Animas fuels reduction revamped

The Bureau of Land Management is trying to meet the Durango public half-way on Animas Mountain. This week, the agency forwarded a compromise solution for mitigating wildfire hazard at the popular recreation area.

Following the catastrophic wildfire season of 2002, the Bush Administration created the National Fire Plan. Among the plan’s mandates was that the Forest Service and BLM thin trees in the Wildland Urban Interface, the edge of the forest near communities and homes. As incentive, the plan offered up a generous “use it or lose it” funding stream for such projects.

In response, San Juan Forest and BLM lands in the vicinity of Durango have been aggressively treated in recent years. The local agencies use three approaches to curbing fire threat – prescribed burning, hand thinning and hydromowing, where a large spinning drum with carbide teeth shreds small trees and brush. Hydromowing has been used extensively in the Grandview Ridge, Hermosa Creek and Hidden Valley areas but drawn mixed public reactions after each application.

Early in 2007, the BLM announced that Animas Mountain – one of Durango’s most popular recreation areas for hiking, biking and climbing – would be the next area to go beneath the hydromower blade. The resource, which is part of Durango city park and predominantly BLM land, is also surrounded on three sides by homes and was identified in the La Plata County Community Fire Plan as an area of high concern and risk.

“Animas Mountain is one of the most important areas around Durango in terms of mitigating for fire danger,” said Shawna Legarza, Fire Management Officer and the BLM’s project leader. “If lightning strikes and a fire runs over Animas Mountain, it’s going to be bad for everyone. Homes would be threatened, the mountain would be ruined aesthetically, and we’d be dealing with impacts from run-off and erosion for decades.”

The BLM’s original plan entailed treating the mountain’s 1,900 acres with hydromowing and building a road over a large piece of the trail. This incited strong public reactions and made for one the great local controversies of 2007.

This week, the BLM offered a new approach to thinning Animas. Responding to dozens of concerns, the agency unveiled its “mini-mower” alternative, which proposes pairing a smaller hydromower with hand-thinning. Under the new plan, only minor trail maintenance will be needed, and no closures will be implemented.

“We’ve spent the last few years trying to balance the needs of the public and the needs of the mountain and meet everybody in the middle,” Legarza said. “It’s such a special, complex project that it’s taken us time to figure out how to get up there and manage the fuels and meet everyone’s expectations.”

Early reactions to the new Animas Mountain plan are positive. Trails 2000 has been active in the project since it was first proposed and is pleased with the kinder, gentler approach.

“We were especially happy to see both our comments and the community’s in general are a part of this consideration,” Mary Monroe, executive director, said. “The BLM did a lot of work over the years to come up with a plan that would please trail users, the City of Durango and still accomplish their goal of fuels mitigation on properties close to houses. The project will take a couple of years, but the effect to trail users will hardly be noticeable.”

The plan now goes to the general public for review. The environmental assessment is available for download at: www.blm.gov/co/st/en/fo/cfo/nepa_documents.html, and public comments will be accepted through May 28. If all goes according to plan, work could begin as early as this summer.



Local athletes leave mark in Fruita

Durango’s newest athletic team blazed out of the start line last weekend. Get Out! Durango, a new cycling team focused on Under-23 athletes, dominated the podium at Sunday’s Rabbit Valley Rally, the first race of the Mountain States Cup bike racing series.

Created early this year, Get Out! is focused on precise training and competition for U23 riders. Judging by Sunday’s results, the pre

scription is working. Christopher Blevins and Charlie Greenburg took first and second in the junior U14 time trial, and Haakon Sigurslid took first place in category 2/3 (15-18). In the women’s time trial, Kaylee Blevins and Emily Schaldach took first and second respectively in category 2/3 (15-18). And Avra Saslow and Martina Pansze finished in first and second place in the U14 category.

In Saturday’s cross country event, Kaylee Blevins, Avra Saslow, and Christopher Blevins dominated their respective categories with first-place finishes. Also making podium appearances were Emily Schaldach in second and Charlie Greenberg in third.

“Our team demonstrated awesome focus, determination and smart racing,” said Get Out! Durango coach Kricket Lewis. “I’m pleased to see that all of their hard work already is paying off.”

Next up for Get Out! Durango is the Alien Run in Aztec this Sunday. For more on the team, visit www.getout-durango.org.



KDUR Public Radio boosts its signal

KDUR Community Radio powered up the tower last week. Last Saturday, the station permanently boosted its signal from 150 to 6,000 watts, closing out a project that has been in the works for more than four years.

The signal increase included the installation of a new tower and antenna (necessary for the boost in wattage) on the Fort Lewis College rim last November, and the installation of a digital transmitter, allowing listeners with HD radios to listen to three distinct streams from KDUR.  Plans for what will be aired on the different KDUR streams are still in the making.

“It’s a big deal” said engineer Scott Henning who has consulted with the station since 1990. “Every station manager I’ve worked with spoke about the need for a power increase, and it’s just now coming to pass. I’m very excited to have helped make this happen for KDUR.”

KDUR started broadcasting from the College Union Building in 1975 on a public PA system. Over the years, the station’s signal was bumped up to 150 watts prior to this current upgrade.

– Will Sands

 

 

In this week's issue...

August 16, 2019
Quick'n'Dirty

• Meetings explore homelessness
• City hosts tour of Roosa upgrades

August 16, 2019
Dirty talk

Conservation groups ask feds to put brakes on e-bikes on nonmotorized public lands

August 8, 2019
Step by step

Over the past several years, Colorado’s elected leaders have tried to tackle the rising cost of healthcare.