HDs drilling opened to public input

The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have opened a controversial proposal for new natural gas wells to public comment. Next Wednesday, the public will have its only opportunity to make comments in person on a plan that includes gas 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 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.

On Wednesday, July 14, from 6 to 10 p.m. a public hearing will take place at the Bayfield High School. Though there will be other information sessions on the proposal, this will be the only hearing where the Forest Service will record oral comments. Sign-in for those wishing to speak will be from 5:30 to 6 p.m. Comments will also be accepted in writing through Sept. 13.

Mark Pearson, executive director of San Juan Citizens' Alliance, encouraged people with concerns to attend. "This is the one and only public hearing," he said. "It's the only chance for your comments to be formally recorded other than writing a letter."

Pearson added that the agencies desperately need the public's input on drilling in the HDs.

"I think the Forest Service is honestly concerned about the impacts of this project, and they really want a better solution than they have come up with on their own," he said. "They are desperately seeking our help."

He concluded that now is the time to speak up about the potentially damaging proposal. "This might very well be the last chance for the HDs, so we can't stay home and sit on our hands," he said.

For information, go to www.nsjb-eis.org or call 385-1304.

Immigrant safety zone' created

Efforts to make Durango a "safety zone" for immigrants have paid off. Last Tuesday, the Durango City Council unanimously adopted a resolution that eases relations between local law enforcement and legal and illegal immigrants.

Los Compa`F1eros, a local immigrant-advocacy group, had asked the Durango City Council to adopt a resolution declaring the city a safety zone for immigrants. The measure was intended to improve civil rights for a portion of the local population by keeping local law enforcement out of immigration enforcement. According to Olivia Donaji-Lopez, program director for Los Compa`F1eros, the resolution would not take the place of state and federal laws. It would merely give local immigrants a measure of comfort when contacting local law enforcement for services or protection.

Council members agreed with this sentiment. "This resolution isn't about throwing the door open to anyone, it's about making sure everyone's treated equally," said Dale Garland.

Council member Virginia Castro agreed that the intent is equal treatment for all members of the community. "This is one step in letting people know we respect and honor their contributions," she said. "If they are a witness to a crime and come forth, it will not endanger their status."

Mayor Joe Colgan concluded that he sensed a majority of community support for the safety zone resolution. "The city should remain a place where people are treated equally and with respect," he said.

Hard Rock takes off this weekend

This weekend, runners will face the ultimate challenge in the San Juan Mountains north of Durango. From July 9-11, the annual Hardrock Hundred Endurance Run will take place in the mountains above Silverton, Ouray and Telluride. Runners, including Durangoans Chris Nute, Keith Baker and Odin Christensen, will compete at an average elevation of 11,000 feet and endure more than 33,000 feet of elevation gain and loss in the 100-mile foot race.

The 2004 Hardrock Hundred will be run in a clockwise direction beginning and ending in Silverton. Race officials would like the public to be aware that runners and support crews will be on the following trails and roads at the listed times:

  • July 9 from 5 a.m.-noon Putnam Basin/Ice Lake Trail/Grant Swamp Pass
  • July 9 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Ophir Pass/Oscars Pass/Bear Creek Trail
  • July 9 from noon-11 p.m. Jud Wiebe Trail/Virginius Pass/Governor Basin/ Camp Bird Road
  • July 9-10 from 4 p.m.-6 a.m. Ouray/Bear Creek National Trail 241/Engineer Pass
  • July 9-10 from 8 p.m.-2 p.m. American Basin Trail/Handies Peak/Boulder Gulch Trail/Cinnamon Pass/Cottonwood Creek
  • July 9-10 from 11 p.m.-10 p.m. Cataract Gulch/Pole Creek/Continental Divide Trail
  • July 10-11 4 a.m.-6 a.m. Green Mountain/Shenandoah Mine Trail/Dives/Little Giant Pass/Arastra Gulch Road

Few fires triggered over holiday

The Fourth of July weekend proved to a be mild one for local fire managers. In spite of volatile weather and numerous people in the backcountry, only five new wildfires occurred in the region over the holiday weekend. The largest grew to 7 acres on July 3 on Southern Ute land. The remaining four were an acre or less, and three of them were located on Ute Mountain Ute lands and one was triggered on San Juan Public Lands. One of the fires was confirmed to have been human-caused, two were lightning-caused, and two undetermined.

Meanwhile, two fires that are being allowed to burn as a benefit to the forest are within control. The Spring Creek Fire is estimated at 135 acres and the Yearling Fire is estimated at 1`BD acres. Both are burning 18 miles northeast of Dolores.

"Both fires continue to move slowly on a north slope in spruce-fir forest," said Kevin Joseph, fire manager. "The fires are still doing an excellent job of cleaning up the forest floor and returning the natural fire process to the ecosystem."

Fire managers also checked up on the 40-acre Middle Fork Fire northwest of Pagosa on July 3 and again on July 5. No smoke or flames were visible either day on the fire that is also being managed for Wildland Fire Use.

A wildfire can be considered for Wildland Fire Use management if it is naturally caused, does not threaten populated areas and there are sufficient firefighting resources readily available. Fire restrictions remain in effect in the lower elevation zone for the San Juan Public Lands and La Plata County.

City extends free parking program

Many locals benefited from free parking in the largest municipal downtown parking lot during the month of June. The program was so successful that the City of Durango has extended the program into the months of July and August.

Known as the "Car Park," the lot is between Seventh and Eighth streets along the east side of Camino Del Rio. It holds up to 220 cars. About 64 percent of the Car Park is filled during normal months. However, in June, the occupancy rate rose beyond 90 percent. The city reported that the lot was used by employees as well as locals doing some hassle-free shopping.

Hope Bleecker, city transit manager, said that the move is a creative way to better utilize existing parking spaces throughout the Central Business District. "We are pleased that the program is successful and have heard a lot of positive feedback," she said.

The move has had a strong side-benefit in opening more short-term parking. Peter Schertz, of Maria's Bookstore, noted, "When all day employees do not park on Main, we see a direct correlation at the cash register and a happier customer."

Donations sought for fire monument

Donations are needed for interpretive signs commemorating the Missionary Ridge and Valley fires. The signs are a partnership between the Society of American Foresters, San Juan Public Lands Center, Colorado Forest Service and La Plata County.

The groups have come up a little short and need an additional $2,500 to pay for the signs. Eventually, the signs will be placed in the new rock wall between the La Plata CountyFairgrounds and the new ball fields. Entitled "Summer of Flames," "Community of Heroes" and "Seasons of Healing," the signs describe conditions leading up to the fire, the response of the community and the regrowth of the forest.

A dedication ceremony is scheduled for July 28 at 11 a.m. at the fairgrounds. Donations of any size may be sent to Society of American Foresters, c/o Colorado State Forest Service, P.O. Box 7233, Durango,81301.



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