USFS retiree accused of
A former San Juan National Forest
employee has been charged with conflict of interest as it relates
to drilling in the HD Mountains, east of Bayfield. The HD Mountains
Coalition has called into question the actions of Dick Bell, who
now consults for one of the energy companies with a lease to drill
in the roadless area. The agency denies any wrongdoing, saying the
matter is entirely the employee's responsibility.
The Forest Service is
currently analyzing the environmental validity of natural gas
exploration in the HD Mountains. The companies BP America, Pure
Resources, XTO Energy, Elmridge Resources, Petrox Resources and
Exok have proposed developing approximately 300 new coalbed methane
wells in the region. More than 100 of these wells would be located
in the HD Mountains. Conservationists and residents have charged
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.
Now the HD Mountains
Coalition, a group opposed to the drilling, has accused former
Forest Service employee, Dick Bell, of impropriety. Bell retired
from work with the San Juan National Forest in January of 2003 and
started consulting with Petrox Resources in June of this year. In
late August, the coalition sent a letter to the U.S. Department of
Agriculture saying that the arrangement is a violation of federal
ethics and calling for an investigation of the
president of the coalition, wrote, "Specifically, we believe that
the consulting relationship between former employee Richard Bell
and his current client, Petrox Resources Inc., poses a severe
violation of federal ethics laws."
The issue also arose
during an Aug. 18 public meeting on the HDs. A member of the public
commented, "One of our problems in looking at this process is that
it appears that the Forest Service is very much in bed with
industry. We have people who worked for the Forest Service who are
now lobbying for industry."
Bell was on hand and
replied to the charge, saying, "I was approached by industry and
asked to work to provide surface management activities and advice.
My first reaction was, I can't, but I checked with the personnel
officer to find out what limitations I had on me as a retired
Forest Service employee. I was told I could work on certain types
Ann Bond, spokeswoman
for the San Juan National Forest, said that the ball is entirely in
Bell's court. "It's the responsibility of ex-employees to determine
whether they can consult without violating the rules," she said.
"It's not something the agency gets involved in
Pertussis continues its local
With no new local cases in the last
week and cold temperatures forcing a drop in mosquito numbers, West
Nile Virus appears to be winding down in La Plata County. However,
another deadly disease is stepping in and filling the void. The San
Juan Basin Health Department reports that pertussis (whooping
cough) is continuing to spread in La Plata County.
Definitive numbers are
not currently available, but the Health Department is investigating
10 possible new cases in addition to the nine confirmed cases that
were reported earlier this month.
"The concern is that a
person who has pertussis will infect other people, especially
infants," said Joe Fowler, regional epidemiologist. Pertussis can
be a serious, even life-threatening illness, for babies. As a
result, the Health Department urges anyone experiencing symptoms of
pertussis to contact their doctor as soon as possible.
Early symptoms are
similar to the common cold (stuffy nose, red eyes, sore throat) and
progress to repeated episodes of uncontrolled coughing so severe
that they may result in vomiting, difficulty inhaling (which
produces a whooping sound) or periods of not being able to breathe
"It is important for
people to know that it is very easy to spread this illness and
without treatment people can infect each other for up to three
weeks. Even with medical treatment, a person is still infectious
for five days," Fowler said.
Whooping cough, a
bacterial infection, has been on the rise over the past several
years. Pertussis is most severe in infants and young children, with
a fatality rate of up to 1 percent in infants. The disease can last
six to 10 weeks and passes through close contact with an infected
person. Antibiotics don't shorten the course of disease but
decrease the time when that person is contagious.
Children under 7 years
can receive a pertussis vaccine. There is no immunization for
adults. For information, call 247-5702.
Body of missing hunter
The body of a Grand Junction hunter,
who has been missing since last Saturday, was found late Tuesday
afternoon. The body of 40-year-old Jesse Heath was spotted by
search aircraft in rugged backcountry near Hermosa Creek and only
three-quarters of a mile from the trailhead.
Heath had been missing
since Sept. 18, when he embarked on a day hunting trip from a
trailhead on Junction Creek Road, approximately 18 miles northwest
of Durango. Heath reported that he was lost over his cell phone and
more than two dozen volunteers from the Colorado Mounted Rangers
and La Plata County Search and Rescue participated in an exhaustive
search over three days.
Butch Knowlton, director
of the La Plata County Office of Emergency Management,
commented,"It was a difficult and demanding search in steep and
rugged terrain for our volunteers, who gave their all to this
Knowlton added, "La
Plata County extends its deepest sympathy to the family of Jesse
An autopsy will be
performed by the La Plata County Coroner to determine the cause of
Flower barrels win statewide
The addition of flower barrels to Main
Avenue and other efforts to revitalize downtown Durango have been
given statewide kudos. Last week, the Second Annual Governor's
Awards for Downtown Excellence gave "Durango Blooms" the Colorful
Bob Kunkel, central
business district events and promotion specialist, initiated the
efforts and explained, "The awards look at efforts that are helping
revitalize Colorado's historic downtowns. We were the recipient of
the Colorful Colorado award, which speaks to efforts to bring up
energy and enthusiasm a little bit."
In addition to the 100
flower barrels that were placed along Main, Kunkel said that the
city was honored for the purchase of the downtown stage, the
13-week Music on Main series and the "What's Up Downtown"
"I was really pleased,"
Kunkel said. "I haven't been in the position a year yet and here
we've got a statewide award, and we won the bid to host the
conference next year."
City takes big technological
The City of Durango has taken a
$330,000 step into the age of new technology. The City is currently
in the process of installing a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
computer-based telephone system. Though expensive now, the measure
is expected to save money over the long term.
"This is the biggest
technology project in the City's history," said Information Systems
Manager Eric Pierson.
The project is necessary
because the existing City Hall and Police Department telephone
systems were at capacity and telephones in all City buildings were
nearing replacement age. The new system will link all main City
buildings, most of the smaller buildings, the Durango La Plata
County Airport and Durango Fire Rescue Authority (DFRA).
The cost of the City
buildings' portion is $334,631, the Airport is $45,472 and DFRA is
$32,892. The cost savings anticipated over the next five years is
estimated at $162,000. "This is going to save the City money in the
long run and provide better options for our users," stated City of
Durango's Buyer Karen Herman. "We had an extensive process in
evaluating other systems installed in the area and believe this
system will help us to better serve the community."
Construction relocates Purg
Durango Mountain Resort's continuing
expansion has forced a minor recreational detour. As DMR continues
construction on Engineer Village, the Purgatory Trailhead has been
moved from its current location. It is now located just up U.S.
Highway 550 at Buck's Livery.
Hikers and horseback
riders wishing to access the Purgatory Flats area, Animas River and
Weminuche Wilderness via the Purgatory Trail can still do so from
the parking area at Buck's Livery.However, the old parking area
and trailhead are now gated and closed.
The new trailhead offers
room for parking, and signs have been posted to direct users around
the lake to quickly rejoin the trail. The trailhead will remain in
this location until further notice.
compiled by Will