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December 2010 Alliance Action

1) Alliance annual meeting on Dec. 2 tops list of December events
2) Hoback Wells draft environmental study due out any day now
3) National Park Service, Bridger-Teton seek help with Snake Headwaters plan
4) Protect wildlife -- please don’t poach the powder!
5) Proposed legislation threatens wolves and the Endangered Species Act
6) Hiring discussion expected at Dec. 6 Comp Plan meeting
7) Other community planning updates
8) Conservation Alliance memberships make great gifts!
9) Thinking about end-of-the-year donations? Think Alliance!
10) Valley Voices

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1) Alliance annual meeting on Dec. 2 tops list of December events

Thursday, Dec. 2
Alliance annual membership meeting, featuring wildlife crossings expert Jon Beckmann
St. John’s Episcopal Church Parish Hall, 170 N. Glenwood
6 p.m., Business meeting; 7 p.m., light refreshments; 7:30 p.m., “Safe Passages” presentation
On Dec. 2, find out how we can all help protect wildlife while increasing safety for motorists. Come to “Safe Passages,” a talk by wildlife crossings and road ecology expert Jon Beckmann, 7:30 p.m. at St. John’s Episcopal Church Parish Hall, 170 N. Glenwood. The evening will begin with the Alliance’s annual membership meeting at 6 p.m., followed by light holiday refreshments at 7 p.m., and a presentation and question and answer session with Beckmann from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend any and all of the evening’s events; a suggested donation of $5 to cover speaker costs is encouraged. Beckmann is co-editor of the recently released book, “Safe Passages: Highways, Wildlife and Habitat Connectivity.” For more information, click here or give us a call at (307) 733-9417. (UPDATE: For a brief recap of our annual meeting and Jon Beckmann's talk, please click here.)

Thursday, Dec. 2
Annual Avalanche Awareness Night
6 to 9:30 p.m., Snow King Resort Grand Teton Room
($5 entry fee/donation to Teton County Search and Rescue)
Sponsored by Skinny Skis, Avalanche Awareness Night is designed to provide backcountry users with valuable information for getting through the winter safely and with minimal impact on our natural resources. (Unfortunately, this year’s event is the same evening as the Alliance’s annual meeting, but maybe you can catch the tail end of it.) An Alliance volunteer will pass out Don't Poach the Powder maps to let folks know what places people and dogs need to avoid to protect wildlife. (The winter closure maps are also available by clicking here. See Item #4 below for more about our Don’t Poach campaign. Before venturing into the backcountry, also be sure to check avalanche conditions at www.jhavalanche.org/advisories.php.) For more details about Avalanche Awareness Night, click here.

Friday, Dec. 3
Discussion on wildlife crossings and road ecology
10 a.m. to noon, Teton County Commissioners’ chambers, 200 S. Willow
Attendees of Jon Beckman’s Dec. 2 “Safe Crossings” presentation (see above) who’d like more information are welcome to join this follow-up discussion with Beckmann about transportation issues specific to Teton County on Dec. 3.

Thursday, Dec. 9
Nature Mapping workshop on large ungulates
7 to 8:30 p.m., Teton Science Schools Education Center, Jackson Campus
Nature Mapping is a program that teaches people to be wildlife observers for the benefit of their local communities. The information gathered from trained observers can help our community come up with an accurate picture of what kinds of wildlife we have and where they live during different times of the year, and these data could be used for conservation efforts in Jackson Hole. In the interest of improving the accuracy of Nature Mapping data, on Dec. 9, Steve Kilpatrick from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department will offer a workshop on the identification of gender and age classes for our native large ungulates. Distinguishing between ungulate juveniles, young-of-the-year, yearlings and adults is sometimes confusing, especially during certain times of the year. Even the gender may be difficult to determine at times. Most mammals look different from season-to-season, and Steve will use photographs to help illustrate ungulate gender and age differences. Click here for a map to the location of the workshop, which is sponsored by the Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation and the Meg and Bert Raynes Wildlife Fund.

