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Not exactly Christian conduct

Dear Editors,

The local anti-choice extremists were back at Planned Parenthood again last week, screaming vile epithets and insults at patients, employees, doctors and volunteers. Amazing how people put themselves forth as “good Christians” and then stoop to this very un-Christian conduct. They are just another kind of terrorist, in my opinion.

Please join me in support of Planned Parenthood to help them continue providing and promoting science-based health education, support and health care to all women regardless of wealth, race or religion.

I will be donating $1 to Planned Parenthood of Durango for every anti-choice zealot/demonstrator that shows up at Planned Parenthood’s gates every week. Won’t you join me?

– Patrick Lyon, via email

Never say never

Dear Editors,

Never say never. If you do, sooner or later, you usually find yourself doing that very thing.

I said I would never be a school bus driver. The thought of driving a large vehicle loaded with rambunctious children just didn’t appeal to me. Some people are blessed with a love for that. I felt pretty safe applying the “N” word to my situation.

Then, there was the time I said I would never have anything to do with Social Services. I had heard the horror stories of caseworkers in other areas abusing their power, snatching young children away from their caring families. I wasn’t going to be a part of that, ever.

All that changed when some of my young relatives were taken into protective custody. I would do anything for those kids, but working with Social Services was asking a lot. However, over time, I have come to appreciate the respect and genuine concern for the welfare of my relatives. I have seen for myself how carefully they have walked the tightrope between parental rights and child protection. How I appreciate their gracefulness in preserving both, a difficult task at best.

To make a long story short, we became foster-adopt parents for my young relatives. Our family of four grew to six. We then had two 9-year-olds and two 7-year-olds in our family. We were ready to live “happily ever after.”

We soon learned that “happily ever after” takes some work. The new children brought with them a completely different way of viewing the world. They had a need to be in control of everything and had difficulty trusting other adults. We saw a lot of manipulative behaviors. I4 was amazed at the way they could charm and con people and get them to do just about anything. The children had experienced some major losses in their short life, and we saw and felt the resulting pain, sadness and anger. There was a time when our biological children prayed earnestly for the other children’s mother to be able to take care of them, so they could go home.

Bringing more children into our family has also had its blessings. They have learned a lot in the school of love. It is one thing to agree that it is important to love everyone. But it is entirely different to really live it. (How can I love him when he just tore up my Lego masterpiece…again?) The time spent to work through hard situations has been worthwhile. It has been rewarding to see positive changes in behavior.

Would we do it again? You bet! Over the past nine years, La Plata County Department of Human Services has placed more young ones with us. It was interesting to see how different children, of different ages, from different background situations had the same initial behaviors. They had the same needs of love, consistency and security. Once again, we saw behaviors normalize. They, too, began to fit in with our family. We never knew for sure how long they would stay with us, but when things worked out for them to return home, we rejoiced with them for that gift of a second chance. When they weren’t able to be placed with their birth family, we were given the chance to adopt them.

We are currently a family of 10. The children range in ages from 8 to 18. Five of them are adopted and one is a foster child. In spite of all of our differences in backgrounds, experiences, races and personalities, there is a family resemblance that grows out of sharing life together.

I am convinced that adoption has been a God-given opportunity for us. We can’t change the whole world, but we have been given a chance to make a difference in individual lives, one at a time. The blessings have far outweighed the sacrifices. We even bought a school bus! Never say never.

– Cheryl Schmitt, via e-mail

The televised revolution

Dear Editors,

In Southwest Colorado, we’re witnessing a television revolution. After years of service from the Albuquerque market, many locals have recently become fed up with media disenfranchisement from our own state. La Plata County residents have circulated petitions and flooded the opinion pages with letters to the editor, demanding coverage of Colorado political debate and our beloved Denver Broncos.

It seems that something is working, as the Congressional Salazar brothers and Senator Wayne Allard have all proposed legislation that may someday lead to the broadcast of Denver TV on Durango cable. No longer would we be subjected to political campaigns along the lines of 2006’s Heather Wilson-Patricia Madrid scrum, which reached previously unseen levels of displeasure (especially for those of us not registered to vote in New Mexico). No longer would we turn on the TV on Sunday afternoon, expecting to cheer on the Broncos and instead get stuck with the—guh—Dallas Cowboys.

