Habitat Stamp relaxed at Haviland

A new fee has not hit nearby Haviland Lake, a popular recreation getaway for Durangoans, as hard as first believed. A Colorado Division of Wildlife Habitat Stamp will be required at Haviland only for fishing or on-water recreation.

Last May, Gov. Bill Owens signed legislation requiring all users of Colorado State Wildlife areas to buy a “Colorado Wildlife Habitat Stamp.” The stamp went into effect on Jan. 1 and costs $10 per year, or is included in the price of a hunting or fishing license.

“If you’re going to be on a State Wildlife Area and are between the ages of 19 and 64, you’re going to need a habitat stamp, and if you fish or hunt, you’re going to be buying that stamp anyway,” explained Joe Lewandowski, public information specialist for the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s Southwest Region.

For Durangoans, the new habitat stamp is required in the Perins Peak State Wildlife Area, 6,900 acres including the Dry Fork trailhead just northwest of Durango; at Pastorius Reservoir, located 10 miles southeast of town; and at the Bodo State Wildlife area, a 7,549-acre area 1 mile south of Durango. Haviland Lake, a recreation area 18 miles north of Durango, has also been publicized as being a habitat stamp zone. However, the DOW announced this week that the stamp will be required on a very limited basis.

“All the DOW owns up there is the water,” Lewandowski explained. “If you’re fishing, you’ll have purchased a stamp anyway. Anyone taking a canoe or float out on the water should also have a stamp.”

The DOW has posted signs at all of the state wildlife areas explaining the habitat stamp, and Lewandowski argued that the stamp program has been well publicized, and Colorado residents should know about it. In addition, education will be emphasized during the stamp’s first year, and warnings and explanations will be provided for first-time infractions. Those who blatantly disregard the rule will be ticketed for $68.

“We’re not going to be real heavy handed about the habitat stamp during the first year, except in areas like Perins Peak State Wildlife Area that see a lot of use,” Lewandowski said.

He also stressed that state wildlife areas are unlike public lands. The areas have been set aside as wildlife sanctuaries and were purchased with funds from hunting and fishing licenses. The stamp program is expected to raise approximately $2.3 million per year and will help the DOW and the state’s wildlife as they adapt to these changing times.

“Throughout the state, habitat is being squeezed by development,” Lewandowski said. “The stamp program is a long-term method for securing habitat. All the money must be used for habitat protection.”

Hunters and anglers will automatically purchase the stamp with their new licenses. For hikers, cyclists or equestrians, the stamp is $10 and can be purchased wherever hunting or fishing licenses are sold; by calling (800) 244 5613; or on the Division of Wildlife’s website, www.wildlife.state.co.us.


Dust Bowl could land in New Mexico

Winter may have finally arrived in Southwest Colorado. However, nearby New Mexico is still suffering from a drought some experts are saying is on-par with the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

According to a recent report inThe New Mexican, the Southern Plains region, which includes eastern and southern New Mexico, now suffers from higher temperatures and prolonged lack of rain. Those conditions, plus current ocean temperatures, point to similar weather patterns that sparked the worst drought in the history of the country, according to meteorologists at AccuWeather.com.

“We’re seeing readings of 1 percent humidity in some areas, which is extreme,” Ken Reeves, of AccuWeather.com, told the paper. “Blowing clouds of dust are reducing visibility in places such as Lubbock and Amarillo, Texas, to about a mile or so. To one extent or another, Texas, New Mexico, southeast Colorado, Oklahoma and southwestern Kansas are all experiencing severe weather that is attributable to the remarkable lack of moisture we are seeing.”

Reeves explained that waters in the Atlantic Ocean are exceptionally warm, and those in the Pacific are cooler. This pattern weakens and changes the path of the jet stream that usually takes moisture into the Southern Plains.

Meanwhile, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson plans to submit a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture requesting that all or parts of New Mexico be declared a disaster, enabling farmers and ranchers to apply for low-interest emergency loans.

Mercy hires new financial officer

Mercy Medical Center has tapped a new chief financial officer. George Sprinkel will oversee the hospital’s budget and will focus on financial strategy and efficiency initiatives.

“We’re very pleased to have George on board,” said Mercy Medical Center CEO Kirk Dignum. “He brings valuable health-care-specific financial knowledge and experience to the team and has a solid track record of helping hospitals optimize their financial performance.”Sprinkel relocated to Durango from Wilmington, N.C, where he was the financial officer at the 86-bed Pender Memorial Hospital.

The new Mercy Regional Medical Center is currently under construction in the Three Springs/Grandview area. The 212,000-square-foot, $80-million facility will feature 82 private patient rooms, state-of-the-art technology and amenities such as a healing garden. The new hospital is scheduled to open June 27 of this year.

Man arrested in double stabbing

A man was being held in La Plata County jail earlier this week in connection with a double stabbing that took place Monday night.

Juan Delucio-Mejia was being held on $25,000 bond on a charge of First Degree Assault in the suspected stabbing of his two roommates in the Bluff Canyon Trailer Park, a few miles north of Durango on Florida Road. Elias Ocana, 25, and his cousin, Romero Gonzales, 22, were treated for stab wounds to the abdomen at Mercy Medical Center just before midnight Monday. Gonzales was treated and released, and Ocana was reported to be in fair condition on Tuesday.

Delucio-Mejia allegedly picked up a kitchen knife during an argument over money and stabbed Gonzales and Ocana. The two men were able to get a ride from another park resident to the hospital.

In the home, deputies recovered a knife, but Delucio-Mejia was not there. Information gathered from witnesses eventually led deputies to the West Side Mobile Home Park, on U.S. Highway 160, about a mile west of Durango. At about 2 a.m. Tuesday, they located Delucia-Mejia hiding in a closet in a home there. After resisting arrest, Delucio-Mejia was taken into custody and booked into La Plata County Detention Center.

– compiled by Will Sands and Missy Votel


In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows