November 1998 - The first line of the message sent by ELF, the environmental whacko arsonists who claim to have torched several buildings on Vail Mountain early Monday morning October 19, says "on behalf of the lynx". The buildings have been reduced to ashes. This group, if they are indeed responsible, thinks that their actions will stop the planned expansion (known as Category III) of Vail Mountain ski area onto a roadless mountain south of the existing ski terrain and [save the lynx].
This act of terrorism will do nothing for the lynx. Can you say "zero, zip, zilch, nadda?" The 885 acre development of the Category III area of Vail Ski Resort will go on as planned, unless the appeal in court scheduled for January by several (sane) environmental organizations succeeds. The snowshoe hare habitat mitigation measures planned by Vail Associates should improve the chances for the lynx, should lynx actually exist in the expansion area, as the snowshoe hare is the principle source of food for the lynx. The destroyed buildings will be rebuilt with your and my insurance dollars. The one ski lift that was disabled by fire will be rebuilt (with the help of Mammoth Mountain Resort in California which is providing the needed cable) and should be operational by Christmas, only a week or two later than it usually opens. It will be business-as-usual for Vail Mountain this ski season despite the fires.
Lets talk about the lynx. The last known sighting of a lynx in Colorado was more than 20 years ago. Lynx, formally known as the Canada Lynx are abundant in Canada and northern parts of the United States. It would seem to me that Colorado, in general, doesn't seem to be a favorite place for lynx to hang out, so to speak. If this were a matter of the possible extinction of the lynx it would be one thing, but since it's not, what's the issue? Last time I checked, there weren't a whole lot of penguins or giraffes or zebras in Colorado either. They don't belong here! It seems to me the same is true for the lynx except the few hearty ones who might manage to hang around anyway.
Wildlife experts are preparing to reintroduce the lynx to Colorado soon, putting radio collars on them for study. Can you say "like dogs?" They have chosen an area in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado for the reintroduction efforts. The proximity of the Vail area to the I-70 corridor makes it far less than ideal for the reintroduction of the lynx according to these experts on the matter.
The area of the planned Vail ski expansion is 885 acres. There will be one restaurant building and three chairlifts in the expansion area. Hardly what would be considered "major development." There will be no activity in the area in the summer. In the grand scheme of things, 885 acres would hardly show up on a radar screen of all the wilderness and roadless areas in Colorado.
I believe environmentalists should stick to the real issues that pertain to the expansion of Vail Mountain. Fast growth is ruining a way of life in Eagle County, Colorado. Traffic is getting bad. Pollution is on the rise. The high cost of housing results in hundreds of unfilled jobs in the area, as there's "no place to live." There isn't enough parking for the thousands of day skiers that arrive to ski each weekend. These are the real issues and Category III can only exacerbate these problems. If there are reasons to deny the ski terrain expansion these are some of them, not the lynx!
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