News, August 31st

DENVER — The Bureau of Land Management has approved two more leases for companies to research how to economically extract oil from oil shale resources in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. The BLM approved oil shale research, development and demonstration leases for ExxonMobil Exploration Co. and Natural Soda Holdings Inc. in Rio Blanco County in western Colorado. The leases were approved with required measures to protect water, wildlife and other resources. The leases are part of a second round awarded for oil shale research. The BLM issued a half-dozen leases in Utah and Colorado in 2007 in the first round.

SNOWMASS VILLAGE — An elk that got its antlers tangled in a hammock is back on the trail after wildlife officers set the animal free.
Snowmass Village police and an animal control officer tried unsuccessfully to free the animal on Thursday, but the cotton mesh was too heavy and the animal had the hammock’s wooden supports ensnared in its rack. The elk was tranquilized by state wildlife officers and the hammock was removed. State wildlife officials say the racks of deer and elk occasionally get stuck on swing sets, Christmas lights and other outdoor enticements.

ASPEN — The Aspen Skiing Co. says it will open 230 acres of new terrain on Burnt Mountain, making the Snowmass Ski Area the second-largest ski resort in Colorado behind Vail. Crews hired by the company on Thursday began cutting the first of an estimated 800 trees on 6 acres to link meadows to other trails. Meanwhile, Arapahoe Basin has unveiled a long-term development plan that includes skiing in the dangerous steeps known as The Beavers just beyond its operating boundary. That plan would add more than 400 backcountry acres served by ski lifts.

CRAIG– Craig residents say their community relies too much on farming and the oil and gas industry and a proposed casino would provide more jobs. Craig City Council member Don Jones said at a town hall meeting Thursday the casino is an opportunity the community should embrace. The meeting was organized by the Sleeping Giant Group, which has proposed building an off-reservation, Indian-owned casino near the Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden. Opponents say a casino would hurt the Yampa Valley’s image as a family vacation destination. They also say most new casino jobs would pay low wages and taxpayers would have to pay for access improvements.