| In the jet stream: Skies
cleared to reveal a layer of frosting on aspens near Purgatory
last week./Photo by Todd Newcomer.
Mushroomers may be coming
Droves of mushroom gatherers are likely coming to the Durango
area this summer. Seeking the lucrative, edible morel mushroom,
thousands of entrepreneurs frequently descend on areas that
have experienced wildfires. Consequently, the Columbine Ranger
District of the San Juan National Forest is asking for public
input on a proposal to allow commercial mushroom harvest in
the area burned by the Missionary Ridge Fire.
Given the right conditions, some of the 70,000 acres of public
lands burned last summer may see a large mushroom crop. If the
crop occurs, there may be huge demand for harvesting the mushrooms.
The harvest season usually begins with snowmelt and lasts until
the moisture is gone, typically April or May through June or
July. However, weather conditions will dictate the size of the
The Forest Service is considering how to manage commercial
harvesting and whether to issue group camping permits to commercial
harvesters, and if so, where to allow group camping. If commercial
permits are offered, they will include a cost and may or may
not include a camping permit. Commercial mushroom harvest will
not be allowed in the Weminuche Wilderness Area or the Piedra
Morel gathering is big business. Early in the season, morels
often fetch $5 a pound. A single fire in Idaho’s Payette
National Forest in 1994 yielded $3 million worth of morels.
Commercial buyers apparently were on the scene, buying $10,000
to $15,000 of mushrooms every day. The morel harvest can frequently
be more valuable than salvage timber sales on some fires.
However, the harvest of wild mushrooms has caused problems.
Thousands of people descend on the national forests of California
and Oregon every year. Rangers in these national forests tell
tales of gangs setting up roadblocks and robbing mushroom pickers
and buyers, who can carry as much as $40,000 in cash. Thousands
of people living on public lands also have made for huge impacts.
Poaching and over-fishing have been common, as are sanitation
problems at crowded campsites. Some pickers try to extend their
backcountry reach by driving off-road into closed areas, damaging
fragile, just-burned forest.
The San Juan National Forest hopes to prevent this kind of
situation from arising. The Missionary Ridge Road system will
be closed for rehabilitation work through the season and will
not be open for access to the burned area. Off-road use of motorized
vehicles in the areas burned by the fire has not been allowed
in the past and will not be allowed for mushroom harvesting.
Written comments on this proposal will be accepted through
March 31, 2003. For more information, contact Gretchen Fitzgerald
at (970) 264-1535.
Icy roads cause pileup on Hwy 550
According to a report from the Colorado State Patrol, a large
pileup occurred on Highway 550 near Tamarron during a white-out
on the afternoon of Saturday, Feb. 22. The accident began when
a northbound Subaru Outback and a southbound Nissan Pathfinder
hit head-on. Following the impact, the two vehicles spun to
either side of the roadway and came to rest. A line of traffic
then approached the accident in the southbound lane. The first
car braked to avoid the accident and was rear-ended. Another
vehicle in the line of descending traffic then slid and collided
with the Subaru involved in the original accident.
While the State Patrol noted that five cars were involved in
the pileup, one eyewitness, who chose to remain anonymous, said
that closer to eight cars had slid, coming to rest or hitting
guardrails. He noted that these cars left the scene since they
did not collide with other automobiles. “We didn’t
hit anyone so we got out of there,” he said. “We
didn’t want to stick around and get hit.”
FLC announces presidential finalists
The Board of Trustees for Fort Lewis College has announced
two finalists for the college’s presidency. Three finalists
had been chosen, but one withdrew.
Phillip David Creighton, president and chief executive officer
of Eastern Oregon University, and Michael B. Levy, distinguished
teaching professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown
University and former senior advisor to the Secretary of the
Treasury, will be on campus for interviews next month, said
Board of Trustees Chairman Peter Decker.
“The search committee for the president of Fort Lewis
College has spent a great deal of time and careful consideration
in reaching a determination of the final candidates for this
most important position,” said Decker. “We feel
these candidates will provide those qualities necessary to continue
Fort Lewis College’s quest to become a premier college
of liberal arts and sciences, noted for the quality of its academic
programs, success of its graduates, and service to the surrounding
A detailed schedule of interviews will be announced in the
Local terrorist report result of hoax
According to the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office, southwestern
Colorado was the victim of a terrorist hoax last week. A report
had surfaced that terrorists had attacked gas field workers
near Aneth, Utah, on Feb. 19. A report surfaced that a black
SUV with four Middle Eastern men was spotted by gas field workers.
When asked what they were doing there, a fight allegedly broke
out, guns were pulled by the people in the SUV, and then they
According to La Plata County Sheriff Lt. Dan Bender, that was
all the information the Sheriff’s Office received. However,
later in the day citizens began inquiring about the car full
of heavily armed terrorists, reportedly heading for Durango.
Bender said that a short time later, he was told of a report
that the gas-processing plants in Kirtland and Bloomfield, N.M.,
had been taken over by terrorists. Apparently, the radio stations
in the Cortez area began broadcasting alerts for people to be
on the lookout for terrorists in a black SUV.
At 9 p.m. on Feb. 19, a member of the media informed Bender
that he had called the FBI in Salt Lake City and learned that
the entire incident was a hoax, fabricated by a plant worker
who intentionally injured himself.
“I hope this information will help calm fears of terrorists
running amok in the Four Corners area,” Bender stated.
“It is important, however, that people try to trace things
they hear back to reliable sources prior to spreading an alarm.”