Wednesday, Dec. 15
Alliance info lunch: “Birds of Sage and Scree”
Noon to 1 p.m., Alliance office, 685 S. Cache St.
Please join Jackson Hole’s best known birder Bert Raynes and wildlife painter extraordinaire Greg McHuron for an informal get-together and discussion about their recent collaboration, “Birds of Sage and Scree.” Published this past summer, this elegant book includes reproductions of nearly 30 oil paintings by McHuron, accompanied by Raynes’ musings about feathered friends that frequent the region. Copies will be available for signing and sale; all proceeds benefit the Meg and Bert Raynes Wildlife Fund, which supports Nature Mapping Jackson Hole, a project to gather data about wildlife for use in conservation efforts. For details about the book and its authors, visit www.birdsofsageandscree.info. On Dec. 15, bring lunch; we’ll provide drinks and treats. (This holiday season, we’re also encouraging people to bring canned goods for donation to the local food bank, Jackson Hole Food Cupboard -- thanks!)

Sunday, Dec. 19
Annual Christmas Bird Count
All day, throughout Jackson Hole
Sponsored by the National Audubon Society, the annual Christmas Bird Count is a census of birds in the Western Hemisphere performed by volunteer birders to gather data for scientific use, especially for conservation biology. The count is held in different areas between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5; the local count, sponsored by the Jackson Hole Bird Club, takes place on Dec. 19. Participants will meet at 7 a.m. at the Virginian Restaurant to get their field assignments, and an after-count potluck is planned. Interested in volunteering? Click here for details, or contact local organizer Susan Marsh at (307) 733-5744 or smarsh@wyoming.com.

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2) Hoback Wells draft environmental study due out any day now

As of Nov. 30, officials had still not released the draft environmental impact statement on a proposal to drill 136 natural gas wells in the pristine Noble Basin area of the Bridger-Teton National Forest near Bondurant. (The study on this project known as Hoback Wells was expected to be out last month.) When it’s released, we’ll post details here on the environmental analysis and how you can comment on it. Meanwhile, please click here and also visit the Citizens for the Wyoming Range website at www.wyomingrange.org for more information.

(UPDATE: Bridger-Teton National Forest officials released this draft EIS on Dec. 9. Disappointingly, its preferred alternative appears to support Plains Exploration and Production Company's "full field" drilling plan, with only some seasonal wildlife restrictions and air quality stipulations. PXP's proposal threatens to transform prime wildlife habitat in the Upper Hoback -- just 40 miles southeast of Jackson -- into an industrial web of roads and well pads. (Click here for a photo of the area, and click here for a map.) This could harm Jackson Hole’s air quality and our wildlife, many of which rely on this area for migration corridors and as a place to bear their young. Pollution of the headwaters of the Hoback River is also a concern. Public comments on the draft EIS are due by March 10, 2011. The analysis is available by clicking here. You can mail your comments to Bridger-Teton National Forest Supervisor Jacqueline A. Buchanan, P.O. Box 1888, Jackson, WY 83001, email them to comments-intermtn-bridger-teton-big-piney@fs.fed.us with the subject line “Eagle Prospect and Noble Basin MDP DEIS,” or make them in person at a public forum in Jackson on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 7 to 9 p.m. at Snow King Resort's Grand Room, 400 E. Snow King Ave. Questions? Visit the Citizens for the Wyoming Range website at www.wyomingrange.org for more info, or contact Louise Lasley, Alliance public lands director, at (307) 733-9417 or Louise@jhalliance.org.)

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3) National Park Service, Bridger-Teton seek help with Snake Headwaters plan

In March 2009, passage of the Craig Thomas Snake River Headwaters Legacy Act brought some 400 miles of the Snake and its tributaries under the protection of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Now, officials with the National Park Service and Bridger-Teton National Forest are working (and coordinating) on separate but concurrent plans to manage the waterways covered by this legislation, and they’d like your help. Details on how you can participate through December are available at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/snakeriver and www.snakeheadwatersact.com. Visit www.fs.fed.us/r4/btnf/wild_scenic for even more info. The Alliance's scoping comments are available by clicking here. In brief, they state that the Snake Headwaters management plan should: make protecting native fish, wildlife and their habitats its highest priority; be a collaborative effort; consider the impacts of climate change; and maintain traditional forms of low-impact recreation, such as rafting, kayaking, camping, fishing and hunting.

