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Cowboy posturing

To the Editors,

In State Rep. J. Paul Brown’s other occupation as an Ignacio sheep rancher, he is already the beneficiary of sweetheart deals in which he enjoys subsidized grazing on federal lands as well as tax-payer financed predator control. Now he has tried to use his political position to gain further economic advantage for himself and other public lands ranchers by sponsoring legislation to reduce the number of black bears in the state under the guise of “human safety.” Black bears do occasionally kill sheep and cattle. They almost never kill humans (only two human fatalities in Colorado since 1992). The increase in bear-human encounters since 1992 is much more the result of human population encroachment into bear habitat than it is related to some black bear population explosion. The Colorado Division of Wildlife estimates that there are 12,000 black bears in Colorado today, still within the range of the 8,000-12,000 bears that the Division estimated were in the state in 1992. While there admittedly has been an increase in black bear numbers since 1992, there certainly isn’t “four times” as many, as Brown declares.

J. Paul Brown recently introduced H.B. 1294 which would effectively expand black bear hunting in the state, despite the fact that more than 70 percent of Colorado voters in 1992 voted to adopt its current seasonal parameters (So much for Brown’s Tea Party populism). Brown tried to sell this legislation by resorting to sensationalistic rhetoric about bear cruelty, as well as comical tales of “slugging” bears in the face. This type of propaganda belongs in dimestore novels and B-westerns, not in our State Legislature. The blood-thirsty, ravenous bear is always vilified, while the industrious, self-reliant rancher is idealized. Please. Despite all the cowboy posturing and “public safety” platitudes, Brown’s bill was a blatant and transparent gift to his fellow ranchers.

Since public lands ranching is already heavily subsidized, the occasional loss to predators should be viewed as a cost of doing business on federal lands, where ranchers already pay far less than market rate for their grazing allotments and have access to free federal predator-control programs through Wildlife Services. A congressional study estimated that the combined grazing programs of the BLM and the Forest Service cost the government (and taxpayers) more than $100 million a year. If J. Paul Brown doesn’t want to lose the occasional sheep to black bear predation, maybe he should consider leasing pasturage in areas without a healthy black bear population. Welfare ranchers who run sheep or cattle in designated wilderness areas and then whine to the government when they lose animals to predators are like farmers who plant crops in the desert and then complain when it doesn’t rain.

Colorado’s public lands belong to all of us, not just those who perpetuate the “historical uses” myth. Wildlife species that are “nuisances” or “varmints” to some are valued by many others. It is a mistake to design state wildlife policy to reflect the economic interests of a single group.  

– John Wickersham, Durango

Small acts for Mother Earth

To the Editors,

Earth Day 1970 changed our lives, whether you were on this planet or not. As in 2011, there were fears for our endangered environment. With little regulation, factories polluted our air and water. Joe and Jane Public did not see how their daily habits diminished the natural resources, which made our country the envy of others. On that day, the common citizen would take control and direct the formulation of a national legacy for our children and grandchildren.

Nationally, preparations were made. In Vienna, Va., Reston, Va., and Washington, D.C., I was one of many volunteers who organized environmental groups and recycling centers. We learned from others and helped the next group. There were speakers, films and lectures that exposed the environmental damage and a multitude of programs aimed at school children. All of these efforts were an attempt to change human activity for the benefit of all. For many of us, it became a lifestyle. At the end of that year, there were 13 recycling centers in metropolitan D.C. and volunteer efforts and school programs were having an effect.

Cut to 2011 and Durango, a place we call “God’s country” or “the best place to live, don’t tell anyone.” We feed bears, lawns consume precious water, our river is littered with cans and bottles, dead-end streets and vacant property become local dumps. We proliferate plastic bags. Clean-up days make us feel good. How about a lifetime of doing the right things?

Pick up litter in your neighborhood. Tell your young people to stop throwing cans and bottles, and snack and fast food trash on our streets. Clean up after your hairy dog food digesters. Recycle, urge your neighbors to take part. Once it is a habit, it only takes a couple of minutes a day. Learn to compost, if your property is limited, join with a neighbor to do it. In the winter, when the bears are occupied, put your small amount of garbage out only once a month. City workers can use the saved time to do other projects. By doing your part you can help our local governments keep up with their responsibilities and our expectations. Clean your sidewalks, trim tree limbs and bushes that cover street signs and hinder the walking public (especially in Crestview). Get to know your neighbors, offer a helping hand. Smile and say, “hi.”

– Mary Karraker, Durango

 ‘Not the single-speed!’

The mostly packed crowd of the Abbey let out a collective gasp of astonishment and heartbreak as the riderless bike (abandoned heartlessly by Butch Cassidy) teetered like a mid-day Snowdown drunk, rolled down the yard and crashed. As a compliment to the room’s dismay, I followed the gasp with, “No! Not the single-speed!” to which I received the chuckle that said every person in the plush-couched upstairs with me had just realized they had, in fact, gasped out loud.

They all instantly envisioned their own precious bikes parked out front of the theatre. They quickly, quietly swore to never abandon their bikes in such a rash and un-thoughtful manner (even if six men commissioned by Lefors were chasing them off a cliff by Baker’s Bridge/onto mattresses in California.) To think of giving up a bike without promise of a new home (sold on craigslist, lent indefinitely to a friend, or left at the thrift store/that-last-house-I-lived-at) hurt my fellow Newman/Redford watchers to the bone.

Some considered going outside mid-movie (they didn’t pay for the flick anyway) and checking on their beloved town cruisers. They wanted to make sure it was still locked to the no parking sign (yes, with the conscious/forced sense of irony) and to make sure it hadn’t started raining on the unprotected seat (because that could be amended, as there was always a spare City Market plastic bag in the repair pack.)

