Quick N' Dirty

County moves on potential new site in Grandview
La Plata County is eyeing a parcel of land in Grandview as the potential site of a new fairgrounds and multi-event complex.  However, acquiring the parcel will require a sign-off from the Bureau of Land Management, which owns the 56-acre parcel.

The land, which is currently mined by C&J Gravel, would be “conveyed” to the county under authority of the Recreation and Public Purposes Act, according to Cam Hooley, public lands coordinator for the Columbine Public Lands Office. Under the act, federal lands agencies can give away land when it is in the public’s best interest or for recreational purposes. There will be a small, nominal fee involved with the conveyance.

“I am not sure how much that would be, but basically, it would be free,” said Hooley.
The BLM’s Tres Rios Field Office, which oversees the land in Grandview, is seeking public input regarding environmental concerns of La Plata County’s application. The BLM’s public comment period does not include concerns over La Plata County’s ultimate use of the land, which would occur at a later date under the auspices of the county planning process.

County commissioners are looking at the parcel as a site for a multi-event center, which would supplement or completely replace the existing La Plata County Fairgrounds. The current fairgrounds are sited on 32 acres, but part of that is used by the city for the Rec Center.

A task force appointed by commissioners identified the potential for the BLM Grandview parcel, which has been an active gravel pit since 1992. The conveyance would take place after all the permitted gravel mining is completed, estimated to take place in 2017.

“The purpose is to meet public demand for additional and improved recreation facilities for the future development of a multi-event center, which will provide economic benefit to the community and provide educational, recreational, cultural and civic opportunities for members of the community,” said Bill Dunkelberger, Tres Rios’ acting field manager, in a news release.

If approved, the BLM will convey the land to La Plata County and amend the Grandview Resource Management Plan to change the emphasis from “minerals and wildlife” to “recreation and public purposes.”

The conveyance would occur as a lease with an option to buy, contingent on the recreation and public activities as proposed. Written comments on the conveyance can be submitted through Fri., Dec. 16, by mail or e-mail to Cam Hooley, Columbine Public Lands, P.O. Box 439, Bayfield, CO  81122 or chooley@fs.fed.us.

FLC professor’s poetry earns accolades
Fort Lewis College Associate Professor of English Pam Uschuk has won the Winning Writer’s 2011 War Poetry Contest. Her three poems, “Horoscope,” “White Phosphorus After Hanukkah” and “The Taliban Takes Pakistan” were all awarded first place.

Uschuk’s poems examine conflicts and the aftermath of those conflicts from Africa to the Middle East to Asia. They also take a personal turn as she addresses the effects war has had on her own family. “I come from a family with a strong military line,” she says. “My father, brother and nephew are veterans of three wars. I’ve seen PTSD up close, repeated and terrifying. Wars end, but the family tragedy does not end. The human devastation goes on for generations.”

Uschuk’s work has won several awards and appeared in hundreds of publications. “It is important to me that my poems not merely skate across a beautiful surface but rather that they strike deep into the matter,” she explains. “I hope that my poems might affect some sort of positive change in the reader.”

In another honor, Uschuk and her husband, poet William Pitt Root, traveled to Israel over the Thanksgiving break to participate in the Sha’ar International Poetry Festival. The goal of the festival is to bring together artists from Muslim, Christian and Jewish cultures to help increase fellowship and understanding.

“I am utterly grateful that my husband and I were invited,” she says. “It is a huge honor, and I am deeply humbled by it.”
To read Uschuk’s winning entries, visit http://www.winningwriters.com/contests/war/2011/wa11_uschuk.php.

Groups decry Colorado roadless plan
A dozen conservation groups came out against Colorado’s roadless rule in an open letter last week in the Denver Post. In the full-page ad, 12 Colorado and national groups called on President Obama to enforce the federal Roadless Area Conservation Rule on national forests and reject a state plan that would open those areas to drilling, logging and mining.

The groups’ appeal came a month after the federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the national rule, which protects roughly one-third, or 60 million acres, of America’s national forests. The original 2001 Clinton-era rule had been repealed by Pres. George Bush in 2004, prompting the State of Colorado to undertake its own roadless rule.

The state plan, however, would allow expanded coal mining and roughly 100 new oil and gas leases that the national rule would not permit, the groups argue. While the Obama administration has long supported the national rule, it has yet to announce that it will abandon the Colorado plan.
“The ruling from the court was clear, and so is the message from Colorado groups: Our national forests deserve the full protection of the national roadless rule and nothing less,” said Elise Jones, executive director of the Colorado Environmental Coalition. “The Colorado plan, which had been billed as an insurance policy, is no longer necessary.”

According to the groups, the public has sent the administration more than 200,000 messages from the public criticizing the Colorado proposal and calling for the state’s 4.4 million acres of national forests to receive the protections of the 2001 rule. “The court’s decision gives the president the green light to fulfill his pledge to enforce the roadless rule,” said Jane Danowitz, U.S. public lands director for the Pew Environment Group. “It’s time for the Obama administration to abandon a flawed plan for Colorado’s undeveloped national forests that would leave them with less protection than those in the rest of the country.”

– Missy Votel