A bear brighter than we are

COLORADO

It took a decade, but Aspen's bear-proof garbage containers have finally been breached by a clever bruin, reports the Aspen Daily News. "We finally got a bear that was bright - brighter than we are," said Jeff Woods, director of the city parks department. And once the bear opened the container in front of City Hall, every trashcan in town suddenly became obsolete.

NEW MEXICO

The Sierra Soil and Water Conservation District says gophers threaten irrigation systems, and it's offering a bounty of $3 for tails from animals trapped within district boundaries near the White Sands Missile Range. The Sierra County Sentinel includes a helpful drawing "because there is some confusion as to what a gopher looks like." No size is indicated, however, and the artist's rendering of a gopher concerns us because it looks less like a gopher than a dinosaur - though, admittedly, one with a cuter tail.

NEVADA

Bob Halstead, executive director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects was sad to see Energy Secretary Steven Chu leaving after four years on the job. Grabbing a garland of verbal images to describe Halstead's reaction, the Las Vegas Review-Journal said Chu was "a breath of fresh air for Nevada after a string of Energy secretaries tried to cram the Yucca Mountain Project down the Silver State's throat when no other state was pegged for shouldering burial of 77,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel from commercial power plants and the military."

UTAH AND WYOMING

Could Second Amendment defenders have gone too far, even in this gun-loving region? If two calmly reasoned editorials in Utah and Wyoming's major daily newspapers are right, you'd have to say, yep, looks like it. Editorializing last month, the Salt Lake Tribune took the Utah Sheriffs' Association to task for its "rant" accusing President Obama's administration of planning to seize people's guns, even as the group questioned the legitimacy of any federal limits on gun ownership. The paper remarked that the group's dire predictions were overblown, but that in any case, the Article VI, Clause 2, of the U.S. the Constitution, known as the Supremacy Clause, makes federal law supreme over state law, including state law officers. The paper concluded that "the threat of the Sheriffs' Association and one hot-headed legislator to arrest federal officers attempting to enforce any new restrictions on gun ownership - after they have passed both houses of Congress - is nothing but grandstanding." In Wyoming, a Star-Tribune editorial Feb. 3, titled "Gun gluttony stopped," congratulated the state's House of Representatives for shooting down a flurry of gun initiatives, one of which would have allowed guns to be brought into any government meeting. This was an unfortunate idea, the editors noted dryly, because "high emotions and well-armed citizens don't always mix well." Unless the citizens in question feel the need to storm the county commission, they added, why bring a gun to talk with elected officials? Only if your purpose is intimidation, the editors said. No government should "bend to the whims of whoever is most heavily armed."

IDAHO

Meanwhile, in Idaho, guns of all kinds have been allowed at the Capitol since 2008, when the state Legislature gained exclusive power to regulate guns in Idaho. However, a video taken Jan. 10 shocked lawmakers when it revealed a man with a handgun following Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts around as they toured the Legislature. The man was seen rifling through trashcans, photographing representatives' desks and going through any papers lying on top, reports the Idaho Statesman. When an unarmed guard confronted him, he said, "If I'm not being arrested or detained, I don't have to answer your questions."

Since Legislators saw the video, they've been talking about how to beef up security. At this point, certain things are banned at the Legislature including the following threats: men wearing hats, food, drinks, signs, sitting on rails, cell phones and distracting noises. Bags are subject to search, but there is no firearm ban.

NEVADA

Lance Gilman, who owns 65 percent of sprawling Storey County near Reno - as well as the county's first licensed brothel - recently won election to the board of county commissioners. Does anybody have a problem with that? Certainly not Carrie Northan, a bartender at Virginia City's poetically named Bucket of Blood Saloon. "You can't hold it against a person that they're involved in a profession that's been in existence since before Jesus walked around in his sandals," she told The New York Times. Gilman said he knocked on some 1,500 doors, and just two people even mentioned his brothel, "and only to compliment him." The prostitution business goes back to the mid-19th century, said University of Nevada sociologist Barbara Brents, when mining booms flooded the region with single men. These days, 10 or so of Nevada's lightly populated counties now contain licensed brothels.

Betsy Marston is the editor of Writers on the Range, the op ed syndicate of High Country News (hcn.org). Tips and photos of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared in the column.

Comments » Read and share your thoughts on this story