Quick N' Dirty

San Juan Public Lands Center to split
The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are going their separate ways in Southwest Colorado. After a decade of “dual delegation,” the Durango-based San Juan Public Lands Center is splitting in two. The San Juan National Forest will remain headquartered in Durango, and the BLM is making the move to Dolores, where the newly named Tres Ríos Field Office opens Oct. 1.   

Though the Forest Service and BLM are both charged with managing America’s public lands, they fall under separate agencies – the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Interior. Southwest Colorado bucked this separation in 2001, when the local Forest Service and BLM joined forces and went under the same roof. The San Juan Public Lands Center was created in an effort to avoid duplication, enhance public service and manage Southwest Colorado’s public lands more effectively.

“Our lands are pretty contiguous in Southwest Colorado, so it made sense to manage them as one landscape,” said Bill Dunkelberger, acting manager of the new Tres Rios Field Office. “In many ways, the combination worked well.”

However, early this year the BLM’s Colorado director and the regional forester changed up the agencies’ guidelines and eliminated dual delegation. The new policy has come to mean the end of joint Forest Service/BLM management in Southwest Colorado and the creation of the Tres Ríos Field Office, which is named for the Animas, Dolores and San Juan rivers that flow through local public lands. The new office’s location also makes sense, according to Dunkelberger. Approximately 550,000 of the BLM’s 680,000 acres in Southwest Colorado are located in close proximity to the Town of Dolores.

“We are changing internally. But the agencies will still work together, and the Forest Service and BLM will still have people in Durango and Dolores,”

Dunkelberger said. “Our goal is a smooth transition. The public shouldn’t notice any changes.”
However, the switch has already prompted concerns. San Juan County and the Town of Silverton have expressed reservations about the split, given their unique public lands make-up.

“In San Juan County, we’re split down the middle between Forest Service and BLM lands,” said Pete McKay, San Juan County commissioner. “I can look out of either of my windows in Silverton and see national forest on one side and BLM lands on the other. Because of that, it was such a positive experience to have dual delegation and the agencies under one roof.”

San Juan County appealed to the agencies to reconsider the split and implored U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet to take their objections to Capitol Hill. However, the concerns fell on deaf ears and the move went forward.

“We only heard after the fact,” McKay said. “We found it upsetting, because the San Juan Public Lands Center was the poster child for the success of dual delegation. Now there’ll be new layers of bureaucracy and new people to deal with.”

However, McKay conceded that San Juan County is ready to give the new experiment a go, as are numerous other organizations that enjoyed dual delegation.

Dan Randolph, executive director of San Juan Citizens Alliance, commented, “It was nice to have one-stop shopping all these years, and it’s too bad from a bureaucratic standpoint. But it affects the agencies’ employees far more than us, and we should be able to continue working well with each of the offices.”

Tribe, Williams strike air agreement
An innovative partnership is working to clear the air in La Plata County. The Southern Ute Indian Tribe and Williams have entered into an agreement that promises to improve air quality within the Southern Ute Reservation and throughout La Plata County.

As owner and operator of the Ignacio natural gas processing plant, Williams has agreed to replace 10 compressor units – including seven 1950s-era reciprocating engines and three large gas turbines – with significantly more modern and efficient gas turbines. In exchange, the Tribe will grant Williams a 10-year right-of-way extension for the its pipelines and surface leases on Tribal Lands.

“This agreement demonstrates the Tribe’s and Williams’ commitment to environmental protection generally and clean air in particular on the reservation and in the Four Corners Region,” said Tribal Chairman Pearl E. Casias. “Replacing the outdated compression units at the Ignacio plant with new, efficient turbines will provide a large and significant environmental and public health and welfare benefit to the Tribe and everyone who resides on the reservation, as well as to surrounding areas.”

Under the terms of the agreement, the compressor upgrades are expected to be completed by the fall of 2013. “It is important to both Williams and the Tribe that we do our part to maintain the best possible air quality while providing good jobs and important economic development in our region,” said Don Wicburg, Williams’ general manager.

Durango to observe Walk to School Day
Durango students are getting out and hoofing it next week. Durango School District 9-R will join schools from around the world and celebrate International Walk to School Day on Oct. 5. Five thousand schools from all 50 states and 40 countries are expected to take part.

Many local students will be walking and/or biking to school on Wednesday along with parents, teachers and community leaders. Activities will be scheduled throughout the week, so students who are bused to school can participate in the celebration. Locally, Walk to School Day is being sponsored by Durango’s Safe Routes to Schools program. Safe Routes to Schools is believes a comprehensive program can improve safety and health not just for children, but also for the entire community.  

Black Hawk’s bicycle ban challenged
The fight over a ban on bicycles in the town of Blackhawk has gone to the Colorado Supreme Court.

In 2010, the Colorado casino town prohibited bicycle travel on most Black Hawk roads and cut off any paved bicycle connection between Central City and the Peak to Peak Highway. The case escalated to the Supreme Court following a district court ruling against the three cyclists originally ticketed for riding their bicycles through the town.

“Bicycling contributes over $1 billion annually in economic revenue to the state of Colorado,” said Dan Grunig, executive director of Bicycle Colorado.

“This case has garnered a significant amount of negative media attention and is really a black eye for tourism in our state.”

The plaintiffs argue that Black Hawk overstepped its rights as a local authority and ignored state laws by not providing an alternative access route for bicyclists to follow. The town claims that safety concerns were the reason for the ban, even though there were no reports of bike crashes on the road prior to the ban.

A decision on whether or not the case will go before the court is expected in the next several months.


– Will Sands
 

 

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