Lake Nighthorse signed into existence

It's official. The giant construction project just south of downtown Durango is known as Lake Nighthorse. This week, President Bush signed into law a bill that names the Animas-La Plata Project's most vital component Lake Nighthorse.

U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M. introduced legislation in early June to name the reservoir after friend and fellow congressman, Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., of Ignacio, who is retiring. As a result of Bush's signature, Ridges Basin Reservoir, which is currently being bulldozed into existence above Bodo Park, is now Lake Nighthorse. Domenici is chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and said the bill is a tribute to Campbell. "It is fitting that the Ridges Basin Reservoir, which was created pursuant to legislation introduced and shepherded through Congress by Sen. Campbell, bears his name," he said.

After the name was authorized this week, Domenici commented, "I'm very pleased that President Bush has signed this bill into law as a way to honor Senator Campbell. Renaming this lake after him is a fitting tribute to his record of public service,"

Campbell announced his retirement from the Senate earlier this year and is currently being investigated by the Department of Justice for alleged kickbacks and improprieties, a fact that was not mentioned by Domenici.

Domenici also neglected to mention that not only does "Lake Nighthorse" not currently exist, but the Bureau of Reclamation has yet to obtain a decreed water right to divert Animas River water, pump it upstream and fill Ridges Basin Reservoir.

Instead, a statement reads, "The lake near Durango was created under the Colorado Ute Indian Water Settlement Act of 1988."

Forest Service busts rogue outfitter

The Forest Service came down hard on a hunting outfitter last week, notifying Tom Bertges, of Fort Myers, Fla.,that he has no authorization to occupy National Forest lands and must remove his commercial hunting camp from Missionary Ridge. The notice stemmed from an investigation that revealed a fraudulent outfitter permit along with animal abuse. Columbine Ranger Districtofficialsoriginally investigated Bertges' camp on Sept.22 after hearing reports of animal abuse. After visiting the site, the officials issued a Notice of Noncompliance, charging that the outfitter-guide permit had been violated. The notice was not issued to Bertges, but to Seven Mazzone of Cody, Wyo., whose permit they believed Bertges was operating under. It was later discovered thatMazzonehadactually soldhis business to Bertges, effectively terminating the outfitter permit.

"When the change in ownership of the business occurred, the permit terminated on its own terms," said Pauline Ellis, Columbine District ranger. "Since the permit is no longer in effect, there is no valid authorization for either Bertges or Mazzone to guide on Missionary Ridge."

Following a separate investigation, La Plata County Animal Control served Bertges with a summons for three counts of cruelty to animals last weekend. The charges included hauling animals in an unsafe manner, not providing care for a dying mule for three days, and not providing food and care to a severely underweight horse.

Meanwhile, Colorado Division of Wildlife officials are reporting a successful hunting season thus far. Early estimates show an elk harvest during the first rifle season that was better than last year's. The first rifle season was particularly strong in the San Juan Basin, according to DOW biologist Scott Wait.

"The first season was good down here," he said. "Lots of bulls were harvested and there have been some good ones. It is indicative of the less than average bull harvest locally last year and the carryover to this year."

Fort Lewis among the Best in West'

For the second year in a row, the prestigious Princeton Review has ranked Fort Lewis College among one of the 134 best colleges and universities in the western United States.

"It is a great honor to be included in the list," said Fort Lewis College President Brad Bartel. "As one of only 20 public liberal arts colleges in the United States, we are driven to provide the finest quality education to our undergraduate students."

Fort Lewis College was recognized with only eight other Colorado colleges and universities, including Colorado College, Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University, United States Air Force Academy, University of Colorado-Boulder, University of Colorado-Denver, University of Denver and University of Northern Colorado.

Fort Lewis College Director of Admission Gretchen Foster said that Fort Lewis is in good company and explained why the school was selected.

"Fort Lewis College has been recognized because it is a public liberal arts college with a very diverse student body, has a great geographical location, and is supported by Durango, which is an ideal college town," she said. "Who wouldn't want to go to school on the Western Slope of the Rockies?"

The Princeton Review is a top resource for prospective students who are shopping for colleges.

"The Princeton Review is one of the most reputable guides for potential students and parents looking for guidance about selection of quality institutions," Bartel said."Fort Lewis College is proud of the designation as one of the Best in the West.'"

High school considers closed campus

Durango High School is currently debating whether students should be required to stay on campus all day. The 9-R School District is currently recruiting community volunteers to study the feasibility of a closed DHS campus.

Prior to the beginning of the recent $23 million construction program, the DHS campus and cafeteria facilities were too small to keep all students on campus during the lunch hour. Now with the expanded facilities, the high school has the capacity to keep all students on campus all day. As a result the school is studying whether closing the campus is an appropriate step.

"In 2002, when the district asked voters to approve the $84.5 million bond referendum, parents consistently asked whether the high school improvements would provide enough room to close campus," said 9-R Spokeswoman Deborah Uroda.

Uroda added that with construction nearly complete, the issue has resurfaced. "Now that construction is nearing completion, a group of DHS parents asked Principal Greg Spradling to engage the community in a discussion about closing campus, and that's what we're doing," she said.

Uroda explained that proponents say that closing campus will address safety, truancy and other discipline issues. Opponents argue that closing campus will require more staff power and resources than currently available to monitor students to ensure they stay on campus.

9-R is currently assembling a task force to study the issue. In addition to DHS teachers, students, administrators, parents, campus neighbors and area businesses, the school district is seeking volunteer community members. Interested volunteers should be willing to work cooperatively with a group of stakeholders and commit to five or six two-hour meetings between December 2004 and March 2005. Applications are available by calling 259-1630, Ext. 2300.

compiled by Will Sands





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