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Of bicycles and helicopters

Esteemed Editors,

There have been quite a few letters (in both papers) regarding the proposed West Hermosa Wilderness and the potential closure of the Colorado Trail to mountain bikes. Some people just seem to dislike mountain bikers and others seem to genuinely want preservation for this area. There was a very nice letter a couple weeks ago, but in it Big Dad humbly chose to not mention that most of the trail work gets done by volunteer mountain bikers, and if the trail is closed to bikes, who is going to pick up this slack?  Every time I’ve ridden the Indian Trail Ridge of the Colorado Trail I have not seen another soul – hiker, biker, horse or llama (even on a bike this is a hard and long journey), so it seems excessive to me to close this trail to bikes, but I would gladly make the sacrifice to protect this area from the other “mechanized” vehicles, like snowmobiles and helicopters.

In last week’s Quick-n-Dirty section, theTelegraphgave a brief synopsis of the snowmobile/skier conflict brewing in the San Juans, and a few months ago, theTelegraph reported on the Telluride Helitrax proposed expansion onto our side of the range. With the staggering increase in backcountry skiers willing to hike for it, there is simply no reason to allow motorized users. If you drive over Red Mountain Pass on a powder day, you’ll see every parking spot filled, and thanks to the efforts of Debbie and others at backcountryalliance.org, there is a ranger (paid for by fund-raising efforts) posted to keep the snowmobiles out (along with their huge rigs and trailers that take up four to five regular parking spots). And as for Helitrax, the encroachment will be so gradual that we hardly notice until the day when these war-like machines are ubiquitous in our backyard forest.

Those of you who oppose mountain bikes must be downright indignant when it comes to snowmobiles and helicopters.

The vast majority of users are hikers, so is this democracy or hegemony? Heliskiers and snowmobilers refuse to accept (or don’t care) that their noise and pollution travel for miles beyond their immediate location thus inflicting themselves upon the majority of quiet users whose presence is only seen or heard or smelled by a vehicle in the parking lot and some tracks in the snow. Telluride Helitrax will try to ingratiate themselves into the community by helping in backcountry rescue efforts (as well as other PR – they are now underwriting KSUT), but we should not submit to these war machines as a safety measure for such an incredibly4 rare occurrence; besides, anyone who needs to be rescued by a helicopter should not have been there in the first place.

Snowmobilers and heliskiers will lobby hard to gain access to hiker’s terrain, so promote democracy by making your voice heard at http://www.cs.fortlewis.edu/ forestplan. The date for public comment regarding Telluride Helitrax has unfortunately passed, but since they are trying to get a permit to land on the border of the Weminuche Wilderness, and since the BLM’s environmental assessment will allow a re-fueling station in Minnehaha – which is at the core of backcountry skiing access – everyone should continue to speak out. You can read the BLM’s EA at: http: //www.fs.fed.us/r2/sanjuan/news/ 2007/tell-helitrax.shtml, and you can send your comments to richard_speegle@blm.gov.

– Paul Iverson, Mancos


Garbage in, garbage out

Dear Editors,

Thank you for your recent article on the U.S. Olympic Committee and the quality of meat products in the U.S. With depression and emotional disorders at record levels, it is a matter of time before the medical community links the quality of the organisms and their state of health and level of distress upon slaughter with our own dis-ease. In simple terms: garbage in, garbage out. In Durango, we are so fortunate to have healthy alternatives available with locally grown, grass fed, free-range, organic, sustainable ... etc. To allow our children to consume what has historically been available via school lunch is borderline criminal. Thank you for your attention to this.

– Mimi Kasten, Durango


Fencing with compassion

Dear Neighbors, 

Last September, neighbors called us to help rescue a fawn that was caught in their fence. They found her stretched out with a hind leg twisted in the top wire and managed to cut her loose. She dragged her hindquarters as she fled to the nearby oak brush. 

I phoned Dr. Debra Nicholson of Sacred Mountain Wildlife Center. By the time my husband, Roger Brooks, and I and Dr. Nicholson arrived, the fawn could use one hind leg. She ran into the lower field fencing, trying to escape. Roger got a blanket around her, covering her eyes to quiet her. It took two tranquilizer shots to calm her enough to transport her to Dr. Nicholson’s vet clinic in Dolores.

The fawn was x-rayed and miraculously did not have a broken back or leg, the most common injuries seen in fence-trapped deer and elk. However, she had fought the fence so hard that the wire had sawed into the bone. The fawn had most likely tried to jump the fence at daybreak, three or four hours earlier, and had hung trapped and upside down for hours.

Dr. Nicholson cleaned and stitched her leg, and we took her to the deer pen at Sacred Mountain Wildlife Center. Three days later, she had to be euthanized as the damage to the bone stopped all circulation to the leg.

This fawn was lucky compared to hundreds of others that die every year trapped in fences, breaking their backs or legs as they fight to free themselves. Their deaths are prolonged and filled with terror and pain. There are no actual statistics of fence-related deaths, but it is an all-too-common occurrence.

Spring is nearing and this winter’s heavy snowfall will no doubt result in a need for extensive fence replacement and repairs. The trauma of seeing the fawn suffer last fall led us to research wildlife-safe fencing options.

The Division of Wildlife has various recommendations for wildlife-safe fencing, depending on the purpose of the fence. The simplest and least expensive approaches to ensure safe passage for wildlife as well as prevent fence damage by wildlife are:

1. Keep fences no higher than 42 inches.

2. Allow 16 inches from the ground to the bottom wire so young animals can go under fences.

3. Allow 12 inches to 14 inches between the two top wires. Deer and elk jump with their hind legs forward and if the top wires are loose or too closely spaced, their hind legs go between the top two wires and they can become trapped. It is preferable that the top wire be smooth or white-coated wire rather than barbed wire.

Abundant wildlife is a tremendous resource to Montezuma and La Plata counties. If you are interested in further fencing solutions, the Department of Wildlife has brochures available. Sacred Mountain Wildlife Center between Mancos and Dolores also has an informative website www.sacredmountainwildlifecenter.

– A concerned neighbor, Veryl Goodnight, Mancos