Habitat Stamp takes effect

New fees for recreation will be popping up in La Plata County in the new year. The Colorado Division of Wildlife’s Colorado Wildlife Habitat Stamp is now in effect, and new costs for using state wildlife areas come with it.

The stamp is expected to raise millions of much-needed dollars for the lagging Colorado Division of Wildlife. On the one hand, it would increase resident fishing (from $20 to $25) and hunting license fees (from $20 to $30) for the first time since 1992. On the other, it would require people who hunt, fish or recreate in a state wildlife area to carry a $10 Colorado Wildlife Habitat Stamp. The stamps are free to people under the age of 19 and older than 65.

The concept was developed by concerned hunters, anglers and conservation organizations, and supported by the Colorado State Legislature. “This program was created by the people in Colorado who care enough about our wildlife to preserve it into the future,” said Tim Holeman, of the DOW. “This grassroots approach will not only help ensure the success of the program, but also create a new chapter in Colorado’s conservation story where the nonhunting and nonfishing public is coming forward and participating in protecting the future of wildlife.”

The DOW stressed that it wants the stamp program to go beyond just hunters and anglers. “We envision that stamps will also be purchased by those in the public who are concerned about, or just enjoy, the state’s wildlife,” Holema said. “Sportsmen have been paying the majority of the tab when it comes to protecting wildlife since the conservation movement began.”

The stamp will have substantial local repercussions. La Plata County is home to five separate state wildlife areas. They are: the Durango State Fishing Unit on the Animas; Haviland Lake, 18 miles north of Durango; Pastorius Reservoir, 10 miles southeast of town; Bodo State Wildlife Area, a 7,549-acre area 1 mile south of Durango; and Perins Peak State Wildlife Area, 6,900 acres immediately west of town.

Perins Peak, in particular, draws much more than traditional “sportsmen.” The area contains many popular multiple-use trails, including the access road to the Dry Fork Loop. However, the road was legally deemed La Plata County property last fall, and acessing the popular trail will not require a stamp as a result.

Stamps can be bought wherever hunting or fishing licenses are sold, as well as on the DOW’s website. Because the Habitat Stamp is not an actual stamp, but rather an authorization to visit state wildlife areas, the Colorado Wildlife Heritage Foundation is issuing an annual “commemorative” stamp for $10 beginning Jan. 26.

Discovery Museum moves ahead

Work on the Durango Discovery Museum is forging ahead. Most visibly, the historic 1893 Durango Power House at the corner of Main and Camino del Rio shed its skin revealing the building’s original brick exterior.

“How inspiring to see this beautiful brick building come back to life,” said Jill Seyfarth, President of the Durango Discovery Museum Board of Directors. “The architectural style of the building and the extraordinary craftsmanship reflect the innovative and visionary founders of our community and helped put Durango on the map. The building has left a great legacy for the Durango Discovery Museum.”

Anne Barney, public relations director for the Durango Area Tourism Office and mother of three, is excited about the work being done on the Power House. “This is a major step forward in bringing us closer to the opening of the Durango Discovery Museum. As a mother, I am thrilled about the prospect of a science and energy museum in our own back yard, and as someone promoting tourism in our area, I see the Durango Discovery Museum as a springboard for family activities for visitors.”

Other work to be completed in the current construction phase includes removing stucco from the rest of the building, extensive masonry repair, installing historically accurate windows and man doors, repairing the east tower windows and shingled siding, rebuilding the west tower top and re-roofing the entire tower. Funding for the work totaling $402,250 was

provided through two grants from the State Historical Fund with matching funds from the City of Durango, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, and individual and corporate contributions.

For more information on the Durango Discovery Museum, go to www.durangodiscovery.org.

Wildfire season returns to Colorado

With a wildfire raging in the Spanish Peaks region of the state and extremely dry conditions in others, an open fire ban has returned to Colorado and La Plata County. Earlier this week, Gov. Bill Owens initiated a ban on open burning on all state lands below 8,000 feet. The Governor also urged county commissioners to carefully assess the situation in their counties and determine what actions may be necessary in their jurisdictions.

“Wildfire knows no season,” Owns said Monday. “The events of the last 48 hours have demonstrated that the danger of wildfire in many Colorado counties is high, even approaching the extreme end of the scale. We have seen once again that a single careless act can have tragic consequences.”

At press time, the Mauricio Canyon fire in south central Colorado had been cut back to 4,500 acres and was 40 percent contained. “Although we caught a break today, the warm, windy weather is expected to return. The fire danger remains very high in many Colorado counties and conditions are abnormally dry,” Owens said.

The governor also signed an executive order declaring a Disaster Emergency and making up to $600,000 in state funds available to those counties to help defray the costs of fighting the Mauricio Canyon Fire. Since 2002, the state has spent more than $33 million on wildfire prevention and suppression.

Owens concluded with a plea to Coloradans to be careful with fire. “Take this situation very seriously. About half of all wildfires are human caused. As these dry conditions persist, think of the terrible consequences that can result from just one careless act. Our watchword must be vigilance.”

Fort Lewis goes all out for MLK

In observance of the 20th annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Fort Lewis College will host a jubilee at 4 p.m. Mon., Jan. 16, in the McPherson Chapel on campus.

This year’s theme is “In the Spirit of Unity and Service: Remember! Celebrate! Act!” said event organizer Bill Bolden, assistant vice president for student affairs.

As in past years, the program will feature music, readings and communal singing of “freedom songs.” For those wanting to participate in a gospel chorale, a teaching rehearsal will begin at 3 p.m. and perform at the program.

“Last year, we had about 20 folks come by and learn a couple songs,” said Bolden. “It was really fulfilling and spiritually moving.”

The Martin Luther King Jr. Day Jubilee is open to the public and there is no admission charge.

– compiled by Will Sands