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4) Protect wildlife -- please don’t poach the powder!

Thanks to La Nina, the snow is piling up and you’ve probably already made your first forays out into the fluff. But please remember -- to protect wildlife, some of Jackson Hole’s most tempting slopes are off limits as winter playgrounds starting Dec. 1.

Snowshoers, skiers, boarders and snowmobilers need to make sure their enjoyment doesn’t come at the expense of wildlife. Winter’s deep snow, scarce food and cold temperatures are tough on our elk, deer, moose and bighorn sheep, and wasting energy to avoid people and dogs can kill them. Please help wildlife survive the winter by staying out of closed areas. Visit www.jhalliance.org/dontpoach.pdf for the maps and closure dates. Don’t forget, “poaching” closed areas on foot or with dogs, skis, snowboards or snowmachines can be as harmful to wildlife as poaching with a rifle.

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5) Proposed legislation threatens wolves and the Endangered Species Act

In the three-plus months since a district court judge restored federal protections for wolves in Idaho and Montana, legislators have introduced several bills in U.S. Congress that seek to exempt wolves from the Endangered Species Act. These bills are the first serious challenges in years to the ESA, which has helped scores if not hundreds of listed species recover from near extinction since its passage in 1973. We're concerned that one of the wolf bills could be attached as a rider to unrelated legislation and end up being passed during the current lame duck session of Congress, or next year during the new session. This would set a bad precedent for all species protected by the ESA and derail efforts to ensure that wolves are managed using the best available science. A coalition of 20 conservation organizations, including the Alliance, is working for ways to resolve wolf issues. To find out what you can do to help, click here for info from the Western Wolves Coalition. (UPDATE: Legislation exempting wolves from Endangered Species Act protection did not get passed during the recent lame-duck session, but we expect further attempts in 2011. We'll keep you posted.)

In other recent news regarding wolves, on Nov. 18, U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson ruled in yet another court case that Wyoming's wolf management plan -- which designates wolves as predators in most of the state, and as trophy game in the northwest corner -- is adequate, and he ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to revisit their rejection of it. "There is no scientific or commercial data that suggest the state's dual classification of wolves, in and of itself, cannot meet, accomplish, and maintain the identified recovery goals [in the greater Yellowstone area], including northwestern Wyoming," Johnson wrote in his decision. But for now, as reported in the Nov. 19 Jackson Hole Daily, this decision doesn't affect wolf management, according to Jenny Harbine, a staff attorney for Earthjustice: "Wolves on the ground are still subject to [Endangered Species Act] protections, not only in Wyoming, but in Montana and Idaho as well. The Wyoming court's decision does not change that." Johnson's decision just directs Fish and Game officials to take another look and "certainly does not require the Fish and Wildlife Service to approve Wyoming's wolf management scheme," Harbine said, adding that Wyoming's plan allowing wolves to be killed on sight and without a permit in roughly 90 percent of the state is "insufficient to ensure a sustainable wolf population."

Background information on the wolf issue is available by clicking here. For fact sheets about wolves in the Northern Rockies, please click here.

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6) Hiring discussion expected at Dec. 6 Comp Plan meeting

In November, the Jackson Town Council and Teton Board of County Commissioners decided to go ahead and ask for help with the next and final phase of the Comprehensive Plan review. (Specifically, they’ve advertised for a facilitator to make the review process easier, a communicator to keep people informed about it, and a writer to translate the Comp Plan into layman’s terms.) At their Dec. 6 joint information meeting set for 3 p.m. at 200 S. Willow, the electeds will hear recommendations from a committee (made up of town councilors Melissa Turley and Mark Obringer, county commissioners Hank Phibbs and Andy Schwartz, and planning staffers) that’s been reviewing the job applications in private. (The "Request for Qualifications" and the responses that have been received to date are posted on the Comp Plan website, www.jacksontetonplan.com. Click here for a direct link to them.)

