Crested Butte - Colorado

  • February 01, 2011

Red Lady in Distress

mr-crestedbutteAfter the mining industry industry went bust roughly 50 years ago, this scenic Rocky Mountain community south of Aspen gave itself an extreme makeover—building a virbrant economy based on tourism and outdoor recreation. But under the nation's 19th century mining law, a proposed mine could roll back the town's revival.

In 2004, over the objections of Gunnison County and the Town of Crested Butte, 155 acres of prime recreation land on the 12,000-foot Mt. Emmons were sold to a mining company for a mere $875. The parcel, located on the peak affectionately called "Red Lady" because of its stunning rouge glow at sunset, is now slated for a molybdenum mine. Local leaders are concerned that the new mine could shake the economic core of an area that is nearly 40 percent dependent on tourism. Created Butte is already coping with the effects of acid drainage from abandoned mines.

The local government sued the U.S. Department of Interior over the issue but lost, because the court ruled that once a mining law claim is considered valid, the community's voice is irrelevant. The community continues its battle today, and Crested Butte's mayor recently appealed to Congress to modernize the mining statute and give federal land agencies the authority to respond to local concerns and "to recognize that mining may not be the most beneficial use of public land."

Side Trips:

Next, visit Moab Utah.