Beefing up on the issues
Dear Editors,
Ian Chamberlain’s letter last week illustrates a profound ignorance amongst the general public about the environmental devastation caused by ranchers and shepherds. Sheep ranching has the single greatest carbon footprint of all meat followed closely behind by cows; see: or just go to
When people like Ian put farmers and ranchers into the same category, I am personally offended! Farmers grow food for human consumption whereas ranchers take food from modest, perhaps even sustainable humans to grow meat for exploitive, greedy and unsustainable gluttons – and farmers who grow corn and soy feed for cattle are just ranchers by extension. If every person in the world ate half as much meat as Americans do, there wouldn’t be enough arable land on Earth to raise this much livestock, and this doesn’t even take into account the issue of water: It takes about 1,800 gallons of water to raise 1 pound of beef as opposed to 180 gal per pound for wheat bread and 18 gal per pound for lettuce ( Half of all the water in the United States is used for the production of beef, and without the government’s water and other subsidies, beef would cost $90 per pound. Worldwide livestock production has been leading the planet toward an irreversible path of land degradation (see Brazil), greenhouse gas emission (livestock accounts for 18 %), water pollution (e.coli anyone?), and biodiversity loss. Organic or not, livestock is perhaps the greatest environmental disaster of all human history, so “tearing into a local (and global) rancher” is not only a good use of one’s voice, it is essential to save this wonderful planet – one locale at a time.
– Steven Dae, Durango

Licensed to hike
Dear Editors,
Upon reading Will Sands’ column and his exploit with sheep and several vicious guard dogs, I have been pondering what sort of imbecile would graze sheep or be allowed to graze sheep in such a highly used recreation area as the Colorado Trail. I also wish to add that I had talked to folks who were hiking Pass Creek to Engineer and encountered the sheep and dogs and had a boatload of fear instilled in them. So where the hell was the herder during these encounters? Who would be responsible if a biker or hiker were attacked? This is sheer bureaucratic stupidity and nonsense at its finest. This mix of cheapo grazing and recreational areas do not mix. I have been hiking this area and now carry pepper spray. Maybe us recreational trail users should get licensed to carry?
– Ed Lehner, via email

A comprehensive reminder
Dear county commissioners,
I am sending the following reminder about your effect on the Comprehensive Plan. As I said in my recent meeting with you all, I feel that we as individuals must realize our responsibilities for what we do and say, and to protect the rights of others. By “others,” I mean all living beings, the Earth, our water and the air we breathe, NOT some small group of people who are only looking out for themselves and their very specific needs.
Every planning commissioner signed an agreement that they would support the Comprehensive Planning process.
The County Compass, the County’s strategic plan, was adopted by the BOCC through an open process; it provides the guidelines and structure for the Comprehensive Plan.
Sustainable development is one of the six “Core Strategies” that direct the implementation of the Compass.

A number of the planning commissioners and alternates have expressed their opposition to sustainability and sustainable development as part of the Comprehensive Plan.
How can individuals who oppose one of the Core Strategies of the Compass appropriately serve as planning commissioners?
An online petition has been signed by more than 600 La Plata County residents.
The petition requests removal of the current Planning Commission members and keeping the work done by the committed citizen volunteers who helped draft the Comprehensive Plan.
Most of the proposed red-lined components will have short- and long-term negative impacts on the human, environmental and economic health of the community.
– Cherry Miloe, Bayfield

Second chances
Dear Editors,
We are writing to you today about suicide. Often a taboo topic and extremely difficult for many to even mention, most of us have been affected by suicide in one way or another.  Maybe you’ve lost a friend or family member to suicide, or know someone who has lost a loved one. Suicide has a major impact on many, and in Colorado it is the second leading cause of death for teens. September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and we urge you to take a step toward preventing suicide in young people in our community today. One way you could do so is by supporting the Second Wind Fund of Four Corners Colorado (SWF), an organization that provides free counseling services to youth at risk of suicide who otherwise would not be able to afford these services right here in our community. On Sept. 17, SWF presents the Second Wind Scramble, an adventure race and awareness event to raise funds for the organization sponsored by Durango Mountain Resort, First National Bank and the Smith Family. We hope that you will consider helping SWF out in some way through the amazing opportunity that the Second Wind Scramble provides. Whether that be through registering for and running one of the races (kids’ 1-mile, 5K or 10k with fun obstacles!), donating money to support the race or the organization, spreading the word to your friends & family, or in any other creative way, your support would be greatly appreciated. Every action taken, no matter how small, is a step toward preventing youth suicide in our community. You can find more information about SWF at For more information about the Second Wind Scramble race or to register, visit and search Second Wind Scramble. You can also contact SWF’s director, Lillian Ramey, directly at 970.946.9586.

