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The ‘swap’ is a ‘steal’

To all concerned:

Re: Hermosa/Mitchell Lakes Land Exchange Proposal.

I am emphatically opposed to this “swap” (a child’s word: let’s swap this pack of bubblegum for that baseball player’s card).

A.Overall Reasons:

1. It smells of collusion. The man at Glacier Club winks at a Forest Service man, “What do we need to buy for you – that we can then offer back as a swap – in order to get our land for our big development scheme?” Why else would Glacier Club have bought such unconnected, undevelopable property?

2. This proposal should not be decided as though it were a popularity contest, viz: “How many letters do we have that are pro? How many letters that are con?” In reality, this proposed swap is a steal for Glacier Club, and a great loss for the public. It should be rejected outright.

B. Specific Reasons

1. More than 40,000 people annually visit the Haviland Lake/Chris Park area – year-round. This wonderful property is accessible for all ages and abilities. Note: This number will increase as Durango grows.

(There’s your vote! Compare that number to the exclusive wealthy elite who would close off access so they can have their vacation mansions and private golf course.)

2. The above reason should be enough to reject the swap-proposal, but just look at the flaws in the current DEIS. It does not address the following:

a) The wetlands-exchanges are not comparable. It is a federal requirement that they be comparable. Chris Park sports wonderful “pothole” wetlands – which are quite different from the Mitchell Lakes/Hermosa Park type of wetlands.

b) The already existing encroachment/trespass issue. Glacier Club cavalierly trespassed by building a hole for their other golf course on national forest land. The resolution of this trespass is actually a separate issue from acquisition of the inholdings. It should have been analyzed separately. By not doing so, this proposed exchange “rewards” Glacier Club by … simply giving them that land.

c) Adequate buffer zones for the Chris Park area are not included. Consider these points:

• The hydrology of the existing wetlands cannot help but be altered by construction (roads, houses, infrastructure)

• Blasting during construction can permanently damage a rare, noted cave.

• The inevitable noise and light pollution of the proposed housing/golf course will destroy the beauty of wilderness camping at Chris Park.

• Yes, off-course golf balls from above, winging down into Chris Park campground, are a real hazard.

d) What about the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep habitat – recognized by the 2005 “San Juan National Forest Land Use Revision plan Draft EIS.” Their habitat is nearby on Hermosa Cliffs and in the Animas River Canyon, and they have been observed within this proposed swap parcel.

e) These proposals in the DEIS violate the Forest4 Service’s own policy on open space, viz: 2007 Open Space Conservation Strategy. 

• The Forest Service is called to work with local government and private landowners to preserve open space on the urban fringe and in scenic rural areas.

• The Haviland Lake Recreation Area is a prime/perfect example of just this type of open space that the Forest Service has committed to preserve – not trade away for development.

3) One more thing that galls me is the proposed access road that would:

• Destroy a beautiful, well-loved, winter horse-drawn sleigh ride trail – and thus end a treasured, well-touted tourist attraction.

• Ipso-facto – give all land to the south over to Glacier, simply by cutting it off and surrounding it.

• Further destroy wildlife habitat, the natural setting, peace and quiet, 

• Seriously threaten a rare cave, beautiful climbing cliffs On and on it goes. This “swap” is a “steal,” and any person of integrity will see to it that this proposal is rejected outright! Thank you.

– Sara Ransom, Durango


True colors

Dear Editors,

Dennis Pierce’s complaints voiced in the Sept. 17 issue about being tarred as a racist for his conservative opposition to Obama are worth a discussion.

Mr. Pierce offered up as counterexamples GOP support for civil rights legislation, Democratic Sen. Byrd’s youthful membership in the KKK, the rejection of black Congressman JC Watts from the Congressional Black Caucus, and the hacking of black RNC chair Michael Steele’s credit report.

