Colorado Roadless Rule stirs the pot

The effort to protect some of Colorado’s most pristine places is continuing to mix opinions. The Colorado Department of Natural Resources released the latest edition of its draft Colorado Roadless Rule this week. However, many fear the state is not going far enough to protect Colorado’s best backcountry – including Durango’s Hermosa Creek Roadless Area – from logging, mining, drilling and road building.

Prompted by a Bush Administration attempt to throw out protections in designated roadless areas, the State of Colorado kicked off its rulemaking several years ago. Through several legal ups and downs – including the Obama Administration’s reinstatement of protections in May – the state has pursued its own roadless rule. The latest revision adds 160,000 acres for protection – for a total of 4.2 million acres – and eliminates a provision for temporary roads.

However, conservationists note that more than a half million of Colorado’s wildest public lands would still be vulnerable. Many charge that the proposed Colorado Roadless Rule could allow virtually unlimited logging and road building under the guise of fire risk reduction. Under the rule, the Hermosa Creek Roadless Area, which is the largest in the state, could see logging and new roads on tens of thousands of acres.

“The roadless rule should allow only the logging needed to protect homes, rather than a broad loophole to allow backcountry logging,” said Ryan Bidwell, executive director of the Durango-based Colorado Wild.

This week, Colorado Wild and six other conservation groups issued a statement on why the Colorado Roadless Rule comes up short. In essence, they noted that it will provide far less protection for roadless areas than any other state. “The proposed Colorado rule would allow coal mining in a fragile watershed where no mine exists and no land has been leased for coal mining,” the groups wrote.  “It allows roadbuilding and logging more than a mile into the backcountry, diverting scarce resources away from communities potentially at-risk from wildfire. The proposed rule offers an open-ended invitation for roads to new damsites including private reservoirs. It gives the Forest Service so much leeway that the purpose of the 2001 Rule – to provide clear direction to protect these areas from further ecological damage – is lost.”

Jane Danowitz, director of the Pew Environment Group’s U.S. public lands program, concurred. “Our initial review indicates that Colorado’s draft plan offers even less roadless protection than the controversial proposal introduced last year,” she said. “The Colorado plan would open some of the Rocky Mountain West’s best backcountry and pristine watersheds to mining, oil and gas development, logging and road-building.”

The revisions have outraged more than conservationists. The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, which represents a broad cross-section of Colorado sportsmen and recreationists, also opposes the rule.

“We remain concerned that the draft Colorado roadless rule would fail to sustain the state’s backcountry hunting and fishing traditions,” said Joel Webster, of the TRCP Center for Western Lands. “Sportsmen will settle for nothing less than a top-quality Colorado roadless rule, and the state’s proposal falls short.”

The Department of Natural Resources will now look to the public for answers. Comments on the revision will be accepted through Oct. 3. They can be submitted via email

Wind power breaks new local ground

Another door to renewable energy is opening in the Four Corners. The region’s first Windspire vertical wind turbine will be installed this Friday and promises to offer another viable, local option for alternative energy.

The Windspire is a radically designed turbine that stands only 30-feet tall and 4-feet wide. It generates electricity with vertical airfoils that rotate around a center shaft.  The vertical design allows it to operate silently in changing wind speeds and directions. It is also a relatively affordable alternative energy appliance in the 1 kilowatt range, averaging $12,000 after installation. After rebates and tax credits, the cost is approximately $6,300. The new technology is being introduced to the region by Bland Solar, and the company expects it to be the first of many installations in the area.

“We live with an amazing source of wind, “said Bland Solar partner Travis Zbornik.  “The new technology of the Windspire will make it a lot easier for more people to reduce their energy bills and impact on the environment by using the wind to generate their own energy.”

The turbines are made in Michigan at a former automotive facility in an effort to put former auto-workers back to work. They have been installed across the country, including at the official residence of the Governor of Michigan and at the National Botanic Gardens in Washington, D.C.  The Windspire was also designed with areas like Durango in mind.

“We designed the Windspire for locations just like the Four Corners,” said Mike Hess, CEO of Windspire-parent company Mariah Power. “This technology in this setting will have a major environmental impact as people are able to power their homes and businesses with wind.”


Women’s Resource Center taps Mora

Big changes are afoot at Durango’s Women’s Resource Center. Liz Mora, a Durango High School and Fort Lewis College graduate, has been named executive director of the non-profit. One of Mora’s first duties was to fill the position she vacated, and she hired Deborah Uroda as WRC’s Director of Marketing and Fund Development.

Mora succeeds Karen Ely, who resigned after six months on the job. She promises to bring some much-needed stability to the Women’s Resource Center, said Lori Moore, chair of the WRC board of directors.

 “During her three-year tenure, Liz has worked for the center as an advocate, volunteer coordinator, fund-raiser, and communications director,” she said. “Her energy, enthusiasm, knowledge of the center, and familiarity with the Durango community are assets that we believe will take the center to the next level of service and professionalism.”

Mora said her first priority will be to work with the Board of Directors to develop a five-year strategic plan that will guide growth at WRC. The center will continue its focus on serving “women and girls who seek personal and economic self-sufficiency,” she said.

Uroda steps into Mora’s shoes as a 32-year Durango resident with extensive experience in print, broadcast, and internet media, most notably joining Durango School District 9-R in 2001 as the communications director.


Wildlands fire burns near Dolores

Wildfire season has officially made its return to the region. The Dolores Public Lands Office and San Juan Hotshots are monitoring a lightning-caused fire near Dolores and McPhee Reservoir. The fire has been burning in pinyon-juniper, oakbrush, and ponderosa pine since Sunday and is being allowed to burn for its ecological benefits.

Fire managers want the wildlands fire to burn into the ponderosa pine, to clean up the understory of pine needles and slash from old timber sales. Crews are conducting some suppression activities to help direct the fire into areas where the most ecological benefits can be achieved. Currently, the 150-acre fire is approximately 30 percent contained.There are 20 firefighters monitoring the fire, including the San Juan Interagency Hotshot Crew and trainees. Though the fire does not pose a threat to the general public or any private property, Forest Roads 520 and 475 will be closed in the vicinity of Ferris Canyon, as a precaution.

– Will Sands




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