The Alliance has asked if the committee’s recommendations will be made available to the public so that citizens can have time to look them over before Dec. 6, but so far, the staff report has not been posted.

(UPDATE: The recommendations were posted sometime after 4 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3; click here for a link to them. At the Dec. 6 joint information meeting, planning staff told the electeds that the committee is recommending that only a facilitator be hired at this time to help design the next phase of the review process. The committee has narrowed a pool of 12 applicants down to four finalists, which it will interview privately, and then make a hiring recommendation to the electeds in coming weeks. The Jackson Town Council may hear the recommendation at its regular meeting on Dec. 20, 6 p.m. at 150 E. Pearl; the Teton Board of County Commissioners may hear it on Dec. 21, 9 a.m. at 200 S. Willow; or all the electeds may hear it together at their next JIM, set for Jan. 3, 3 p.m. at 150 E. Pearl. We’ll keep you posted; please check back. Meanwhile, please click here for comments the Alliance made during the Dec. 6 hearings.)

(SECOND UPDATE: As of Dec. 15, the Jackson Town Council is now scheduled to get an update at a workshop on Dec. 20, 3 p.m. at 150 E. Pearl, regarding hiring a facilitator to help with the rest of the Comp Plan review. Click here for a link to the staff report, which states that the selection committee is going to recommend to the electeds at their joint meeting on Jan. 3 that they consider hiring AECOM, a company based in Colorado, and its project manager Bruce Meighen. The county commissioners are expected to hear the same update at their Dec. 21 regular meeting, 9 a.m. at 200 S. Willow. Click here for comments the Alliance submitted on Dec. 17.)

(THIRD UPDATE: The Jan. 3 joint town-county information meeting has been rescheduled to Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011, 3 to 5 p.m. at Town Hall, 150 E. Pearl.)

We believe the public must have the chance to give input and participate in open discussions about how the final phase of the Comp Plan review will be conducted. Decisions about what the elected officials’ review process will look like will heavily influence -- for good or bad -- the final outcome of this years-long community effort.

The Alliance supports a final review that encourages fresh public involvement AND validates the huge amount of public comment and work that’s gone into the Comp Plan revision to date.

At any rate, if outside help is hired, it’s unlikely that substantive discussion regarding the content of the current draft plan would begin before early 2011. (The current draft is available by clicking here. You can make comments on the draft online at the bottom of that web page at any time.)

Whatever review process is chosen, the Alliance remains committed to working for a strong plan that will uphold our community’s priorities of protecting wildlife and managing growth responsibly. Click here for links to all of our comments on the Comp Plan revision. For recaps of all the Comp Plan hearings, click here; for background info, click here.

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7) Other community planning updates

Here’s a roundup of current community planning matters, but please keep in mind that all meetings noted below are subject to change. Call the Town of Jackson at (307) 733-3932, Teton County at (307) 733-8094, or reach Becky Tillson at Rebecca@jhalliance.org or (307) 733-9417 for confirmation. Also, this list isn’t exhaustive, since many meeting agendas aren’t finalized until shortly before the meeting takes place. Check back here or visit www.ci.jackson.wy.us and www.tetonwyo.org for updates. If you’d like to comment on any of these items, contact information for all local public officials is available by clicking here.

NATURAL RESOURCES TECHNICAL ADVISORY BOARD (formerly known as the Environment Commission): NRTAB meeting, Dec. 3, 4:30 p.m., at the Teton Conservation District office, 230 E. Broadway. The public's invited to this organizational meeting of the NRTAB, a new advisory group appointed by the town and county elected officials that’s meant to help them make planning decisions that are informed by the best available science. Basically, the volunteer board will interpret existing science on the health of the area’s ecosystem, identify data gaps, analyze existing policy and work with planning staff to improve policies and policy-making, but only as directed by the electeds. While this falls short of the originally proposed intent for the board to assess our ecosystem’s overall health, to consider cumulative impacts of development and to be free to set its own research priorities, it’s a step in the right direction and we hope that its role will evolve over time.