Best wishes to you all and thanks for your time!
– Gratefully, Lillian Ramey, Alain Henry, Kendra Gallegos Reichle, Leigh Meigs, Leslie Smith, Liana Smith, Traci Rock, Second Wind Fund of the Four Corners

Stacy revisited
Dear Editori,
Will, concerning your piece on July 28 about the reroute on the Stacy’s loop descent, I must respectfully disagree with your premises and conclusions.

Let me start by saying that I wasn’t a big fan of the reroute initially from a riding standpoint, but it’s gotten much better and it is definitely less prone to erosion now. I think, however, it could have been done with a smaller “footprint” and more environmental sensitivity. My main complaints are: the timeframe of when it was done, and the amount of oak brush that was taken out.

The work was done in early to mid June, when there was a very real chance that there were still nesting birds in those oak stands. Thick oak brush is a haven for all kinds of small wildlife. In particular, songbirds can find relatively safe nesting sites that are fairly inaccessible to predators like magpies and crows. When you open up a path through those thick stands, it provides access points for those predators. Almost all of the big oak stands that were opened up could have easily been avoided, with the added benefit of better sight lines (a possibly more important issue on Stacy’s, now that it is much easier to ride up). The bottom line is that by cutting through the oak brush, important habitat was unnecessarily degraded. It’s important to remember that every foot of trail built impacts habitat, so I think it’s incumbent to build trails with the smallest and least intrusive footprint possible.

Some of what’s wrong with the reroute I think is a result of using machinery to do what was once done with a Pulaski.

It’s far too easy to cut through the oak brush, and perhaps build more trail than is needed, because it’s a machine doing the work. I’m not prepared to say that I don’t think machines should be used, but if they are, there has to be a conscious effort to not over use them.

Now, on to my main disagreement with your piece, Will. Your contention that unless you helped build the trail, or at least, presumably, other trails, then you have no right to complain about the work Trails 2000 does ... I have to cry fowl. Trails 2000 operates on public land, receives public money and has at least one paid employee. Yes, it is mostly volunteer labor, but that in no way makes it any less accountable to the public whose land it uses and whose money it takes. It has a responsibility to make trails that are safe and enjoyable, and it has to take pains to be a good steward of the land. There are many people in this community who may not work with Trails 2000, but who volunteer countless hours to other organizations that impact our lives in ways from public safety to the Art Center, and yes there are others who may not volunteer at all, but we all have the right, and even the responsibility to speak out if we think maybe things could be done better.

The good news in all of this is that I spoke with Mary Monroe (director of Trails 2000) about my concerns with the way Stacy’s turned out, and she assured me that in the future they will try to avoid the thick oak brush stands, not build more trail than is needed, and wait to build trails until after the birds are through nesting.
– Gunnar Conrad, Durango

Organized labor day
Dear Editors,
Enjoy your Labor Day holiday? The reason we celebrate Labor Day is largely because of the contributions made by unions to the betterment of America’s workers. The numerous beneficial influences of organized labor cannot be ignored. Most of the benefits workers now enjoy are directly attributable to unions. To cite but a few: the 40-hr. work week; paid holidays and vacations; sick leave; grievance procedures, collective bargaining and generally superior wages.

Unfortunately, succeeding generations have come to take those benefits for granted. Those benefits came about because of unions and soon became the norm for union workers and many non-union workers as well.

All American workers owe a debt of gratitude to organized labor for its achievements.
 – Paul G. Jaehnert, via email

Contain Iranian ambition
To the Editors,
The Iraqi Shiites have increased their attacks on American troops in Iraq. June saw 14 U.S. soldiers killed, which is the highest death toll since 2008.

The Iraqi military, which consists primarily of Shiites, is reluctant to counter Shiites attacking American soldiers. Prime Minister al-Maliki, a Shiite, is hesitant to order military action against fellow Shiites.

Iran is smuggling in weapons to the Iraqi Shiites to promote the destabilization of Iraq and establish a stronger Shiite presence. Iran will probably increase its influence in Iraq as U.S. troops are withdrawn, thereby enabling it to threaten oil producing countries in the region, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE.

Although the U.S. imports only 10 percent of its oil from the Middle East, any threat to the oil supply reverberates throughout the world and adversely impacts oil prices.

The U.S. needs counter weights against the Iranian Shiite and Iraqi Shiite forces. We should provide weapons to the Kurds in the north, maintain a military force in the Sunni area west of Baghdad, and have sufficient counter forces in Kuwait. A U.S. naval presence must continue in the Persian Gulf.

Hopefully, this will check any advances contemplated by Iran on the Arabian Peninsula.
– Donald A. Moskowitz, via email