Local's team wins Divide & Conquer

The inaugural Red Bull Divide & Conquer got off to an exciting start last Sunday. In just under eight hours, Team Nike ACG/Balance Bar crossed the finish line and took top honors for the first-ever mountain sports relay. Durango local Mike Freeburn helped the team to victory during the kayaking leg of the race.

The race took place in the San Juan Mountains north of Durango and is modeled on the long-standing Dolomitenmann race in Austria. Starting in Silverton, the race began with a trail run up Kendall Mountain. The second leg entailed paragliding off the peak's summit. A kayaking leg down the long, Class V stretch of the Upper Animas followed. And the final leg entailed mountain biking on singletrack from the Rockwood take-out to Durango Mountain Resort. All told, the course covered 60 miles and more than 7,000 vertical feet of climbing.

Along with Freeburn, Team Nike ACG/ Balance Bar included trail runner Mike Tobin, paraglider Othar Lawrence, and mountain biker and team captain, Mike Kloser. Freeburn's team finished less than eight minutes ahead of the reigning Dolomitenmann champions, team Internet BillBoard/OpavaNet from the Czech Republic. Freeburn was able to hold off his Czech counterpart during the paddle down the Upper Animas. This feat was exceptional given that Kamil Mruzek is the current World Cup Champion of wildwater kayaking.

"It was long and hard, and I knew where I was going and he didn't," Freeburn said. "That was the difference. He is so much faster than I am."

When he got to the take-out, Freeburn had the fastest split time for the kayaking leg of the race. "The big thing for me was having that fastest paddle split," he said. "I knew I had a shot, but there were some tough guys in the field."

In hindsight, Mruzek said that the kayaking leg of the race was the most difficult he has ever seen. "This was the most technical race I've ever taken part in," he said. "(The kayak leg) was six times longer and much harder than the Dolomitenmann race."

Freeburn, a long-standing adventure racer, said that the difficulty of Divide & Conquer made last Sunday's victory a good one.

"The difficulty of this course isn't something you see in adventure racing," he said. "Winning at this level is something to relish because it's hard to do."

Durango's Ned Overend and the Specialized/ Riversports crossed the finish line third. Freeburn's team will head to Austria this September to compete in the 17th annual Red Bull Dolomitenmann.

Immigrant safety zone' pitched

Efforts are under way to make Durango a "safety zone" for immigrants. The measure would ease relations between local law enforcement and both legal and illegal immigrants.

Los Compa`F1eros, a local immigrant-advocacy group, has asked the Durango City Council to adopt a resolution declaring the city a "safety zone" for immigrants. Olivia Lopez, the group's program director, said that the resolution would improve civil rights for a portion of the local population.

"The main point of this resolution is to respect the dignity of every human being," she said.

The resolution would increase understanding between the Durango Police Department and the immigrant community by letting Immigration and Naturalization Services deal with immigrant issues. Municipalities like Boulder, Santa Fe, Albuquerque and San Francisco have created similar "safety zones." Lopez noted that the resolution would help heal strained relations between law enforcement and immigrants.

"Our experience shows that immigrants, whether they are documented or not, do not have a strong relationship with law enforcement," she said. "First they do not call the police whether they are victims or witnesses to a crime. Second, they do not access municipal services that are available."

Lopez said that the "safety zone" would not turn Durango into haven for illegal immigrants. She added that it would not take the place of federal or state laws.

"This resolution is a proposal where we're asking the municipal resources to let the INS do their job," she said. "We believe that this resolution will encourage immigrants to come forward and report crimes."

The Durango City Council will consider the resolution during a meeting on July 6 at 7:30 p.m.

Middle Fork Fire allowed to burn

Fire managers are allowing a fire to burn into the Weminuche Wilderness northwest of Pagosa Springs. The Middle Fork Fire has grown to more than 40 acres in size and is being managed under the Wildland Fire Use strategy. The approach allows fire to play its natural role in the ecosystem with as little interference as possible. Managers will access and evaluate the fire frequently.

"The Middle Fork Fire is an excellent fire use candidate and will provide excellent ecological benefits. We're excited to have this opportunity," said Fire Use Manager Alan Farnsworth.

The Middle Fork Fire is burning at 9,720 feet where fire danger is still considered to be moderate and is burning mainly through dead material on the ground. Thefire was reported last Tuesday and is believed to have been ignited by lightning.

Meanwhile, two more lightning-triggered fires were reported northeast of Dolores in the Stoner Creek area. These fires were burning in mixed conifer and aspen and also in a remote area predetermined for Wildland Fire Use. The fires are currently smoldering and creeping slowly through dead and downed material onthe ground.

HD Mountains meetings scheduled

The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are opening a controversial proposal for new natural gas wells to public comment. The agencies will host eight public involvement meeting on the Northern San Juan Basin Coalbed Methane Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The touchiest element of the EIS is proposed drilling in the HD Mountains, a roadless area southeast of Bayfield.

The Northern San Juan Basin Coalbed Methane Draft Environmental Impact Statement studies a proposal by the companies BP America, Pure Resources, XTO Energy, Elmridge Resources, Petrox Resources and Exok to develop approximately 300 new coalbed methane wells in the region. More than 100 of these wells would be located in the HDs. Conservationists and residents charge that these gas wells would threaten stands of old-growth ponderosa pine, abundant wildlife and the very health and safety of their homes and families. The proposal would also put 60 miles of new roads into a designated roadless area.

The first meeting will be a public hearing on July 14 from 6-10 p.m. at the Bayfield High School. Additional informational meetings will take place:

•July 19 from 4-7 p.m. at the San Juan Public Lands Center in Durango

•July 20 from 4-7 p.m. at the Archuleta County Fairgrounds in Pagosa Springs

•July 21 from 4-7 p.m. at the Bayfield High School

•July 28 from 4-7 p.m. at the Able Atencio Community Room in Ignacio

Additional public meetings are also planned for August. For more information on the meetings or the draft EIS, contact the San Juan Public Lands Center at 247-4874.

compiled by Will Sands





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