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Field Reports


Tax collections decline

Resort tax collections at West Yellowstone, Mont., declined more than 15 percent this past winter, and town officials are putting the blame squarely on confusion over snowmobile rules at nearby Yellowstone National Park.

The decline means the city collected about $74,000 less this winter than it did a year earlier.

“This winter was a humbling experience,” said Gibson Bailey, a town councilman and shop owner.

Businesses in West Yellowstone collected more than $401,600 in resort sales taxes from December 2003 through March 2004, according to figures provided by the town. Two conflicting court decisions in December left tourists confused on whether the snowmobiling phase-out ordered by the Clinton Administration was going into effect.”We underestimated how broad that perception was,” said Mary Sue Costello, director of the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce. “When you had people in your own community thinking Yellowstone was not open, that’s a little alarming.”

And with the snowmobile rules still tangled in the courts, business owners are bracing for another unpredictable winter.

Some West Yellowstone residents have been trying to diversify the winter economy away from heavy dependence on snowmobiles.

Associated Press


Focus on wildflowers

Learn to identify wildflowers at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge in a three-hour morning class on May 22 sponsored by Spokane Parks and Recreation. Cost $9. Registration deadline is Monday.

Rich Landers


Morel fever mushrooming

Pickers have geared up for a big mushroom season as the wrinkled heads of morel mushrooms push through the fire-scorched soil of Western forests.

Some national forests are requiring mushroom harvesters older than 12 to have free personal-use permits.

Commercial permits run $40 for 14 days, $75 for 30 days, or $100 for the season.

Last summer, more than 300,000 acres burned throughout northwestern Montana alone, and only about 25 percent of those acres were in Glacier National Park, where mushroom picking is illegal.

In the year following wildfire, burned forests can sprout thousands of tasty morels per acre.

Associated Press


Oregon condor hatches

The first California condor chick hatched in Oregon in more than a century arrived on Mother’s Day.

The chick started to hatch Thursday at the Oregon Zoo’s new Condor Creek Conservation Facility in rural Clackamas County. It was finally out on Sunday, more than eight weeks after the 4.3-inch-long, 10-ounce egg was laid.

The arrival pushes the endangered condor population to 233 birds. In 1982, it had dwindled to 22.

The Oregon Zoo bolstered the California Condor Recovery Program’s two-decade effort to restore the species when it opened the world’s fourth condor breeding operation last fall. Twelve of the prehistoric-looking birds were moved to Oregon in November.

The chick will be full-grown at 6 months old, weighing about 20 pounds and standing about 3 feet tall. Its wings will stretch 9 to 10 feet.

Condors, native to Oregon, were revered by some American Indian tribes, and were curiosities for explorers of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The last wild condor sighting in Oregon was in 1904, near Drain.

Associated Press


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