Local climate change spotlighted

Few dispute that the climate of the San Juan Mountains is undergoing rapid change. The Mountain Studies Institute and Fort Lewis College are hoping to reveal what the local impacts will be as temperatures climb higher in the area surrounding Durango.

The two groups are inviting the public to the “Climate Variability & Change in the San Juan Mountains: A Stakeholder – Scientist Dialogue” conference, which takes place on Oct. 11-12 in the Fort Lewis College Ballroom and on Oct. 13 in Silverton. The conference will explore the impact of climate change on regional natural resources, such as air and water quality, and the impact on economic interests, including ranching, agriculture and tourism. It will also give scientists and local stakeholders the opportunity to meet and discuss the implications of climate change in the San Juans. “The purpose of the conference is to bring together scientists currently, or interested in, conducting research in the San Juans with local stakeholders interested in learning about and/or experiencing climate change impacts,” said Ellen Stein, executive director of the Mountain Studies Institute. “By understanding the impacts on our natural resources and livelihoods, we can determine what the information needs and gaps are to better equip residents to adapt and respond now and in the future.”

Last summer, MSI installed the GLORIA project (Global Research Initiative in Alpine Environments) in Lake City to monitor climate change and its impact on high alpine plant communities. As a next step, the San Juan Mountain Climate Initiative, a stakeholder-driven climate research, outreach and partnership program, will be launched during next week’s conference. Stein explained the rationale behind both concrete steps, saying climate change is real in the San Juans and local residents need to get prepared. “Mountain environments around the world are showing impacts of climate change,” she said. “Changes are apparent in the San Juan Mountains as well. Mean annual temperatures in Silverton have risen almost 2 degrees Celsius in only three decades.”

The San Juan Mountain Climate Initiative will endeavor to bring the science and understanding to the general public.  

“One of Mountain Studies Institute’s purposes in the region is to connect science with people who can use it,” said Stein. “We also want to help broker relationships among communities, scientists and funders. The goal is to communicate scientific information via training and outreach to promote the long-term sustainability of the region.”

“Climate Variability & Change in the San Juan Mountains: A Stakeholder – Scientist Dialogue” kicks off on Wed., Oct. 11, with a 6 p.m. public reception and keynote address in the Fort Lewis College Ballroom. Jonathan Overpeck, director of the Institute for the Study of Planet Earth, will give the talk, “Global Climate Change, the West, and What We Can Do About It.”  On Oct. 12, the conference will focus on the development of the San Juan Mountain Climate Initiative. And on Oct. 13, participants will take a hike and tour of the Swamp Angel study area near Silverton. Registration for the events is free. Visit www.mountainstudies.org/conference or call 387-5161 for details.

Durango breweries take top honors

The 2006 Great American Beer Festival Competition, the largest national beer competition, was good to Durango. Three local breweries beat out stiff competition and took home medals at the annual festival that recognizes the most outstanding beers produced in the United States. Ska Brewing, Steamworks Brewing and the Carver Brewing Co. all brought home honors from the festival last weekend.

This year’s competition fielded 2,443 entries from 450 separate breweries throughout the nation. The festival awards gold, silver and bronze medals in 69 categories.

“The Great American Beer Festival is the premier judging event for the craft beer industry,” said Nancy Johnson, festival director. “That’s proof positive that being chosen a winner, no matter if gold, silver or bronze, is truly an accomplishment.”

Durango rose to the challenge this year. Ska Brewing received a silver medal in the Sweet Stout category for its Steel Toe Stout and a bronze in the English-Style Summer Ale category for its True Blonde Ale. Steamworks won gold in the American-Style Amber Lager category with its Steam Engine Steam Lager. And Carvers took the silver medal in the Bohemian-Style Pilsener category with its La Plata Pilsener.

Erik Maxson, head brewer at Carvers, said that it was good weekend for beer in Durango. “It’s incredible that a town of this size can face the entire country and have three breweries walk away with four medals,” he said. “With the time, effort, passion and the overall blood sweat and tears that each of these breweries put in, it’s nice to have some of that returned to us, that validation, if you will.”

According to Jeff Ogden, head brewer at Ska, the medals were the finishing touch on a successful year for Ska, which included other honors and the brewery’s largest volume increase ever. “These two latest medals top the list of 12 national awards that we have garnered for our beers in 2006,” he said.

For Carvers, this year’s festival marked the second time the La Plata Pilsener walked away with a medal. “It just blows you away,” Maxson said. “It says you’re one of the top three brewers in the country for that particular style of beer. It’s allows the rest of the country to glimpse what the people who live in Durango already know. We’re doing it right and we’re consistently doing it right.”

Police target red-light running

The Durango Police Department is seeing red. Each year, the worst accidents in the City of Durango happen at major intersections with drivers traveling at excessive speeds and disregarding red lights contributing to the danger. To better protect the public from accidents, the Durango Police Department will begin selectively targeting areas within the city for increased enforcement.

Chief of Police Al Bell attributes a rising rate of traffic violations in Durango to an increased volume of traffic at busy intersections and hurried, distracted motorists. “We know it is a problem, and it’s getting worse,” Bell said. “We need better enforcement to be proactive in deterring serious accidents and fatalities.”

So far in 2006, Durango Police have reported 704 traffic accidents. “Everyone who drives along Camino del Rio or Highway 550/160 has seen the danger, and it’s really a disaster waiting to happen,” Bell said.

Drivers are cautioned to abide by the speed limits and to stop for red lights. Running a red light (entering the intersection when the light is red) carries an automatic court appearance and the potential for a $1,000 fine and four points against your license.

Pertussis rolls back into the region

A familiar but unwelcome guest is back in Durango. This week, four area youths tested positive for pertussis (whooping cough), and the San Juan Basin Health Department is encouraging parents to take precautions.

The students attend Durango High School, Escalante Middle School and Sunnyside Elementary, and cases have shown up in Cortez and Ignacio in the last month. Whooping cough is a bacterial infection with symptoms including repeated episodes of uncontrolled coughing so severe that they result in vomiting, difficulty inhaling (which produces a whooping sound) or periods of not being able to breathe at all. Pertussis is most severe in infants and young children, with a fatality rate of up to 1 percent in infants. The disease lasts six to10 weeks, and passes person to person through close contact with an infected person.  

Infants are immunized for pertussis at 2, 4 and 6 months of age, with boosters down the line. Immunity gradually decreases, leaving older children and adults susceptible to the disease. As a result, San Juan Basin Health is encouraging parents to have their children over the age of 10 years vaccinated against whooping cough. For more information on pertussis, visit: www.cdc.gov/nip/diseases/pertussis/faqs.htm.

– compiled by Will Sands


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