Colorado readies for bird flu

Colorado remains free of bird flu. In a recent study, Division of Wildlife officials collected more than 3,000 blood samples from Canada geese around the state as part of their effort to monitor for the presence of the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza virus. Preliminary results from testing revealed no detection of the H5N1 strain, further supporting the findings elsewhere that H5N1 has not yet spread to North America. “These results should help to assure Coloradoans that our resident geese presently do not harbor the H5N1 strain and only a small percentage carry the low pathogenic avian influenza viruses that occur naturally,” said Laurie Baeten, wildlife veterinarian for the DOW. “Our pilot goose-testing program shows that we also should be able to detect the H5N1 strain in Colorado through similar survey efforts if that strain ever makes its way to North America and becomes prevalent.” There are more than 100 strains of avian influenza, called low-pathogenic avian influenza, that occur naturally and do not cause serious illness in birds. These low-pathogenic strains are known to be present in wild birds worldwide and do not pose a health risk to humans or poultry. The goose testing did detect evidence of a low-pathogenic strain of avian influenza in a few of the geese sampled. All three positive birds were from Walden Pond, in Boulder.

The goose testing project is part of the State of Colorado’s more comprehensive program, being conducted in cooperation with other state and federal agencies, to establish an early detection program for the H5N1 strain in case infected wild birds reach the United States or Colorado through migratory paths. “Our primary focus is on monitoring the potential interaction of local flocks that may co-mingle with migratory birds coming out of Alaska,” said Baeten.

Farrakhan visits the Navajo Nation

The leader of the Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan, was out and about in the Four Corners last week. Farrakhan visited as an outreach to the Navajo Nation and offered the tribe his assistance in the areas of economics, culture, social justice, moral development and political advancement.

Farrakhan said he came to the Navajo Nation “to see, listen and learn” and met with Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley and addressed the Navajo Nation Council.

“I’m not a stranger,” Farrakhan said to the council last Tuesday. “I am your brother. I am your kith. I am your kin, and I’ve come to establish that relationship with the greatest indigenous people in America, the Navajo Nation. But from this, we must unite the whole indigenous people to address the challenges we face as a people.”

Farrakhan added the indigenous people of the world are related as families despite huge geographical distances. “You have indigenous people who look just like you in Mongolia,” he said. “You have people who look just like you in parts of Asia, Central America, South America, the Caribbean. You are a great people and you need to think more of contacting all the members of your family.”

Farrakhan arrived at the invitation of President Shirley, who met him for the first time in Phoenix last March.

“At that time he invited me to come and put my foot down on sacred land on the Navajo Nation,” Farrakhan said.

Farrakhan explained that his desire to see the black and indigenous people unite and form bonds is not new but was passed to him from his own teacher and spiritual guide, Elijah Muhammad.

“Here we are today with common problems and, really, a common destiny,” he said.

Shirley explained that he is interested in lifting up the Navajo people. His invitation to Farrakhan was one many steps toward doing that.

“If we’re going to lift up the Navajo Nation, we’re going to need help big time,” President Shirley said. “I’m continuing to reach out. I’m losing people every day. I lost five elderly the other day to drunk driving. I’m reaching out to kin wherever I can.”

Farrakhan has always been a controversial figure. He joined the Nation of Islam in 1955 and became minister of the Harlem Temple after Malcolm X broke with the religious group. In 1977, Farrakhan founded a reorganized Nation of Islam. Often accused of being anti-Semitic and anti-white, Farrakhan has

been outspoken in his criticism of white Americans while emphasizing African-American self-determination. He was one of the principle organizers of 1995’s Million Man March on Washington, D.C.

FLC summits Mount Kilimanjaro

Fort Lewis College is continuing its march to the top of the world. Nine of the 10 members of a Fort Lewis College climbing expedition reached the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro last week.

Mount Kilimanjaro is an extinct volcano located in Tanzania. At an elevation of 19,563 feet, it is Africa’s highest peak. The July 19 achievement marks the third highest-peak-on-a-continent climb completed by the college’s Outdoor Pursuits program since 2003. Past expeditions also conquered Mount Denali in Alaska and Aconcagua in South America. On July 5 of this year, the Outdoor Pursuits team climbed Mt. Elbrus, an 18,510 foot peak in Russia and Europe’s highest peak, with eight of the 10 members reaching the summit.

Expedition leader and Outdoor Pursuits Coordinator Chris Nute checked in by satellite phone following the end of the Kilimanjaro climb. He was able to convey only a brief message before losing phone service.

This year’s expedition team has been training since last fall for the ascents of Elbrus and Kilimanjaro. Final team members were selected in February from a group of 36 initial applicants, and every team member completed extensive conditioning and strength training. The team also spent a month practicing snow and glacier climbing, learning team rope travel, and ice axe and rescue skills.

In addition to Nute, members of the expedition include: Fort Lewis graduate and veteran of the Denali and Aconcagua expeditions, Josh Kling; and Fort Lewis students Sarah Baskins (assistant team leader), Catherine Baskins, Stephanie Euwema, Tricia Harutun, Ben Johnson, Tony Miles, Kylie Nulty and Allen Ottman.

Following the ascent, the team stayed in Africa and conducted a service project before traveling to Moshi and enjoying a safari in the Lake Manyara and Serengeti National Park.

Lightning hammers the region

Lightning continued to hammer Southwest Colorado early this week. On Tuesday afternoon, lightning triggered 14 fires in the region, but fire fighters appeared to have the upper hand. All the new fires were contained at one-quarter acre or less, except for two. The Weaver 2 Fire, in the Ute Mountain Tribal Park, was circled with retardant and was about 5 acres in size, and the 318 Fire on Southern Ute land, south of Durango, was also about 5 acres.

The 318 Fire is located about three-quarters of a mile east of Bondad. Resources on site include four engines, two water tenders and the 20-person Mescalero Crew that had been mopping up this past weekend’s Wolf Point fire.

As an example of the intensity of lightning in the region, fire managers documented 3,700 strikes last Friday. As a result of the violent storm, they also received reports of 17 new fires.

– compiled by Will Sands