oregonian and some magazines, and what this means for the future of conservation. One dilemma: Progressive, liberal folks see hunting and fishing as "retrograde," but hunters and fishermen pay high special taxes which fund conservation efforts. Traditionally more liberal outdoorsfolks — hikers, birdwatchers — pay bupkis (those damn Northwest Forest passes notwithstanding)...and by turning their nose up at "Red-Staters" who hunt and fish, may be adding to the problem. (Speaking of which, The Atlantic Monthly's current issue argues that the whole Red State-Blue State divide is something of a myth, conjured up by politicians and a small core of die-hard culture warriors on either side.)

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Gas Pains In Colorado’s Forests

The ramp up in natural gas drilling in the White River National Forest is forcing those in charge of caring for the national parks near Rifle to ask for more help. "There's no way we'll be able to keep up with it and keep up with your expectations for caring for the land…" forest Supervisor Maribeth Gustafson told Pitkin County Commissioners this week. “"I don't believe we'll be able to say 'stop.'"

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The American Mind and the Big Bad Wolf

Everywhere you turn these days, there seem to be headlines about wolves. “Idaho to Take Over Managing Wolves in January,”? read an AP story in yesterday’s Idaho Statesman. “Wolfless Nevada,”? declared another AP piece, in the Casper Star-Tribune. (That fascinating story was about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rejecting a petition to delist wolves in Nevada, despite the fact that the species was completely wiped out in Nevada several decades ago.) Across the West, states are grappling with the question of how to manage wolves: whether or not they should be listed, what should happen when they interfere with ranching, how many is too many, who should be allowed to decide. If the headlines are any indication, it seems like the anti-wolf faction may be winning – though their victories are hidden behind a veil of dispassionate policymaking. For all the wolf’s success at making a comeback, the talk still seems to be about just how many it’s okay to off.

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