The last two items can be eliminated immediately. Watts was rejected by black liberals for being a conservative, not for being black. The theft of Steele’s credit report was a partisan political crime, not a hate crime.

GOP support for the Civil Rights Act is undeniable, as is the opposition of a few Democrats. However, a look at the vote record reveals that the Civil Rights Act was opposed by Southern racists, who populated both parties at the time. In the end, the legislation was authored by a liberal, championed by liberals, and signed into law by a liberal. If Mr. Pierce wants credit for the GOP for following liberal leadership, credit granted.

As far as Sen. Byrd denouncing his membership in the KKK, he has done so on multiple occasions. Here’s a quote from 2005: “I know now I was wrong. Intolerance had no place in America. I apologized a thousand times ... and I don’t mind apologizing over and over again. I can’t erase what happened.”

While Byrd’s record can’t be ignored, it’s worth noting that since his early ’80s conversion to race equality, his voting record has been rated 100 percent positive by the NAACP.

The same cannot be said for the current incarnation of the GOP. Efforts to paint Obama as an outsider began with Sarah Palin’s race-tinged denunciation of him as “un-American” and have continued to gain steam and invective. Signs of Obama as a monkey, a grinning Sambo, a witch-doctor, as surrounded by watermelons and fried chicken, as a faceless spook, and many other hatefully racist images have proliferated in what are forcefully described by their participants as “common man” marches. If that is the case, then the “common Republican” seems to have a very nasty streak of bigotry.

Further, Republicans have chosen to fan the hate by embracing inflammatory propaganda. Aided by Fox News and talk radio, GOP politicians have publicly doubted the President’s birth, aped the “kill granny” lies, and accused him of being a tyrannical Marxist, all of which further inflame and radicalize their base.

Sadly, though there are thoughtful, intelligent, conservatives that have very real and compelling arguments opposing President Obama’s agenda that have nothing to do with irrational hate, they have been totally drowned out by the rabid forces of James Dobson, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. And perhaps this is the irony of Mr. Pierce’s angst. No one likes to be called something they are not. Yet for the past eight years, those on the right encouraged the conflation of dissent with treason. Anti-war protestors who correctly insisted there were no Iraqi WMDs were spit on, shouted down and dehumanized as traitors.

However, instead of decrying these ad hominem attacks, Mr. Pierce and his constituency chose to remain silent, or even join in the attack. Now, they find themselves hoisted on the very same reactionary petard they set up in the hope of crushing the Left. The monster they fed has turned on them.

It is tempting to rub their noses in it. But that would be surrendering to the same ghoulish, sundering impulse that motivates so many in our country these days. Vigorous debate and disagreement are as American as apple pie, but it is very important to separate out truly offensive behavior that should and will be condemned, from honest disagreement that is in fact, a very necessary part of our republic’s social health. There is a legitimate voice of dissent on the Right, and we on the Left should welcome it, even as we strongly disagree. My hope is that Mr. Pierce will remember his current feelings of frustration and resentment when the GOP eventually regains power. Perhaps when the dissenters of the Left rise up again, he will be empathetic.

Circumspection is not an easy skill to master. We often fail badly at it, but anything less is a circus of useless, costly flailing.

– Shan Wells, Durango


Swapping into ‘Spring’

Dear Editors,

This last summer I could not help but notice that the extremely manicured lawn next door, filled with pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, hosted very few birds. Meanwhile my less than perfect lawn was full of robins and many varieties of birds and critters. Silent Spring is next door.

Now I read about the stewards of our national forest manipulating appraisal figures to sell out our accessible national forest to the hyper-wealthy for Glacier Club profit and amusement. Who cares to wait for some incontinent wealthy to trickle down upon them? Trophy homes gobble up our resources. Golf courses spew herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers into the ground and water for our down-slope, uninsured children to drink, while the wealthy bask in their designer health insurance plans. Why are the erstwhile stewards of our national forest frog-marching us into Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring?

– Kassandra Johnson, Durango



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