Train continues urban reforestation initiative

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is continuing to chug into a new era. This week, the local institution will take another innovative step at softening its carbon footprint by giving away hundreds of trees to be planted inside Durango City Limits.

In 2009, Al Harper, D&SNG owner, approached the local company CarbonZERO about creating an offset for the train’s vehicle fleet, which includes 12 maintenance trucks and four tour buses.

“We’re always looking for ideas and ways to improve the operation,” Harper said. “I read an article about CarbonZERO and how they can erase the carbon footprint of a car for just a few dollars a year. I thought maybe we could do a lifetime payment for each of the trucks in our maintenance fleet and each of our buses.”

Harper contacted Ian Barrowclough, director of CarbonZERO, about coming up with a specific program. He then took the idea a step further and suggested that the payment could be made in the form of trees in the local community.“They calculated the life spans of the vehicles and then determined how many trees are needed to eliminate the emissions,” Harper said.

Durango has become a lot greener in recent years because of the effort. More than 3,000 new trees are being planted in the community through the “Urban Reforestation Initiative,” with most already having gone into the ground. Another 300 blue spruce, ponderosa and Austrian pine will be given away to local residents this Fri., May 6, on a first-come, first-served basis as part of the annual Narrow Gauge Days celebration.  

“TPhotosynthesis absorbs carbon dioxide and converts it to oxygen,” Barrowclough explained. “By planting these trees in Durango, we’re providing a local solution to a local problem.”

The Narrow Gauge Day celebration runs from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and marks the kick-off of summer train service to Silverton. In addition to the tree giveaway, the railroad will show off its new ORCA Green Machine – the first composting machine of its kind in Durango, and the La Plata County Humane Society will be on hand with animals available for adoption. Locals can also take in a complimentary picnic and a performance by the Bar D Wranglers at the event.

Sen. Bennet goes after power plants

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet is applying heat to New Mexico’s power plants. Last week, the Colorado senator penned a letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson urging the agency to move forward with proposals to clean up the Four Corners Power Plant and San Juan Generating Station. Bennet noted that emissions have crossed state lines and have harmful effects on the economy and public health in Southwest Colorado.

“I would like to offer my support for your agency’s recent efforts to address long standing concerns with air quality in the Four Corners region through your proposals to clean up the Four Corners Power Plant and San Juan Generating Station in New Mexico,” Bennet wrote. “As you know, this region has long suffered with air quality problems and that degradation is of deep concern to Southwest Coloradans.”

The EPA is pressing both plants to install Best Available Retrofit Technology. The upgrades would cut down on smog and make mandated visibility improvements visibility in airsheds like Mesa Verde National Park and the Weminuche Wilderness. In addition, emissions from these plants, including nitrogen oxides and mercury, have been linked with a variety of negative public health impacts.

“EPA’s actions in this region exemplify the commonsense and proper application of the Clean Air Act to provide cleaner air for our communities and our children. I urge you to make these proposals final at the earliest practicable date,” Bennet wrote.

Bennet’s letter was submitted as part of the EPA’s public comment period on upgrades to the Four Corners Power Plant, which was open through May 2. EPA decisions on both power plants are expected this summer.

 Fort Lewis recognized as green college

Fort Lewis College has added another green feather to its cap. The local college recently earned a spot in The Princeton Review’s Guide to 311 Green Colleges. The guide profiles higher education institutions “that demonstrate a strong commitment to sustainability in their academic offerings, campus infrastructure, activities and career preparation.”

Numerous factors propelled Fort Lewis to the ranking. For instance, former FLC President Brad Bartel signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment in 2007. In addition, the college earned an environmental accolade earlier this year when the Biology wing of Berndt Hall was certified LEED® Gold. The Biology wing is the second new building to earn LEED Gold status after Animas Hall, the College’s newest residence hall, which was certified last year.

“College-bound students are increasingly interested in sustainability issues,” said Robert Franek, ofThe Princeton Review. “Among 8,200 college applicants who participated in our spring 2011 ‘College Hopes & Worries Survey,’ nearly seven out of 10 told us that a school’s commitment to the environment would influence their decision to apply to or attend the school.”

Tad Elliott named to U.S. Ski Team

Durango’s Tad Elliott has skied into the big leagues. Last week, the United States Ski Team named the 22-year-old to the 2012 U.S. Cross Country Ski Team.

The honor comes on the heels of a stellar ski season for Elliott. Last winter he won the 30km National Championships, several SuperTour events and competed for the United States at the U23 World Championships in Estonia.  

Elliott is the product of the Durango Nordic Ski Club and has enjoyed continued support from the Durango Winter Sports Foundation. In addition, he is a standout mountain bike racer and a member of the new Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, DEVO Sweet Elite Mountain Bike cycling team. Durango remains home for the athlete, and he uses it as his base for training for both cross country skiing and mountain biking.

– 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