Missionary Ridge logging
The proposed Missionary Ridge Timber
Sale went away last Friday. San Juan National Forest Supervisor
Mark Stiles withdrew approval of the sale which would have allowed
salvage logging of 13.4 million board feet of dead and dying timber
on approximately 3,388 acres northwest of Durango. The decision
followed a successful legal challenge of the sale by Colorado
On Jan. 30, a federal
judge agreed with the suit that the Forest Service had not
adequately mitigated impacts to wildlife.
Colorado Wild's suit
also sought to prevent additional water quality impacts in the
watershed of three communities.
Jeff Berman, executive
director of Colorado Wild, commented, "The overwhelming scientific
consensus is that post-fire logging only worsens the risk of
landslides, flooding and erosion, bringing even more water quality
impacts. If the Missionary Ridge timber sale had gone forward, we
could have been saddled with more years of erosion like we had in
2002, but now it appears to have stabilized."
According to Geoff
Hickcox, attorney for Colorado Wild, the Forest Service also failed
to adequately study impacts from new roads and logging on steep
slopes. "The Forest Service's proposed road construction and
reconstruction, as well as the proposed logging in high-erosion
areas, was irresponsible and ultimately contributed to the demise
of this proposed action."Berman concluded that he hoped the
withdrawal will send a message that old-style logging is no longer
appropriate. "This high-altitude logging won't do anything to
protect communities from forest fire all the while harming water
quality, recreation opportunities and wildlife habitat, usually at
The San Juan National
Forest was unavailable for comment.
LPEA opposes green power
The La Plata Electric Association's
board of directors voted to oppose a statewide renewable energy
initiative Monday. In addition to going on the record against
Amendment 37, the electrical co-op appropriated $3,000 to fund
advertising against the measure.
If Amendment 37 passes
this November, utility suppliers, who serve 40,000 customers or
more, would be required to provide at least 10 percent of power
from renewable sources. These sources include solar, wind,
geothermal, biomass-based power and small hydroelectric plants. The
companies would have until 2015 to come into compliance. Currently,
only about 2 percent of Colorado's power comes from renewable
On Monday, the LPEA
board voted to oppose the amendment saying that it was poorly
crafted and that consumers could face increased costs because of
David Waller, LPEA
spokesman, commented, "The amendment leaves too many unanswered
questions. It creates an extra layer of regulation and bureaucracy.
We don't feel we need it because we have our own green power
program that is growing. We have goals to grow it significantly
more than it is now. It will cause rates to go up for our members,
despite what it says."
Waller added that
Monday's decision was not a vote against renewable energy. "We want
to stress that this does not in any way mean that we're opposed to
renewable energy," he said. "We've had our own program for four
years, and we've worked with local environmental groups to improve
it. This initiative is just not the way to grow our renewable
Prior to Monday's vote,
Mark Stetz, vice-chair of the Southwest Colorado Renewable Energy
Society, gave a presentation to the board on why it should support
Amendment 37. Stetz noted that in the worst-case scenario,
consumers rates would go up by 25 cents per month. He added that
with fossil fuels continuing to diminish, the measure would more
likely be a cost savings.
"It's rather frustrating
that they're worried about a worst-case scenario increase of less
than 1 percent and arguing for fiscal responsibility when Tri-State
(LPEA's major energy supplier) raised rates 40 percent between 2000
and 2005," Stetz said.
LPEA's contribution of
$3,000 went to the Colorado Rural Electric Association, which is
trying raise $50,000 for advertising opposing Amendment
City considers partnering in
Durango City Council members sat down
Monday and considered the future in which the Animas-La Plata
project could supply some of Durango's drinking water. As the city
searched for additional water storage to meet current and future
needs, two options arose acquiring storage rights in A-LP or
building a new reservoir in Horse Gulch, the popular recreation
area east of town.
"We really don't have
adequate storage now for our present population," said Jack Rogers,
public works director. "We need additional storage to maintain good
water service to our existing population. The Animas-La Plata
project is one potential place where we could store some water and
a new reservoir in Horse Gulch is another option."
On Monday, the council
reviewed a model prepared by the city's consultants that details
future need. The council sent the consultants back to the drawing
board, asking them to prepare a new model based on a smaller future
population that practiced widespread conservation. The council will
consider the revised model before settling on any
In the meantime, the
City has been offered the option of being the operator of the A-LP
project when it comes on line, likely in exchange for storage.
Rogers noted that the option remains but no decisions have been
Containment expected on Well
Firefighters continue to get the upper
hand on the Well Fire, which started burning in southwestern La
Plata County last Sunday. The fire, located near Red Mesa, was
expected to be fully contained as of Thursday, Sept. 2.
The containment came
largely thanks to the existence of a fuel break, a treatment
designed to stop or slow down future fires. The Forest Service
reported that the Well Fire could have grown much larger than 1,200
acres if the Bureau of Indian Affairs hadn't recognized they had a
problem with dense, overgrown forests in the area and built the
fuel break in 2002.
"We have a lot of
lightning strikes in this area," said Forest Service prescribed
fire/fuels specialist Gerry George, "and we knew it was a matter of
when, not if."
Incident Commander Ron
Klatt said that when the fire hit the fuel break, it ran out of
flammable material and lost its energy. The fuel break combined
with clouds, cooler weather and a full workforce allowed
firefighters to reach 80 percent containment on the morning of
Sept. 1. Total control of the fire was expected by the evening of
Local West Nile cases now up to
A total of five human cases of West
Nile Virus have now been diagnosed in La Plata County. In the last
week, a Durango woman in her early 40s, a woman in her early 60s
from southeast La Plata County, a Durango woman in her 70s and a
man in his 50s that was working in the area all tested positive.
This brings the total number of human West Nile infections
diagnosed in La Plata County this summer to five.
spokeswoman for the San Juan Basin Health Department, commented,
"We're not sure what remains to be seen for the rest of the season,
but we know West Nile virus is present in mosquitoes and that
people are being infected. We encourage people protect themselves
against mosquito bites."
The San Juan Basin
Health Department continues to encourage people to limit exposure
to mosquito bites to avoid infection. Their recommendations include
limiting outdoor activities during dawn and dusk hours, using
insect repellent containing the chemical DEET and wearing long
sleeves and long pants when outdoors.
Last year, La Plata
County reported 13 West Nile cases.
Woman arrested in park
Crazy crime struck at Mesa Verde
National Park last Thursday when a domestic dispute went bad at the
Morefield Campground. Law enforcement rangers responded at 10 a.m.
after a party reported that an agitated 40-year-old woman in
possession of a loaded firearm rammed their vehicle with her red
sedan. She then left the campground and drove southbound on the
main park road.
The vehicle and suspect
were subsequently found approximately 9 miles from the park
entrance, and a tense negotiation at gun point ensued. The woman
was eventually subdued and taken into custody.
Acting Chief Ranger
Jessie Farias said, "Unfortunately, these types of incidents do
happen in national parks. However, visitors should understand this
is not the norm. We have very few law enforcement incidents like
this at Mesa Verde National Park. "
In a subsequent
evaluation at Mercy Medical Center, the suspect tested positive for
methamphetamine use and is currently in custody at the La Plata
County Jail and facing four felony charges.
compiled by Will