Tourism office director named

After several months without leadership, the Durango Area Tourism Office once again has a director. Kim Cobb has been promoted to the position of tourism director for DATO. Cobb has served as DATO marketing manager for the past two years and fills the position vacated last December by Mary Hart.

"I am delighted to accept the position," Cobb said. "I love Durango and truly enjoy working with our tourism industry representatives. Summer 2004 is going to be terrific."

Bob Kunkel, DATO board chairman, commented, "Her experience in both tourism and in the DATO office made her the ideal candidate for the position. We have been very impressed with Kim's outgoing personality and high level of enthusiasm for promoting the Durango area."

A Colorado native and business/marketing graduate of the University of Denver, Cobb previously served as sponsorship manager for the Vail Valley Tourism and Convention Bureau and marketing coordinator for Meeting Professionals International in Dallas.

While working at the Durango Area Tourism Office, Cobb has represented the area at trade shows and handled group travel inquiries. She also was responsible for implementing a tracking mechanism for both DATO marketing efforts and Central Reservations.

In 2002, the Durango Area Chamber Resort Association was split into the Durango Chamber of Commerce and the new Durango Area Tourism Office.

Environmentalists take on McInnis

Last week, 88 conservation groups, including Durango-based Colorado Wild, banded together and challenged assertions made in the Healthy Forest Restoration Act. In a four page letter to the Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, the groups yesterday challenged what they claimed were false assertions by Congressman Scott McInnis about the act. In particular, they cited assertions made about the Missionary Ridge post-fire timber sale proposed just northwest of Durango.

Jeff Berman, executive director of Colorado Wild, charged that on Feb. 12 , McInnis wrote to Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman regarding the timber sale. He said that McInnis misrepresented the timber sale as a fuels-reduction project and falsely took issue with a legal claim made by Colorado Wild in their lawsuit over the project.

"Congressman McInnis' inflammatory contention that conservation groups seek to end all land management projects' is simply unfounded and does a disservice to sensible discourse of public policy issues," Berman said.

On Jan. 30, a federal judge in Denver granted Colorado Wild a preliminary injunction of the Missionary Ridge timber sale. As Colorado Wild had a substantial likelihood in the end to win its lawsuit, the judge chose to defer ruling on other issues including water-quality impacts and road building until the final decision.

Berman concluded that McInnis' claim that the timber sale is a fuels-reduction project is ludicrous given that the fuel burned during the Missionary Ridge fire of 2002.

"Despite obvious evidence to the contrary, McInnis still likens this harmful timber sale to a fuels-reduction project," he said.

Local forest gets thinning boost

The local Forest Service has been allocated additional funding to conduct forest thinning in the wildland-urban interface. The San Juan National Forest is one of six forests in the Rocky Mountain Region that will receive additional money over the next three years to accelerate implementation of the National Fire Plan.

Two factors contributed to the local forest being chosen to receive the additional monies. First, there are thousands of dead or dying pi`F1on and ponderosa pine trees in the area because of the recent beetle epidemic. Second, community fire plans were completed in 2002 and they identified areas in the interface needing fuels-reduction treatments.

Public meetings will be held during 2004 to verify the high-priority areas. The Forest Service and BLM are especially interested in treating public lands adjacent to private lands that have already been treated. Land managers have typically tried to treat about 70 percent of the forest's fuels-reduction acres with prescribed burning and 30 percent with mechanical methods. They would like to increase the amount of cutting.

"While prescribed burning is still a very viable treatment method, it can't be relied upon as heavily because it is so weather dependent," said Mark Stiles, Forest Supervisor/Center Manager.

In 2004, fire managers expect to complete approximately 15,000 acres of hazardous-fuels reduction work.That number could increase to 20,000 acres in 2005 and 30,000 acres by 2011.

Lynx reintroduction ready to resume

The effort to reintroduce lynx into the San Juan Mountains will continue this week. The Colorado Division of Wildlife will begin its 2004 lynx releases on Saturday, April 10. The agency will release four lynx north of Wolf Creek Pass in its long-term effort to restore the native cat to Colorado.

The releases will continue through the month with a total of 37 lynx captured in Canada to be released locally.

"These lynx will go into the core reintroduction area where previous releases have occurred," said Rick Kahn, coordinator of the agency's lynx reintroduction program. "The lynx released this year will find habitat that's already occupied by animals we released in previous years, increasing the likelihood that they'll adapt and establish territories."

The reintroduction program began in 1999 with the release of 41 lynx, followed by 55 more in 2000 and 33 in 2003. Up to 50 more lynx will be released in 2005, and another 15 may be released in 2006 and 2007. DOW tracking crews confirmed the birth of at least 16 kittens to six lynx mothers last spring, the first time reproduction has been documented during the effort. This winter, crews confirmed that at least six of the kittens survived the winter and are already hunting on their own.

Snow traps doctor in the La Platas

Last weekend's storms caught a Farmington man by serious surprise when he found himself trapped in the La Plata Mountains for several days.

Dr. Russell Hill, who works at San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington, drove toLa Plata Canyon Thursday, April 1, parked his car and rode hissnowmobile approximately 8 miles up the canyon to his cabin. The cabin is situated at around 11,000 feet in an area called Columbine Basin, near Kennebec Pass.After Hill arrived Friday evening, a major snowstorm moved into the area.By Saturday morning, more than 4 feet of snow had fallen at the cabin, and Hill's snowmobile could not move through the wet, heavy slop.

At that time, Hill decidedto skidown the canyon but continued to struggle and lost track of the road at least three times.He spent the next 24 hours trying to ski out but covered only 4 miles.

Hill's wife contacted the La Plata County Sheriff's Officeon Saturday evening to say her husband wasoverdue andhad missed his Saturday evening shift at the hospital. However, rescuers were unable to respond because of poor visibility in the continuing storm and the threat of avalanche.

After the weather broke on the morning of Sunday, April 4, six members of La Plata County Search & Rescue and seven members of San Juan Sledders started up the canyon with six snowmobiles and a snowcat. Their longer- tracked snowmobiles also began to bog down in the snow and even the tracks on the larger snowcat began to slip. Four miles up the canyon, the rescuers eventually made contact with Hill as he continued to struggle through the snow.

After 24 hours of skiing, Hill had only traversed about half the distance he needed to go to get out of the canyon.It was estimated that a total of 6 feet of new snow fell in the La Platas between the time Hill arrived at his cabin and when he was rescued.

compiled by Will Sands





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