REI Celebrates Surpassing the $2 Billion Level in a Competitive Retail Market

Outdoor-gear retailer REI said Monday its sales rose 5.9 percent to a record $2 billion in 2013.

That sales growth represents a small slowdown from REI’s prior-year gain of 7 percent.

But REI celebrated the fact that it surpassed the $2 billion mark for the first time, amid a super-competitive retail environment.

“For perspective, it took the co-op 67 years to reach $1 billion in sales and only eight years to double that number,” REI’s new president and CEO, Jerry Stritzke, said in a letter to the co-op’s members.

Kent-based REI said its profit of $34.5 million excludes one-time charges of $24.9 million stemming from the cancellation of the launch of a private brand and “certain technology-related impairments.” It did not elaborate.

Sales at stores open at least a year, as well as direct-to-consumer sales, rose 2.9 percent over 2012, with the remaining growth coming from new stores.

REI, which was founded in 1938 as a member-owned co-op, ended the year with 132 stores in 33 states and more than 5 million active members. It plans to open seven new stores in 2014, up from five last year.

Of the seven, two will be in Columbus, Ohio, and one each will be in Salem, Ore.; Fairbanks, Alaska; Flagstaff, Ariz.; Knoxville, Tenn.; and Southlake, Texas.

REI said it has begun distributing patronage refunds to members based on their 2013 eligible purchases, for a total of $114.7 million, up 10 percent from the year before.

REI also said it’s making good on its promise to reduce its environmental footprint, noting that while sales grew nearly 6 percent last year, its energy consumption increased by only a tenth of a percent and its greenhouse-gas emissions fell by 39.5 percent.

REI board Chairman John Hamlin suggested in his own letter to co-op members that the transition to a new CEO had gone well. Stritzke, who previously was president and chief operating officer at New York-based handbag-maker Coach, took the helm at REI in October, replacing Sally Jewell, now secretary of the Interior under President Obama.

“While REI is in strong shape financially, we are looking to Jerry for progress in several areas,” Hamlin wrote, including expanding REI’s reach nationwide and enhancing its stewardship efforts.


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Cabela’s Coming to New Locations in the South

Cabela’s 100,000-square-foot store under construction in Acworth will likely open in early fall and expects to hire 200.

Wes Remmer, a spokesman with the Nebraska-based outdoor sporting goods chain, told the Marietta Daily Journal a specific official opening date has not yet been set. Remmer said a hiring event will take place in the next few months. The jobs will be full-time, part-time and seasonal positions.
Remmer said that in the meantime, those interested in applying can visit
The store is on Highway 92 at Interstate 75.

Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Amy Wenk reported in February that Cabela’s has announced it will open a third store in Georgia to join the Acworth store, and a store set to open Thursday in Augusta. (Click here to read that story). Click here to access Cabela’s site to read about grand opening festivities in Augusta.
The third Cabela’s – a 70,000-square-foot store in Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., off Interstate 75 near the border of Tennessee – expects to employee about 140 people. That store will serve the Chattanooga market, the company said.


