Forest Service cracks down
In response to major growth in
all-terrain vehicle and dirt bike use on public lands, the Forest
Service recently developed a national policy to restrict them.
Interestingly, the San Juan National Forest already has similar
restrictions in place, putting the local forest ahead of the
national curve. However, there is widespread agreement that
enforcement of new and existing standards may be a stumbling
Nationally, the number
of ORV users has climbed dramatically from five million in 1972 to
36 million in 2000. This growth combined with increasing use of
public lands prompted the Forest Service to release a proposal last
week. The proposed rule would require each forest to designate a
system of roads, trails and areas slated for motor vehicle use.
Once the process is complete, ORV use would be confined to
designated roads and trails and cross-country travel would be
assistant manager for the San Juan Public Lands Center, said that
the local forest is a couple steps ahead of this new national
standard. "What they're proposing is actually what we're already
doing on the San Juan National Forest," he said. "The gist of the
proposal is to get a consistent national policy on off-highway
Wilson said that the
measure is needed, based on the huge growth in motorized
recreation. "It's certainly a growing use," he said. "There are a
lot more people out there doing it these days. But we do consider
it an acceptable use for certain areas of the forest."
However, there are
doubts that the proposal or the existing San Juan National Forest
rules will actually be effective. Clare Bastabel, Western Slope
coordinator for the Colorado Mountain Club, said that without
enforcement, the regulations are meaningless.
"I think one of the main
issues we have is that the changes will only be beneficial if they
are effectively implemented on the ground," she said. "The Forest
Service has not to our knowledge asked for an increase in funding
to improve on-the-ground management, including
Wilson said that lack of
enforcement is definitely a problem for the San Juan National
Forest. "That's a problem for us, and I think that's across the
board for the Forest Service," he said. "We just don't have that
many law enforcement officers."
The Forest Service will
accept comments on the proposed ORV regulations for the next 60
Smart growth closes in on
A responsible growth initiative came
one large step closer to landing on November's ballot this week. On
Monday, July 12, the Friends of the Animas Valley filed 841
signatures with the Durango City Clerk. If at least 553 of them are
verified as belonging to registered Durango voters, the issue will
be guaranteed a place on the ballot.
If adopted, the
initiative would require the city government to get voter approval
before annexing property into city limits. The provision would
apply only to development greater than 10 residential units or
commercial developments greater than 40,000 square feet. The
initiative would also require developers to provide for the
extension of city infrastructure.
Renee Parsons, president
of Friends of the Animas Valley, commented, "If petitions are
certified, city voters will have an opportunity to decide if they
support the city's urbanization plan that would increase the
population to 40,000."City Clerk Linda Yeager said that she has
started certifying the petitions and will be complete by July 22.
"I'll certify them as either sufficient or inform the committee
that they're insufficient and allow them to cure that
Once certified, the
initiative would go before the Durango City Council, whose members
have the option of adopting the measure outright. Yeager said that
she expects that to have the initiative before the council for its
August 3 meeting.
Parsons said that based
on public comments by council members, she expects the responsible
growth initiative to land on the ballot.
"It was very unfair of
the council to attempt to influence voters against the initiative
before councilors had a chance to hear its merits," she said. "How
can those members of the council now give it an impartial
Fire triggered above Hermosa
Dry lightning apparently triggered a
fire above the Hermosa Cliffs late Tuesday night. On Wednesday,
crews were working to mop up the .75 acre fire and containment was
expected by nightfall. The fire was reported at 10:16 p.m. on
Tuesday night and according to Laurie Robison, Fire Information
Officer, it was too late for crews to get on it.
Meanwhile, the Devil
Mountain fire, a 60-acre blaze located northeast of Chimney Rock,
was completely contained on Wednesday. The fire was believed to be
"The Devil Mountain fire
is 100 percent contained and they have started releasing resources
off that fire," Robison said.
Robison concluded that
until the monsoon season really gets going, the local area will be
prone to fire.
"It kind of looks like
the monsoons are starting to set up, but until they really set in,
we're going to have more dry lightning and that's something were
going to need to take care of," she said.
Durango man charged with
A local man was charged with second
degree murder after an apparent fist fight led to a man's death
last Friday. Law enforcement got involved after receiving a 911
call not long after noon on Friday. Nick Bellino, who lives in the
trailer park on Arroyo Drive, claimed he had been assaulted by
James Lee, a neighbor. When they arrived, Bellino retracted the
claim and was not interested in pressing charges.
Lee claimed that Bellino
had actually attacked him and admitted to retaliating by striking
Bellino in the face and ribs. Officers said that Bellino was
visibly intoxicated but there was no evidence of injury.
At approximately 1:30
p.m., officers again responded to the trailer on Arroyo Drive and
found Bellino unconscious and not breathing. After unsuccessful
attempts to resuscitate Bellino, he was pronounced dead. It is
believed that he died as a result of injuries sustained during the
As a result, James Lee
was booked into the La Plata County jail on the charge of second
degree murder and bail was set at $50,000.
Local PAC gives John Kerry a
A Durango-based political action
committee gave John Kerry a leg up last week. Wild PAC completed
its campaign, Go Wild, Beat Bush, by delivering $30,288.39 to
Kerry. The funds were collected from individuals across the country
with an interest in protecting America's public lands and
"George Bush has the
worst environmental record in presidential history, and we have a
chance to replace him with a conservationist," said Victoria
Simarano, Wild PAC executive director.
"John Kerry is a real leader when it comes to the protection of
America's National Forests, National Monuments, Wilderness areas
and other public lands. He has earned the support of
conservationists across the country, and Wild PAC will do
everything it can to help get him elected."
Wild PAC, a Durango
based organization, is the only political organization in the
country working to elect wilderness and public lands leaders and
one of the nation's largest environmental PACs.
Leadership La Plata selects new
Leadership La Plata, the volunteer
organization designed to educate and train community leaders, has
announced it 2004-2005 class. The selection committee has invited
16 La Plata County residents to take part in this year's
The candidates include:
Kathy Ray Burgess of the First National Bank of Durango; David
Bruzzese of Mercy Medical Center; David Burke of Stone Age, Inc.;
Kim Cobb of the Durango Area Tourism Office; Patrick Cummins of the
Western Governors' Association; Robin Duffy-Wirth of the SunUte
Community Center; Lezlie Mayer of the county department of human
services; Melanie Mazur of the Pine
River Times ; Bruce
Moss of Gateway Reservations; Steve Otter of the Durango Computer
Classroom; Kathleen Poer of Abt Associates; Joelle Riddle of
Planned Parenthood; Cecilia Robbins of the Ignacio Adult Learning
Center; Bill Rock from Durango Mountain Resort; Tim Walsworth of
the United Way; and Erin Youngblood frm Brite Horizons.
-compiled by Will