Animas Valley gravel mine pitched

Gravel mining is mixing emotions in the Animas Valley. Next Monday, the La Plata County commissioners will consider a request by Bueno Tiempo Ranch to process and sell large amounts of gravel extracted from a recreational lake.

Bueno Tiempo, a guest-style ranch, received county approval last summer to construct an 18-foot deep, 10-acre reservoir on its property near the Animas River. The stipulation of the approval was that the reservoir be used for nonmotorized recreational uses. However, now that the reservoir has been excavated, Bueno Tiempo owner Monty Nichols is having trouble getting rid of the material.

"They do have a permit out there to build a lake and have to get rid of the material so that's the purpose of their current request," said County Planning Director Nancy Lauro.

Nichols has asked to be allowed to bring processing equipment onto the property and effectively turn the property into a gravel mine. Such an activity is expressly prohibited by the Animas Valley Land Use Plan. The proposal has created some neighborhood fireworks.

Ron Margolis, acting as agent for adjacent property owner David Scott May, said that he understands that Nichols is involved with the mining industry in Arizona. "Some of the neighbors feel like this has always been about gravel mining," Margolis said. "Maybe he knew all the time."

Lauro acknowledged that the proposal has ruffled feathers in the valley and noted that the county Planning Commission has recommended that the commissioners reject the request. "There are a lot of concerns with whatever he's doing out there," she said. lot of the neighbors have spoken up, and the position of the county Planning Commission is that gravel mining is not allowed in that zone."

The final decision will be up to the county commissioners. The item is tentatively scheduled for discussion Aug. 18.

FLC announces reorganization plan

Fort Lewis College unveiled a proposed college reorganization plan last week. The plan, primarily developed by FLC President Robert Dolphin Jr. and the college's vice presidents and deans, will be discussed on campus for the next two months and adopted by mid-October. The reorganization is a response to declines in funding for higher education.

"This reorganization must be accomplished with no increase in total costs, either in salaries or in support expenses, and with an eye toward increased efficiency and further cost reductions where possible," Dolphin said. "Funding levels are lower and may decline further, while state and national mandates and expectations are higher."

The reorganization plans to enhance the quality of the lower division student experience, maintain the quality of the college's academic resources, realign the role of the president, improve the administrative effectiveness, and coordinate the college's academic information and intellectual resources.

"This administrative reorganization is a unique opportunity to improve the college," Dolphin summarized. "This proposal can provide new opportunities for us to grow, develop, improve and move forward as we continue to give attention to our core mission."

Local food directory in the works

Another effort to encourage sustainable, locally produced agriculture is under way. The "Mesa Verde Country Guide to Local Sustainable Food and Fiber" is being compiled and will be available on the Web and in directory form this fall. It is hoped that the guide will aid local agriculture producers in selling directly to local consumers.

The directory will cover the region roughly 90 miles around Mesa Verde and is a response to more and more consumers looking for high-quality products grown in the local area, according to organziers of the Growing Community Food Project. Producers are invited to list their products and when and where they are available. A space in the guide costs $10, which covers publication costs, and requires filling out a one-page form. Producers must sell direct to local consumers, stores, restaurants, etc., or be willing to do so.

To get a listing or for more info, contact Sue Bruckner, of Growing Community Food Project, (970) 946-5269, or Jim Dyer of the Southwest Marketing Network, (970) 588-2292,

Suspect confesses to 2001 murder

A 31-year-old Ignacio man turned himself into the Federal Bureau of Investigation last Sunday and confessed to the 2001 murder of Aztec resident Brenda Chavez.

According to a release from the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Carlos Herrera was aware of an arrest warrant charging him with the murder of Chavez prior to making the confession.

After being reported missing on Feb. 9, 2001, Chavez's body was found May 9, 2001 southeast of Ignacio by three children on four-wheelers. They stumbled upon the victim's vehicle roughly 200 down an embankment off County Road 321. An autopsy determined Chavez was slain by a blunt blow to the head.

Herrera appeared in U.S. District Court for an advisement of charges last Monday. He is being held without bail in La Plata County Jail. His arrest is the result of interviews and investigations conducted jointly by Southern Ute Tribal Criminal Investigator Hal Koenig and FBI Special Agent John Wallace.

Broads drum up wilderness support

A Durango-based conservation organization is hitting the trail in an effort to drum up support for wilderness. Aug. 14-18, the Great Old Broads for Wilderness will be putting their boots to the ground near Rifle to explore two proposed wilderness areas and garner support for legislation introduced by Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., that would offer protection to Colorado's unprotected Bureau of Land Management wilderness-quality lands and adjacent national forest lands.

The "Broadwalk" will focus on two areas Deep Creek and the Roan Plateau, both of which have wilderness-quality features but are unprotected.Deep Creek is part of a contentious wilderness proposal sponsored by Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Colo., who continues to negotiate with local outfitters and the conservation community on the details, including his demands for allowing helicopter landings.

"Some of Colorado's most magnificent wild lands are those still most in need of protection," said Great Old Broads Executive Director Veronica Egan. "This event is about creating and fueling people's passion for wilderness, and our hope is that by getting people out on the land they will see exactly why these lands deserve protection."

compiled by Will Sands





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