If you ask me, this is all great news, and I hope it goes through. It seems ludicrous that Pagosa Springs is part of the Denver market while Durango is not. But while I look forward to the triumph of common sense in this matter, it won’t affect my daily viewing life in the slightest. I haven’t missed a Broncos game or seen a New Mexico commercial or newscast in years, and I watch a ton of TV. You see, I’ve become what you might call a television expatriate. While I live in Durango and have for many years, I watch TV broadcasts from wherever I like. Today I’m in Manhattan, but last week it was Manhattan Beach, Calif. Before that, I spent virtual time in Phoenix, Las Vegas, Boston and all over the Front Range of Colorado.

Three years ago, I signed up for satellite service from DirecTV, as that company holds the rights to NFL Sunday Ticket. I wanted to ensure that I never missed a game played by my Broncos. Sunday Ticket also let me watch whatever other games I wished, free from the constraints of a programming director. Week after week,

I sidestepped the dumb artificial hurdles I’d been dealing with my whole life and simply watched whatever game I wanted. I’m not going to lie to you, it’s awesome. But it also made me wonder—if I could expand my viewing choices when it came to NFL football, why couldn’t I do the same with local news?

I’ve heard underground rumors for years about Durango residents who’d shifted their satellite TV service addresses to Pagosa in order to tap in to Denver stations. Then my buddy, whom we’ll refer to as” The Catfish,” gave me a firsthand account of this trick. The Catfish is from the Midwest, a big fan of the Chicago Bears and a fellow DirecTV customer. He had “moved” to Pagosa, and it worked. I called customer service, and minutes later I was back at my college address in Fort Collins, while my bills still conveniently came to the Durango home where my satellite dish is mounted. Since the signal is beamed from space, I catch it the same no matter where I “live.”

And from there the tour began. I spent an afternoon in Boston once in order to watch an obscure baseball broadcast. Then it was back to Denver in time for football season. I upgraded to high-definition TV, which required an absurd sequence: I moved back to Durango just in time for the technician to install a new dish and receiver at my house, then high-tailed it to Pagosa as soon as he pulled out of my driveway. When Denver’s Channel 4 refused to show the Broncos in high-def, I set up shop at a friend’s Las Vegas home, but the Pacific time zone tended to make things confusing, almost like virtual jet lag. So then it was off to Phoenix for a spell.

Recently, The Catfish hosted a Super Bowl party and was in a pickle. He’d purchased a new high-def set for the game that featured his Bears, yet was unable to display the game in HD (again, frustrations created by Channel 4 in Denver). The Catfish took a trip to New York City, where the big game came in crystal clear. I spent a little time in L.A. for the same reason, but the time zone thing sent me to the Big Apple myself, where the Catfish and I live across the hall from one another like a virtual Jerry and Kramer, albeit with more enlightened attitudes concerning multiculturalism.

It’s been a long, strange and interesting trip. Watching the local news from cities other than Albuquerque and Denver is fascinating, with Southern California easily the most entertaining—what with the car chases, obsession with any fluctuations in America’s most perfect weather and truckloads of trite celebrity gossip. The biggest burden has been carried by my wife, who was already sick of the endless array of remote controls and cables that litter our living room. Imagine her frustration with turning on the TV and never knowing what city or even time zone she’ll be faced with. Even my wife has come around, however, as our new East Coast viewing schedule can have her finishing American Idol by 8 p.m., which makes it that much easier to turn in at a responsible hour on school nights.

It’s all very logical and convenient, but is it ethical? I am, after all, lying. It’s a little white lie, told to a huge, faceless corporation, to sidestep an obscure rule. I’m not breaking any laws and no one gets hurt. But I’m still concocting an untruth on a daily basis in order to skirt those dumb obstacles that hinder my neighbors. I suppose if our elected representatives can get Durango back in Television Colorado, it will all become a moot point.