Any Friday night (and a lot of Monday nights, especially in the 600 block) in downtown Durango will find bikes chained to every trolley stop sign, bike rack, and small tree within a three block radius. Some of the ’90s-yellow Huffys escort wobbly, whiskey-ed twenty-somethings home after last call and others wait lonely through the night until a mid-afternoon pick-up the next day. Afterall, the walk back downtown with a hangover wine headache hurts less than an overnight car parking ticket.

In our velocipede-addicted city, most have several lovers. There’s the dependable, no-one-would-steal-this, ride it to the store/El Rancho that’s left trustingly on the front porch of their southside neighborhood rental. And then there’s the Sacred. The Sacred, like an over-pampered inside dog, gets to live warm and dry, in the living room. Away from threat of theft, rust or frost. The Sacred is a Kona mountain bike that knows every rock in Horse Gulch. Or the Diamondback road bike that knows4

just how hard the approach to Haviland Lake is. And there are, of course, Durangoans who have all three and are considering buying that cross country bike to ride from Seattle to New York.

Me? I’ve got dreams of nice bikes. I’m saving my pennies, but for now I’m sticking to my circa 1995, steel frame, red and gray Barracuda (another born Durangatang, like myself) and borrowing the Sacred occasionally from someone else. When I’m done, I’m good and leave her how I found her, shiny clean next to the bay window inside the family room, where no one can see her from the yard.

FLC’s dominance as a 13-time National Champion, more than five bike shops for 17,000 people, 40 years of 50-mile Iron Horse races, and dozens of mountain bike trails within a short distance from downtown say something significant about Durango’s love for the bike.  Something Butch Cassidy clearly didn’t get. Poor guy. But I get it.

– Codye Reynolds, Durango

What the frack?

To the Editors,

As many of you know, there is an ongoing fight between the oil and gas companies and human beings. For those of you who have heard of hydro-fracturing (a.k.a. fracking), but are not familiar with it, it is a method of oil and gas extraction used in nine out of 10 wells in 34 states of the United States. In the process, a drill is placed in the ground, blasting water, sand and fracking fluids under high pressure in order to split the surface underneath to extract oil and gas. Through this method, chemicals are emitted into the air for surrounding communities to breathe, well aquifers are polluted, and geological formations are altered, all resulting in an extremely unhealthy environment.

In the 1950s, the Department of Interior dubbed our area of the Southwest the “Natural Sacrifice Zone” because of our rich soil, rare earth minerals, coal, and attainable oil and gas. Due to our small population in the ’50s, the oil and gas industry ignorantly believed that drilling would not have a large impact on such a small community. To them, it is a matter of profit over priority, priority being the rights of the people. Oil and gas companies are bribing the many individuals they have single-handedly poisoned with money in exchange for silence. This comes as no surprise when one considers the 596 known chemicals found to exist within the fracking fluids that are contaminating well aquifers near drilling sites. Many individuals and families in our surrounding area are forced to fill up giant water tanks at water stations and drink only bottled water to avoid the health hazards linked to consuming water polluted by hydro-fracking. Such health hazards include: headaches; dizziness and nausea; loss of smell, sight and taste; various respiratory problems; skin and eye irritation; bloody eyes, nose and urine; autoimmune diseases; and various tumors and cancers.

Household tap water that has been contaminated by fracking is considered to be “only good for brain-altering recreational activities and science experiments.” Yes, great potential indeed, considering it is flammable right out of the tap! The oil and gas companies are fracking up our land and jeopardizing the health and wellbeing of the people that make up this beautiful community. We must take a stand and raise our voices higher than the chemical emissions if we ever want to see positive change.

Nice, quiet home in the San Juan Basin: $200,000; one cup of morning coffee + one bowl of oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar in your nice quiet home in the San Juan Basin: $6; finding out the water used to make your coffee and oatmeal is flammable: Priceless.

– Megan Engle, via e-mail


To the Editors,

It has been an honor to work as the Quality of Life Manager for the American Cancer Society for the past five years. My responsibilities included forming programs to meet the needs of cancer patients and providing these services through our volunteers. My territory included La Plata County, as well as Pagosa Springs, Telluride, Cortez, Mancos and Farmington. Volunteers in the counties I served are AMAZING!

There are more than 35 drivers in four counties to bring patients to their treatment. There are 15 volunteer breast cancer survivors who meet with newly diagnosed breast cancer patients to answer their questions and calm the fears that come with this disease. There is a “Man to Man” group that meets monthly to offer education and support to men with prostate cancer, and a general support group for all cancer patients and loved ones. Ten local hotels provide complimentary rooms (when available) to patients that travel more than an hour for treatment (more hotels are needed.) Volunteers work in the Cancer Resource Center, located in the Durango Cancer Center, five days a week to arrange services for cancer patients. And cosmetologists and their assistants offer the “Look Good, Feel Better” programs which provides makeovers to women in cancer treatment, including a valuable kit of products.

These wonderful volunteers are too many to name individually. I want to extend my thanks once again for the difference they are making, by giving their time and energy to the services provided by the American Cancer Society for cancer patients and their caregivers. The generous hearts of my volunteers have made my experience working with the American Cancer Society truly a pleasure. Although I am retiring, I plan on joining the volunteer team in the near future!

– With sincere gratitude, Ginna Harbison,Durango



In this week's issue...

March 17, 2022
Critical condition

Lake Powell drops below threshold for the first time despite attempts to avoid it

March 17, 2022
Uphill climb

Purgatory Resort set for expansion but still faces hurdles

March 10, 2022
Mind, body & soul (... and not so much El Rancho)

New health care studio takes integrated approach to healing