Wolf Creek opposes development

A development that opponents are calling a Vail-sized city has been proposed at the base of Wolf Creek Ski Area. Now the ski area itself has joined the call to reject the ambitious proposal.

A Texas development company has proposed the "Village at Wolf Creek" on 287.5 acres at the base of the Alberta quad. The "village" would include 2,172 units on 162 lots, 5,176 bedrooms and 222,100 square feet of commercial space including 12 restaurants, multiple hotels and a convention center. The Rio Grande National Forest has been soliciting public input on the proposal.

Already the "Village at Wolf Creek" is drawing serious opposition. A group called Friends of Wolf Creek has formed and includes representation from Colorado Wild, San Juan Citizens' Alliance, the American Lands Alliance and the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council. This week, the Wolf Creek Ski Area joined the opposition. Wolf Creek did not return Durango Telegraph phone calls, but ski area president Davey Pitcher told the Denver Post , "It's a mess. Our credibility is at stake. What lives on in Southwestern Colorado is at stake."

He added, "Fifty years from now, Colorado will be a better place if this meadow is just left alone."

Jeff Berman, executive director of Colorado Wild, applauded Pitcher's statement and decision. "I think it's good that Wolf Creek Ski Area recognizes that its clientele values the undeveloped nature of that ski area," he said. "The development proposal would completely destroy that. It's a good turn of events that the ski area both privately and publicly is willing to acknowledge that. We commend them for that."

The Rio Grande National Forest is conducting an Environmental Impact Study of the proposed development. The public scoping period ends Thursday, April 15, and the Forest Service said it plans to release a Draft EIS sometime this summer.

Local Bioneers of the Year honored

Durango's first annual Bioneers conference, April 2-3, is being called a success. As event organizers are looking toward a second annual, they are also celebrating the group of local biological pioneers who were given Bioneers of the Year awards.

Bioneers is a national movement that was founded in 1990 with a mission of encouraging environmental restoration and traditional farming practices and rescuing biological and cultural diversity. Since that time, Bioneers has developed a strong social justice component as well as an international reputation. The Durango event featured video coverage from the greater conference as well as workshops and panel discussion. At the core of Bioneers in Durango was the fact that there are numerous "biological pioneers" currently doing good work in the local community and now they have been recognized.

"For me, the purpose of the Bioneer of the Year award is to acknowledge, honor and celebrate people who are doing extraordinary work in the fields of environmental restoration and social justice in our region," said Will Hays, who organized the event with Kate Grace MacElveen. "We want to get the word out about the positive things people are doing."

The Animas Valley Bioneers of the Year are:

•Alex Arribau and Mark Thompson, of Phoenix Recycling LLC and Phoenix Data Protection,who hope to boost recycling in La Plata County with their conscientious curbside recycling and trash collection.

•Katrina Blair, of Turtle Lake Refuge, which works "to celebrate the connection between personal health and wild lands" through promoting and practicing sustainable practices.

•Kent Ford, of Durango Green Business Roundtable, who came up with the idea as a way for local businesses with similar interests in the environment to network while learning green business practices.

•David and Kay James, of James Ranch Grass-finished Beef, who work to raise their cattle naturally and traditionally, and actively work to preserve open space in the north Animas Valley.

•Bill Manning, of Kiva Orchard and High Desert Foods, who works to support the rich ecological and cultural diversity of his organic farm and orchard near Hovenweep in a sustainable manner.

•Ron Margolis, of People of Conscience, a group working to regain a voice within a culture dominated by big business and working to encourage other independent groups to take action.

•Charles and John Shaw, and Lisa Bodwalk, of the Smiley Building, who converted Durango's abandoned Smiley Junior High into a community arts center that showcases numerous environmental technologies.

•Tom Riesing and Christie Berven, of Oakhaven: A Permaculture Center, a La Plata Canyon farm and education center that focuses on encouraging sustainable growing practices and self-sufficiency.

•Jeremy Rivera, of Quest Energy Group LLC, a team of architectural and mechanical engineers focused on providing energy-efficient design solutions to the regional and national building industry.

Hays and MacElveen expressed their gratitude to everyone who helped make Bioneers in Durango a reality and said that a second conference will be held next year.

"Now that the conference has happened, it seems like a lot fewer people are asking, What's a Bioneer?' and a lot more are asking what they can do to make this a sustainable community," Hays said.

Prescribed burning could begin soon

Assuming that the area gets a break from wet weather, prescribed burning on the San Juan National Forest is set to kick off in the coming week. Unlike past years, none of the planned burns should impact Durango visually or in terms of smoke.

"We call these prescribed burns because there is a prescription' or several conditions that must be met before we'll even think about igniting a fire," said Mark Lauer, Fire Management Officer for the San Juan Public Lands Center.

Those conditions include proper temperatures, moisture levels and wind speed. Spring and fall are generally the best times of year to burn because the temperatures are more moderate and the fuels have enough moisture to keep the fire at a low intensity.However, Pam Wilson, San Juan National Forest fire information officer, said that because of recent storms it has actually been too wet to begin the prescribed burning. "Whether we start burning really depends on what happens this weekend," she said. "Most places have gotten so much moisture that I don't think anyone can start this week."

Should the burns begin next week, the closest ones to Durango will be two large burns between Bayfield and Chimney Rock. These two burns will total approximately 3,400 acres. Other prescribed burns in the region include: four Pagosa District burns totaling 3,000 acres; nine burns on the Dolores District covering 4,400 acres; and an additional 4,000 to 5,000 acresof mechanical thinning in areas including the east side of Vallecito and Lower Hermosa Creek.

"Residents are often concerned about the smoke from prescribed burns," Lauer said, "but should remember that it is generally short term and also much less significant than the smoke from an unplanned wildfire." Radio announcements will be made just prior to the beginning of each burn.

Durango honored for arbor efforts

Durango has again been honored for its commitment to trees within city limits. For the 24th year in a row, Durango has again been named a Tree City USA by The National Arbor Day Foundation. The city is also the recipient of a Tree City USA Growth Award for demonstrating progress in its community forestry program in the following activity areas: education, partnerships, new projects and organization. The Growth Award recognizes environmental improvement and higher levels of tree care in Tree City USA communities.

"This year's record number of Tree City USA communities shows a growing level of dedication and care for our urban forests," said John Rosenow, president of The National Arbor Day Foundation. "It shows the people of Durango value trees for the beauty, grace, comfort and practical blessings they bring."

City cracks down on yard sale signs

The City of Durango is again taking a hard stance on unauthorized signs advertising yard/garage sales. The move to clean up yard sale signs began last year and people violating the prohibition could face stiff penalities. The Durango Police Department has announced that it is illegal to post or place a sign on trees, utility poles, traffic sign poles, sidewalks, curbs, fire hydrants, bridges or other surfaces located on public property.

People wishing to place a sign in the public right of way can obtain a permit from the City of Durango Public Works Department. However, posting signs without a permit may result in a ticket. The ticket is not a standard $6 parking violation. Penalties for the garage/yard sale sign code violation can be charged into Municipal Court and range up to a $1,000 and 90 days in jail. Permits can be obtained at the City of Durango Public Works at 1235 Camino Del Rio.

compiled by Will Sands





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