TOWN & COUNTY JOINT INFORMATION MEETING DEC. 6: Jackson Town Council and Teton Board of County Commissioners, Dec. 6, 3 p.m., 200 S. Willow. The town and county elected officials will gather for their monthly joint meeting on Dec. 6. Among other matters, they’re scheduled to discuss the hiring of outside help for the ongoing Comp Plan review (see Item #6 above for details). The full agenda for this JIM is available by clicking here.

COUNTY COMMISSIONERS SCHEDULE RETREAT FOR DEC. 14: The Teton Board of County Commissioners plan to have a retreat on Dec. 14 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. that will be open to the public. The location and agenda should be available via www.tetonwyo.org/minutes by Dec. 8.

TOWN CONTINUES TO CONSIDER MAJOR ZONING CHANGES: Jackson Planning Commission, Dec. 15, 5:30 p.m., Town Hall, 150 E. Pearl. On Dec. 15, town planning commissioners will continue to discuss proposed changes to the auto-urban residential zone (and possibly three additional districts) that would allow existing and new residential units built on single lots in a large portion of downtown to be sold separately (essentially as condominiums) to independent owners. The town planning staff is looking for answers to three questions regarding the general direction that the commissioners see this moving: 1) Can existing rental units be converted to ownership units; 2) What standards should be in place for new construction in the zones being considered; and 3) What amendments to the planned unit development tool are appropriate? The commissioners plan to weigh in on each of these subjects and decide which, if any, amendments should be carried forward. The Alliance is concerned that the zoning changes being considered could inflate housing prices and displace workers who now rely on the units as affordable rentals. Our written comments are available by clicking here and here.

COMMERCIAL MIXED-USE PROJECT PROPOSED FOR WILSON: Teton County Planning Commission, Jan. 24 (continued from Nov. 29 per applicant’s request), 6 p.m., 200 S. Willow. On Nov. 29, county planning commissioners began reviewing a mixed-use project slated for a 2-acre parcel just west of Nora's in Wilson. Edmiston Spring Creek runs through the western portion of the parcel and the proposed development falls within the 30-foot setback of the adjacent property's wetlands. This is the first development to come in under the county's relatively new Wilson Commercial Zoning District, which was approved in 2008. Planning staff is recommending denial of the project for two primary reasons -- a failure to meet the intent of the zoning district given uncertainties as to how the entire property will be developed and a failure to demonstrate adequate parking. While the applicant is not requesting density beyond what is allowed under the new regulations, this project represents a shift to a greater development intensity than currently exists south of Highway 22. In the Wilson area, lands south of the highway include sensitive habitat for a number of wildlife species, and the type and overall amount of future development there is likely to be a central part of discussions during the Comp Plan review. We’ll keep you posted as this progresses.

COMMISSIONERS UPHOLD DOG RESTRICTIONS AT GOLF & TENNIS: On Nov. 4, the Teton Board of County Commissioners voted 4-0 (Commissioner Ben Ellis was absent) to deny an amendment to Jackson Hole Golf & Tennis Resort’s master plan seeking permission for the homeowners to remove the existing prohibition on dogs in the resort’s affordable units. (Prohibiting dogs in this affordable housing development was a condition of its approval, meant to help mitigate the development’s high-density impacts in a sensitive area for wildlife.) Commissioners discussed issues of fairness to the affordable homeowners and balancing divergent community goals -- wildlife protection and affordable housing. One commissioner mentioned that a more appropriate time for this debate would have been before the construction of the affordable units. Several members of the public spoke in support of the dog prohibition, largely for wildlife protection reasons. (Links to the Alliance’s comments are available by clicking here.) The commissioners also expressed some concerns about the usefulness of the county's Natural Resources Overlay, which delineates special requirements for development on lands important for wildlife and is based on rather outdated data. They agreed that hopefully the newly formed Natural Resources Technical Advisory Board will be the body to work on an update of the NRO for future planning uses. We'd like to thank the commissioners for making the tough decision to uphold their commitment to wildlife protection.