– Jason Fisher, global resident

The rush to drill

Dear Editors,

Loss of habitat is the biggest threat to wildlife and hunting today, and hunters understand that habitat means wild, rugged country not overrun with drilling rigs, roads, pipelines and OHV trails. That’s what we have on Colorado’s Roan Plateau. If you’ve ever driven through Colorado on I-70 between Grand Junction and Glenwood Springs, you have likely had your gaze drawn north up the stunning white cliffs that tower 3,000 feet above the highway, to the Roan Plateau.

Every single town and city in Garfield County, where the plateau is located, has expressed support for protecting it from drilling, as have thousands of citizens who wrote or e-mailed the BLM regarding the agency’s development plans. They have been joined by more than 70 area businesses and outfitters who know firsthand the local economic value a pristine plateau provides through tourism and recreation. Citizens and businesses alike want to preserve the natural capital and quality of life that it brings in steady revenues year after year.

Hunting, fishing and wildlife watching generate more than $1 billion per year in Colorado, and hunting on the Roan Plateau alone is worth nearly $4 million annually. Local economies depend on the plateau’s abundant wildlife, scenic intact landscapes and plentiful recreation opportunities to attract visitors and new business alike. Coloradoans have identified four potential wilderness areas (the gold standard for wildlife habitat and hunting grounds) on the plateau’s top, encompassing 48,000 acres. In addition to being a pristine and remote wilderness, the Roan Plateau is one of the top four most biologically diverse areas on Colorado’s West Slope.

Besides, the known oil in Colorado would only supply national demand for a paltry 11 days. The entire Rockies region has known oil supplies sufficient for 100 days of national use, and these projections are contingent on zero demand growth. And fully 88 percent of the public lands in the Rocky Mountains are already open for oil and gas drilling. In Colorado, between 1982 and 2004, oil and gas companies had access to 15.8 million acres of public land – about one-fourth of the entire state. But from 1989 to 2003, they produced enough oil to power the country for one day, and enough gas for less than two weeks. Colorado issued a record 5,904 oil and gas drilling permits in 2006, more than double the permit total from two years earlier.

“Not every place on God’s green earth needs to be open to natural-gas exploration,” says George Orbanek, the conservative publisher of Colorado’s Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. In Wyoming, where the oil and gas boom began first, studies have documented the industry’s impact on wildlife. One study funded by the oil and gas industry found a 46 percent decline in migratory mule deer in a heavily drilled area near Pinedale. Studies also show that more than 2 miles of road per square mile leads to a 50 percent reduction in elk populations.

As Citizens Protecting the Wyoming Range co-founder Gary Amerine said, drilling in the Wyoming Range is replacing current multiple uses on public lands with a single use: “There’s no room for hunting and fishing in an oil and gas field … no room for snowmobiling and camping where oil and gas wells flare and compressors thump 24 hours a day.” So it’s destined to be here in Colorado, if we don’t act today, as outfitter Jeff Mead is learning the hard way.

Mead has been guiding hunters on the West Slope for 15 years. “Elk and deer move out when rigs move in,” says Mead. “Up on the mountain during hunting season, if you sneeze, you can hear the elk running. So, don’t tell me they like eating by a drilling rig.” Mead’s outfitting business has already taken a hit. He usually has 40 hunters signed up for fall trips but had only 18 people lined up during the fall of 2005. He blames the drilling, which he said has decreased the number of elk, deer and bear.

According to a recent report released by the National Wildlife Federation, drilling on federal lands in five Western states (Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Montana and New Mexico) has doubled over the last decade, and the BLM has leased 23 million acres of mule deer habitat, 18 million acres of antelope habitat, 17 million acres of sage grouse habitat, and 13 million acres of elk habitat. How much is enough? This rush to drill is squeezing hunters off of public land and destroying irreplaceable habitat for big game and other species.

We need oil and gas resources to heat our homes and to provide energy for our daily lives, but given the insignificant reserves found in Colorado, it need not come at the expense of the wildlife habitat and hunting opportunities that have been part of Colorado’s and the West’s heritage for generations.

– David A. Lien, via e-mail

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