Jackson Hole Moose Population Bouncing Back After Long Declines

Although Jackson Hole’s moose population has declined by perhaps 85 percent since the 1980s, habitat specialists and biologists are encouraged about the herd’s future. For one, moose numbers appear to be on the rise. Wyoming Game and Fish Department biologist Aly Courtemanch, colleagues and volunteer citizen scientists counted 275 moose in the valley this winter, an increase of almost 40 animals from the year before. The number takes into account observations from Moose Day volunteers, who on March 1 counted 74 moose.
“Our moose are pretty interesting this year,” Courtemanch said. “We had a higher cow-calf ratio.”
The relative abundance of young moose in the Jackson herd — 37 calves for every 100 cows — is up considerably compared with recent years. The ratio is used as an indication of population growth. There were just 15 calves for every 100 cows in the herd as recently as 2008, Courtemanch said.
By 2012 the cow-calf ratio grew to 24 per 100, before jumping to 33 per 100 last winter.
“It’s been slowly chunking up every year,” she said. “That’s really promising. It kind of is a preliminary indication that the herd may be starting to rebound.” Moose habitat in the valley also looks like it’s in relatively good shape.
Brett Jesmer, a University of Wyoming zoology doctoral student, is undertaking a statewide moose habitat and health assessment to help Game and Fish predict where and when moose declines are likely to occur. Courtemanch is collaborating with Jesmer on the research.
In Jackson Hole, “the willow habitat is as good or better than many of the other areas around the state,” Jesmer said Tuesday.
Results are preliminary, as moose scat analysis — a portion of his multiyear assessment — is still not complete, he said. Tests that would further gauge the health of valley’s willows were also forthcoming, he said.
“The goal is to develop some understanding of the interplay between climate, habitat and calf production,” Jesmer said.
Based on Courtemanch’s recent population assessment, moose are doing better in some areas where the species has struggled most.
The cow-calf ratios in the Buffalo Valley this year were 44 young for every 100 adult females. In the Gros Ventre drainage, the ratio was 33 calves for every 100 cows. “Both areas looked good,” Courtemanch said. “The Buffalo Valley’s population has definitely gone down the most. The Gros Ventre has also decreased, but not to the same extent.
“As you move further and further south, it gets increasingly better,” she said. “But they were still in decline.”
Jackson’s moose population has proven cyclical over the years, as the large ungulate tends to exhaust its productive habitat when numbers are high.
Douglas Houston, a moose researcher in the valley in the 1960s, predicted that the population was going to decline based on poor habitat quality and overabundance, Jesmer said. The warning proved correct. By the late 1980s — before the transplant of gray wolves — cow-calf ratios were dropping.
“Those calf-cow ratios that are now ticking back up, they started declining just before the 1988 Yellowstone fires,” Jesmer said,
Jesmer’s study also assesses the fat content of moose kidneys, donated by hunters, to determine animals’ health. He will use the moose feces to determine what moose are eating, their diet quality and pregnancy rates.
Besides Jackson Hole, Jesmer is studying herds in the Wyoming Range, Uinta Mountains, Big Horn Mountains, the Snowy Range and Colorado’s North Park. He hopes to expand the research into Colorado’s Flat Top Wilderness.
Results from the project are expected to be published in peer-reviewed scientific journals in about a year and a half, Jesmer said.

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Rocky Mountain Wildflowers Blooming a Month Longer

The Rocky Mountain wildflower season has lengthened by over a month since the 1970s, according to a study published Monday that found climate change is altering the flowering patterns of more species than previously thought.

Flowers used to bloom from mid-May to early September, but the season now lasts 35 days longer, from April to mid-September, according to researchers who collected 39 years of data at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory near Crested Butte, Colo.

Earlier spring snowmelt and other climate shifts have changed the timing of blooms for more than two-thirds of 60 species of native wildflowers in mountain meadows, stands of Aspen trees and conifer forest that were surveyed from 1974 to 2012, according to the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The scientific paper is the latest to document one of the strongest signs that global warming is shaking up the natural world. Scientists studying phenology — the timing of seasonal events in nature — are observing rapid shifts in when flowers bloom, trees leaf out and bees, birds and butterflies appear in the spring.

Scientists have documented the trend using historical records from writers and naturalists, including Henry David Thoreau, who in the 1850s began recording in his journal the first blooms of the season around Concord, Mass.

Previous studies largely have focused on the first appearance of flowers in the spring, but that probably underestimates the true extent of the changes they are going through, the paper says.

To go beyond that, researchers analyzed wildflower species throughout the season. They found that half of them flowered earlier, more than a third reached their peak blooms sooner and 30% flowered later into the year due to a warming climate.

“We don’t know if it’s good or bad for these plant species at this point,” said Amy Iler, postdoctoral biology researcher at University of Maryland and co-author of the study.

The findings nonetheless raise many questions about how disruptive the changing bloom times might be to bees, birds and pollinators and other plants that are adapted to flowers appearing at very specific times, she said.

“Climate change is reshuffling flowering plants over a short time period,” Iler said. “So it might be changing things that were set in place by natural selection over a long time frame.”

Wildflowers at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, which sits at about 9,500 feet in elevation, bloom almost immediately after the spring snowmelt and stick around until the first hard frost in the fall. But as temperatures rise, snow is melting earlier and the first hard frosts are occurring later.

The study is the product of decades of work by David Inouye, a biology professor at the University of Maryland, who since 1974 has amassed an exhaustive record by systematically counting dozens of species of wildflowers at the research station in the mountains of Colorado.

“It is probably the most detailed, long-term data set on flowering times that exists in the United States and perhaps even the world,” said Richard Primack, a biology professor at Boston University who has used Thoreau’s records to study the effects of climate change on plants and animals.

Primack, who was not involved in the study, praised the paper as an “extremely innovative type of analysis” that would stimulate a flurry of new research.

“As soon as I read this paper I thought, my God, why didn’t we analyze our data that way?” Primack said. “This study shows us that if you don’t just focus on the first flowering date but also on the peak flowering date and the final flowering date, there’s a much greater impact of climate change than we previously suspected.”