UPDATE ON PLANNED MIXED-USE DEVELOPMENTS: This past April, after repeated requests from the Alliance and other community members, the Jackson Town Council imposed a one-year moratorium on the controversial planned mixed-use development tool, which allows increased development potential in exchange for questionable community benefits. On Nov. 22, town councilors held their first workshop on the PMD since the moratorium was put in place, and essentially reaffirmed their support of that decision. In the words of Councilor Mark Obringer, “I support the continuation of a moratorium. Planning staff are up to their elbows in alligators [with the Comp Plan], and I don’t really want to see them try to fix a tool that is inherently broken right now.” We couldn’t agree more. For background information on the PMD, please click here.

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8) Conservation Alliance memberships make great gifts!

The holidays are coming right up and now’s a great time to consider giving your friends and family members Alliance gift memberships. They’re a thoughtful way to share your love of Jackson Hole, and perhaps inspire new conservation advocates. Please click here for information on member benefits, and then click on “Give a Gift Membership” for our secure online donation system.

Other great gift ideas include the DVD of our 30th anniversary film, and our Alliance tote bags, mugs, hats and posters. Click on the links at www.jhalliance.org/join.htm to buy them online or just stop by our office at 685 S. Cache St. to pick them up in person. A locator map is available by clicking here.

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9) Thinking about end-of-the-year donations? Think Alliance!

The approach of year-end prompts us to check our giving -- as well as other financial affairs -- to make certain we have reached our charitable goals. The Conservation Alliance is blessed by many donors who give generously at this time and throughout the year to support our work to keep Jackson Hole wild and beautiful.

As you consider giving to the Alliance, please keep the following in mind:
• To be deductible on your 2010 tax return, your gift must be received or postmarked by December 31st.
All gifts to the Alliance are deductible to the full extent allowed by law. The Alliance promptly issues a receipt to document your gift.
• Gifts of cash or cash equivalents (checks, etc.) are deductible up to 50 percent of your adjusted gross income, and gifts of securities and other valuables up to 30 percent.
• Gifts of appreciated securities often offer the most benefit because your deduction is based on the market value as of the date of the gift and you avoid capital gains tax. But to gain this advantage, the securities must be transferred to the Alliance prior to sale. To give us a gift of stock, please contact Vanguard Flagship Service at (800) 345-1344. You’ll need to provide these three numbers: Alliance account #84173007; DTC clearing #0062; and Sweep account #88023249747.
• Giving depreciated securities is most advantageous to you if you sell them first (to take a deduction on the loss), and then make your gift.
• The Alliance also accepts gifts of real estate, certificates of deposit and other valuables. Because the valuation processes vary with the gift and often take time, these gifts should be started prior to year-end to receive a deduction in 2010.

Thank you for considering the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance among your priorities for year-end giving. If we can assist you in any way, please contact Lisa Rullman at (307) 733-9417 or Lisa@jhalliance.org. (Please remember that the above information is not meant as legal, accounting or other professional advice. For assistance in planning charitable gifts with tax and other financial implications, the services of appropriate advisors should always be obtained.)

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10) Valley Voices

“Christmas gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance.
To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity.
To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.”

-- Oren Arnold

 

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Alliance Action is a publication of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance. The Conservation Alliance is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to responsible land stewardship in Jackson Hole to ensure that human activities are in harmony with the area’s irreplaceable wildlife, scenic, and other natural resources. We’re located at 685 South Cache Street in Jackson, Wyoming. Our mailing address is P.O. Box 2728, Jackson, WY 83001-2728 and our phone number is (307) 733-9417.

If you'd like to sign up to receive our monthly Alliance Action via email, please click here.

 

 

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