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Red Lady issues

Occasionally, Crested Butte News columnist Denis Hall and I have the same thing on our minds. That’s the case this week with the Red Lady issue. We both attended the Crested Butte Public Policy Forum discussion on Thursday, July 3, that featured Western Resource Advocates executive director Karin Sheldon.  
Hall does a good job summarizing the issue on page 54, so I won’t go into those details here. I want to talk about two items: one, the perception that this community isn’t united in its opposition to the mine, and two, the apparent subsiding of urgency on the Red Lady fight.
Twice in public formats, U.S. Energy CEO and president Keith Larsen has indicated that many members of the Gunnison County community are willing to consider mine plans. In an interview with NASDAQ in May, Larsen said, “There are a lot of rational people in the community that are willing to look at this.” He added that his company has asked a local environmental group (presumably High Country Citizens’ Alliance) to join them in creating an environmentally sound mining plan. “They’ve turned us down,” Larsen said.
From a public relations standpoint, it’s a decent move. Larsen is saying that most sensible folks want to take a look at this mine proposal, and those who don’t are part of the “radical” environmental fringe, opposed to everything.
Of course, the view looks slightly different from my office in Crested Butte. From here, it appears that very few people are willing to entertain a mine, with Crested Butte Mountain Resort, the town of Mt. Crested Butte, HCCA, and the more conservative Red Lady Coalition stoutly against it. (Due to their oversight roles, Crested Butte and Gunnison County cannot publicly take a stand on this issue.) This month, Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce director Christi Matthews says her organization will finally publicly announce its stance on the mine—and we can hope that with a mine’s potential to devastate our tourism economy, the Chamber is against any proposal as well.
The point of Mr. Larsen’s game face, it would seem, is to attract potential investors in order to fill the shoes left by Kobex Resources Ltd. in March. Red Lady Coalition board president Bill Ronai said on Thursday night that his group’s focus will now be on spreading Crested Butte’s side of the story in the financial world—both nationally and internationally.
Second, I’ve heard some talk around town about how the urgency seems to be subsiding in the fight. How do those opposed to the mine continually infuse energy into it?
This week, I spoke to someone who mused that there is a natural ebb and flow to all causes. I believe it also follows the news cycles and there honestly hasn’t been much movement on the Red Lady story as U.S. Energy pursues engineering issues for their plan of operations and launches baseline studies of the area.
I’ve also heard people wonder about how we can spend so much time and ink beating each other up over Snodgrass and not have the same amount of passion when it comes to saving our watershed from being damaged.
Well, it’s not as sexy and it no longer feels as immediate.
Snodgrass will likely be within the NEPA process in the next six months—that’s immediate. Elected officials, friends and neighbors disagree over it and they’re passionate about it—in the news business that makes for interesting reading.
On the Red Lady issue, U.S. Energy has made few recent moves as it continues to fish for a funding partner. In the meantime, the company’s target date for submitting its plan of operations to the Forest Service gets pushed back. That’s not immediate.
In general, folks in the Upper East River Valley are on the same page about Mt. Emmons. We agree it’s a bad idea. So there isn’t really a good reason to send a letter to the editor, or even attend a march. I believe the term is “preaching to the choir.”
So it’s time to take our fight and that passion to a bigger stage—out into a world where people don’t necessarily agree that our backyard is worth saving over their ability to obtain molybdenum at a cheaper price. We need to be on the world stage shouting about this issue.
Two events are coming up that will help us make progress toward these goals of keeping our verve and shouting from the rooftops. On Saturday, July 12, Senator Ken Salazar will speak at the Public Policy Forum at 7 p.m. at the Crested Butte Community School. As Hall points out, Salazar could prove influential in whether the 1872 Mining Law reforms are passed by the Senate.
Second up, the man who injected energy into the first Red Lady fight will be in town. W Mitchell will speak on Tuesday, July 15 at 8 p.m. at the Crested Butte Community School. HCCA and the Red Lady Coalition are jointly sponsoring this evening.

—Aleesha Towns

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