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Dinosaur Footprint Missing from Utah Slickrock as a Moab Man is Indicted

A federal grand jury has indicted a Utah man on four counts related to the dinosaur footprint taken last month from the slickrock near Moab. All the counts allege Jared F. Ehlers, 35, of Moab, damaged or removed government property by taking the three-toed print on Feb. 17. The most serious count carries a penalty of 20 years in prison. Ehlers owns a construction business in Moab. His initial appearance in U.S. District Court is set for April 22.

The footprint was one of about 20 in the Hell’s Revenge jeeping area near the Sand Flats Recreation Area, just east of Moab. An off-road tour operator took visitors to see the print on Feb. 18, only to find that the rock containing the print was no longer there. The rock had partly come loose from the ground and appears to have been pried free with pry-bars, said Rebecca Hunt-Foster, Canyon Country paleontologist for the BLM, shortly after the theft.

The footprint became a cause for local outfitters who earn a living showing such artifacts and other Moab attractions to tourists. Multiple outfitters donated to a reward fund that totaled at least $7,000. It was unclear Tuesday whether someone was eligible for the reward. Jason Taylor, operations manager at Moab Adventure Center, one of the outfitters that contributed to the reward, said he was disappointed a local man was accused of taking the footprint, but was proud the community worked together to try to solve the case.

“It kind of proves a point that we locals here are not going to tolerate people coming in and taking what’s here,” Taylor said. The footprint has not been recovered. After receiving information that someone threw it in the Colorado River near Dewey Bridge, the Utah Department of Public Safety dive team searched Saturday to no avail.

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Gliding Attempt Across the Rocky Mounatins to Casper Wyoming

This morning a glider plane was launched from Minden, Nevada — in the Sierra Nevada east of Lake Tahoe, very close to the California state line — in an attempt to fly all the way during daylight today to Rapid City, South Dakota.
In the flight’s favor: very strong winds from the west, as explained in great detail (and with lots of the weather graphics pilots look at when planning flights) at the site of Walter Rogers, a retired National Weather Service forecaster.

As a challenge for the flight: mountains, as shown on the Flight Aware planned route for the journey. They’re not attempting to cross the heart of the Rockies, in Colorado, but the terrain in Utah and Wyoming is plenty high.

KMEV, at the beginning of the trip, is the Minden-Tahoe airport. KRAP is Rapid City’s, which we visited a few months ago. (In aviation parlance, most U.S. airports have the K prefix — KJFK, KLAX, KDCA, etc.)

5:30pm EST update: I am actually not sure they intended to make it during daylight, and in any case that looks difficult at this point. Again, good luck.

Midnight update: They made it to Casper, Wyoming. Flight track here. Explanations and background here. Glad all are safe.

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BNSF gets avalanche control permit from Glacier Park

Glacier National Park officials granted a special-use permit to BNSF Railway on March 6 for the use of explosives to control avalanches along the southern boundary of the Park.

“We are working with BNSF Railway to create safe conditions for their employees and passengers along the southern boundary of the Park, and will continue to work with them to find long-term solutions,” Glacier National Park superintendent Jeff Mow said in a press release.

The avalanche mitigation activities were to take place in the John F. Stevens Canyon area near the BNSF tracks and U.S. Highway 2. Recent avalanche activity in this area prompted the request out of concern for the safety of BNSF employees and train passengers.

Amtrak had been running empty trains over Marias Pass and through the canyon, and busing passengers around the area between Whitefish and Shelby. Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said BNSF rules don’t allow loaded passenger trains to run if there has been a recent slide. Recent weather has contributed to snow slides throughout Glacier Park, including a large one near the Goat Lick area. A large slide near Essex on March 2 closed the railway line through for about 12 hours after the tracks were blocked with seven feet of snow.

Blocked drainages also are of concern, and Park officials planned to begin some monitoring throughout Glacier Park to identify potential problems. “This year’s highly variable weather conditions are resulting in an unstable snowpack and several uncommon events across Montana,” Mow said. BNSF’s avalanche control permit only allows use of hand charges, an “avalauncher” that launches explosives by air-power, or explosive charges delivered by a helicopter — and only during daylight hours.

The plans include closing U.S. 2 to through traffic during avalanche control operations. The highway was closed to traffic on March 6 from 2 to 4:30 p.m. The Montana Department of Transportation earlier advised motorists not to stop along U.S. 2 between Essex and Marias Pass.

BNSF planned to use a Daisy Bell device to trigger slides that would reduce future threats. A Daisy Bell is a cylindrical device that can be positioned over a dangerous snow slope below a helicopter. The sudden combustion of hydrogen creates a small, controlled pressure wave aimed at the snow slope.

