Conservation mandated for monument

Conservation is the order of the moment at the nearby Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. Last week, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar issued a directorate that preservation will be the priority for the national monument as well as all 27-million acres of the decade-old National Landscape Conservation System.

Located 45 miles west of Durango, Canyons of the Ancients boasts the highest density of archeological sites in the country, averaging more than 100 sites per square mile. The primitive, high-desert area was designated a monument by a controversial presidential proclamation in June 2000 by President Bill Clinton.

Unfortunately, cultural and natural resources have faced a variety of threats prior to and since the proclamation. The land has been put to the test by grazing, off-highway vehicle abuse, pot hunters and drilling. However, conservation is the new mandate for the CANM and other pieces of the National Landscape Conservation System. The system includes more than 886 federally recognized areas all over the country including national monuments, national conservation areas, wilderness study areas, wild and scenic rivers, conservation lands, and national scenic and historic trails. During his announcement, Salazar stressed that protection can offer a better boon than extraction.

“This action reflects the growing importance of the National Landscape Conservation System to local economies, to the health of communities, and to some of America’s greatest landscapes,” he said. “The National Landscape Conservation System holds special meaning to the American people and is an engine for jobs and economic growth in local communities.”

The management objectives of the new directive are to maintain biodiversity and promote ecological connectivity and resilience in the face of climate change. Salazar did include a few loopholes, however. Managers can permit appropriate multiple uses, such as grazing, energy development and tourism “when consistent with the values for which they were designated.”

That loophole poses a dilemma for managers of the CANM, who are attempting to retain archeological character while respecting existing recreational and traditional uses. Oil and gas represents the biggest balancing act for the monument. Currently, 80 percent of the monument is leased for mineral development, and drilling is expected at 150 new locations in the next 20 years.


Durango cyclist victorious in La Ruta

A Durango mountain biker ventured south to Costa Rica and is returning home with a victory in the “the toughest mountain bike race on the planet.” Ben Sonntag took the overall victory in the four-day La Ruta de los Conquistadores race, winning the opening stage and holding the overall lead through the finish.

Sonntag is a Fort Lewis College cycling standout, a Nordic skiing phenom and a two-time winter triathlon world champion. The German national can now add victory in La Ruta de los Conquistadores to his list of accomplishments.

The four-stage race starts on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, traverses the country’s tropical mountains and finishes on the shores of the Caribbean. Over nearly two decades, La Ruta has kept its reputation as the world’s most difficult, multi-day, knobby-tired race. “It’s not about making it to the finish line, it’s about working with what you’ve got, giving it all your might and surviving the adversities that you might come upon along the way,” said Roman Urbina, one of the race’s founders.

This year’s edition was no exception. Sonntag reportedly came out of the starting gate quickly, winning the 106-kilometer opening stage from Jacó to Santa Ana. The second stage offered one of La Ruta’s biggest tests, and Sonntag was able to retain the overall lead after the stage characterized by ridiculously steep ascents.

“These are the most stupidly steep climbs I’ve ever done in my life,” Sonntag told “But I knew that from last year. People had told me before I came the first time, but I think you have to see it and ride it before you believe it.”

On the third day, racers continued climbing the Turrialba Volcano to an elevation of 9,000 feet and then took on a blistering descent to the town of Turrialba at 1,800 feet.

Sonntag arrived at the Caribbean in 18 hours and 17 minutes, just two and a half minutes ahead of his teammate Alex Grant.


SASO advocate given national honor

A local advocate has garnered national attention. Olivia De Pablo, of the Sexual Assault Services Organization, is the recipient of the 2010 National Latina Victim Advocate Award.  Five awards were given to advocates from Colorado, California, North Carolina, and Texas, and De Pablo won the “Sin Fronteras: Community Empowerment” honor.  

“Olivia De Pablo has continually gone above and beyond the scope of her duties to help eliminate access barriers for Latina and Latino victims of sexual and intimate partner violence,” said Michael Rendon, SASO’s executive director.   

De Pablo is SASO’s Community Organizing Coordinator and provides outreach and prevention efforts targeted toward the local immigrant and Spanish-speaking community. Over the last four years, SASO’s brochures, website and 24-hour hotline have added Spanish speaking options. Additionally, she helped organize the Eres Un Hombre de Verdad? (Are you a Real Man?) campaign, and offered platicas (dialogues) on sexual assault in the immigrant community, and Ayuda (Help) trainings, the Spanish equivalent of SASO’s “First-Responder” training.  

Avalanche claims Wolf Creek patroller

The Wolf Creek Ski Area lost one of its own Monday, when an early morning, in-bounds avalanche claimed the life of Ski Patrol Director Scott Kay.

Kay, of Pagosa Springs, was undertaking control work in the Glory Hole off Prospector Ridge and not far from the top of the Treasure Chair. At approximately 7:45 a.m. he was caught in a slide, buried beneath 4 feet of snow and did not survive.

“Wolf Creek’s management and all its employees wish to express our deepest regrets at this loss of a wonderful man and close friend,” the ski area said in a statement. “Our sympathy and condolences go out to his wife and two children.

The area closed Monday to honor his memory, but also fired the chairs back up at 8:30 a.m. the next day “also to honor him.”

Wolf Creek received 13 inches of fresh snow and was battered by high winds the day prior to the storm. The Glory Hole is a steep shot at treeline, just a short hike from the Treasure Lift.  

– Will Sands




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