City reaches crux move in river plan
The City of Durango is getting ready to run the meat on its Animas River Management Plan.

Next week, two in-depth public workshops will focus on crafting the new plan. The two-day process takes place Wed., Feb. 15, 2-8 p.m. and Thurs., Feb. 16, 2-5:30 p.m. at the Rec Center.

The plan is an outgrowth of community concern over congestion and river access. Solutions aimed at easing these include additional access pointson the north end of the river, improving existing put-ins and take-outs, and designating sections of the river for specific activities.

“The public is defining the plan,” said Cathy Metz, director of Durango Parks and Recreation, told the Telegraph in January. “And they will define the solutions.”

One of the ideas being floating is creating river access north of 33rd Street. The city is currently in negotiations with land owners to buy the 44-acre Cameron-Sterk property north of town. Also known as “The Beach,” the parcel parallels the river and would provide additional public access.

While many river users support additional access points, of which there are none north of the 32nd Street put in, property owners along that stretch have vocally opposed the idea.

 Work on the plan began in earnest last fall, with a communitywide survey on river use.  This was followed by an open house in November, a public forum in December and an “issues workshops” in January. The planning process is being facilitated by the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Program, which also helped the community with its Lake Nighthorse plan.
Next week’s workshops will be “hands-on,” building on information and ideas generated in earlier meetings. Attendees will be split into one of six smaller discussion groups: river access; recreational amenities (in-stream and shore improvement); conservation and habitat; regulation and law enforcement; water quality; and education and community outreach.
On Feb. 15, participants will explore, in detail, concepts, strategies and potential solutions for the plan. The next day, Feb. 16, they will continue to refine strategies and solutions and present recommendations at an open house from 6 – 8 p.m.
Members of the river community are urging fellow river users to get involved while they still can.

“As a kayaker, rafter, fisherman or tuber, I would be seriously concerned about how this plan could affect my use, enjoyment and access on the river,” said resident Brian Magee, who has been actively involved in the various stages of the planning process. “The Animas is an amazing community resource that I would like to see restored, enhanced and conserved ... I believe those things are achievable, but only if the boating community takes some definite and deliberate action to let the City of Durango know how important the river is to us and what the necessary priorities and actions are to achieve those goals.”

The workshops are open to the public and people are encouraged to attend all or as much of the workshops as their schedules allow. Participants are asked to RSVP and indicate which group they would like to participate in by contacting Joanne Gantt at Durango Parks and Recreation, 375-7320, or
Public comments thus far on the plan can be found on the City’s website at and clicking on the Animas River Management Plan link.

Holland memorial Saturday at FLC
The community will have a chance to say its last goodbyes and celebrate the memory of a well-respected 20-year veteran of the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office this Sat., Feb. 11, at 2 p.m. in Whalen Gym at Fort Lewis College.

 Hollis Holland, 57, died Wed., Feb. 1, from an apparent heart attack while snowmobiling on Molas Pass. He was reported missing by his wife, Patricia, Wednesday evening and was found by a search party near his snowmobile Wednesday night.

Holland and his wife moved to Silverton in the ’70s, where he was a mine worker, led San Juan County Search & Rescue and was active with the Silverton Avalanche School.

He began working for the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office part-time in 1991 and was hired as a full-time Deputy in 1992.  He also worked part time for the Sheriff’s Office in Silverton since 1993.

During that time, Hollis received numerous awards, including the Badge of Merit in 2002 for an investigation that resulted in the arrest of an arsonist who set a fire in rural La Plata County amidst the Missionary Ridge Fire. Hollis received a second Badge of Merit in 2010 when he rescued a woman from a burning home.

He also helped start the Deputy Ski Program at Durango Mountain Resort, which put law enforcement on the slopes to improve safety.
Hollis leaves behind his wife, two sons and two grandchildren.

A visitation was held Mon., Feb. 6, at Hood Mortuary followed by burial services in Silverton.

BLM takes step to oil shale exploration
The Bureau of Land Management took a preliminary step in opening up a swath of Western public lands to oil shale development last week.

On Feb. 3, the BLM released its draft Environmental Impact Statement on the “Allocation of Oil Shale and Tar Sands Resources” on 461,965 acres in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah, kicking off a 90-day comment period. The EIS advocates continued research and development of oil shale technologies prior to pursuing commercial development. In Colorado, 35,305 acres in the Piceance Basin, in west-central Colorado, are being considered for development.

Under the EIS’ preferred alternative, lands would first be leased on a research-and-development basis, with commercial leases granted only after a lessee proves a viable method of extraction and meet a litany of regulations.

“If oil shale is to be viable on a commercial scale, we must take a common-sense approach that encourages research and development first,” said BLM Director Bob Abbey.

Oil shale describes a variety of shale rich in kerogen, an organic precursor to oil. Most oil shale in the United States is found in the Green River Formation, which runs through Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. It is estimated that the Piceance Basin is one of the richest oil shale deposits in the world.

However, kerogen is extremely difficult to extract from the shale, requiring temperatures of more than 750 degrees. Critics allege that the technology to remove the oil is elusive if not unproven and would require massive amounts of water and energy. These barriers, combined with economic conditions, have proven insurmountable to the oil shale industry, which has worked on extraction techniques for the last century.

If the EIS is adopted, it would supersede a 2008 Bush-era BLM decision that opened up almost 2 million acres of public lands to commercial oil shale development without prior research or development.

This decision was opposed and ultimately shot down by several Western communities and the Government Accountability Office, which questioned the efficacy of the technology and its impacts on water supplies. As a result, the U.S. Geological Survey is conducting a baseline study to determine how commercial oil shale development could affect groundwater and surface water systems.

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., applauded the BLM’s “balanced and prudent” new approach. “In Colorado, we have seen what can happen when we rush into oil shale development,” he said in a news release last week. “We need to be certain we can do this in an environmentally sound, socially responsible and economically viable way – particularly with regard to water. An emphasis on continued research is entirely appropriate in advance of crafting any commercial development guidelines.”

 The BLM will take public comment on the draft EIS until May 4. Several public meetings have been scheduled, including one in Rifle. The dates and times have not yet been determined.
To comment on the draft statement, visit

– Missy Votel and Tracy Chamberlin

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