Land News


Historic Shore Lodge in McCall Idaho Shows Off Upgrades and Room Renovations

The historic Shore Lodge has been a Pacific Northwest vacation hub for generations of families since 1948. After receiving a number of upgrades over the years, the now 65-year-old resort and spa is starting 2014 with a fresh new look. The 77 room hotel has undergone a full-property room renovation, adding even more comfort and style to the iconic mountain-lake retreat.

The renovation sought to blend the guestrooms with the rest of the lodge by incorporating the same rich, natural materials found in the surrounding forest and expansive mountains for which McCall has become well known. The design team drew additional inspiration from the region’s luxurious mountain homes and the authentic spirit of the central Idaho town, creating an environment that is warm and inviting with a connection to the great outdoors. Deep purples, grays and browns accent woods and natural textures, seamlessly blending into the panoramic mountain-lake views that await outside the rooms’ patios or balcony doors. These much sought-after views have become even grander as the metal and wood railings have been replaced with an all glass partition. Other additions to the rooms include rustic sliding barn doors to separate the living and sleeping quarters as well as finishes such as brushed copper, deep green marble and carpeting featuring a tree-inspired print to complete the natural, yet sophisticated, ambience.

Other essential updates center on convenience and comfort. New headboards, for example, have built-in reading lights, while both the nightstands and end tables are equipped with power outlets so getting down on the floor to plug in phones and small electronics is no longer necessary. 46″ flat screen HD TVs supplement the 32″ units already in each suite and feature programming by DirecTV’s state-of-the-art “Residential Experience” hospitality solution. New mattresses and upgraded linens also add additional luxury.

System upgrades included an overhaul of the in-room HVAC as new heating and cooling units with INNCOM by Honeywell’s integrated energy management system were installed in each room. Innovative Saflok RFID door locks were also added with integrations to both the in-room environmental system as well as the hotel’s property management system, offering added security and peace of mind for guests.

“The room renovation has been an exciting, but delicate, process as we sought to add modern luxuries without compromising the historic charm that our guests know and love,” said President and General Manager Dan Scott. “The final product is simply outstanding. We captured the natural spirit of McCall and blended it beautifully with the world-class amenities that continue to make Shore Lodge a much sought-after destination.”

The Shore Lodge room renovation, which was completed by Boise-based McAlvain Construction, Inc., adds to the list of amenity upgrades at the resort and neighboring residential real estate community, Whitetail Club, in recent years. Committed to providing top-tier luxury in a charming, historic destination, the ownership opened The Cove, a full-service boutique spa in 2011. The following year, a number of upgrades were implemented at Whitetail Club including the addition of a community park, cafe and convenience store, as well as restaurant and amenity updates to the main clubhouse of the 1,300 acre private golf club and luxury residential community.

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Shop in Moab Utah Recycles to Create Furniture and Souvenirs

When you think of Moab, red rock comes to mind, but Scott Anderson thinks trees.

He’s a wood carver by trade who thought it seemed wasteful to buy lumber, so instead he gets his supply from people looking to give it away. “If a tree falls on your house you call us, we get your tree, we take it to our saw mill down the street, we mill it and then we make stuff,” his wife and business partner Jennifer Urbanczyk said.

Triassic Industries says it keeps 750,000 pounds of waste out of the landfill each year. “Everything gets used,” Anderson said. “Even the tiniest scraps. We have a wood burning stove that heats our shop. We don’t pay anything in heating cost.”

The bigger pieces are turned into hand-crafted furniture and novelty items, which they sell to tourists out of their main street store. “The neatest part is you take the tree down and you mill it and you see what’s in it and you see these beautiful colors and then being able to be creative,” Anderson said.

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Bighorn Sheep of Hamilton Montana Charged with Breaking and Entering

Maybe blind belligerence is just “a guy thing,” as Lori Silcher concluded after a male bighorn sheep crashed through windows of her rural home in Hamilton, Mont. “All of a sudden, we all felt the house shake and there was a resounding thud,” recalls her husband, Peter, who at first thought someone in his family had fallen. An explanation was found in the basement: A large bighorn ram, looking into the windows, had apparently seen an animal that looked a lot like his own handsome self staring right back at him. So, of course, the sheep with the curling horns had to charge and vanquish this foe, which then mysteriously disappeared. The noise of the shattering glass did nothing to deter the ram, which came round the corner of the house, “strutting” and “looking for trouble,” reports the Ravalli Republic. Though the family has seen a lot of wildlife around the house over the years, including elk, bear, mountain lions, mule deer and most recently, a couple of ewes and a lamb, this was the first time a ram dropped in. Because the big guy lingered in the yard – perhaps still searching for that mysterious opponent – the family decided to chase him off: “We didn’t want to lose any more windows,” said Peter.

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