Make mining pay, not taxpayers

To the editor,

Late this spring in the San Juan Mountains, the snow was melting fast, but it was not too late for a high country ski tour with some buddies. Throughout the day, we passed by several old, abandoned mine sites, often stopping in awe, trying to imagine the will power, determination and strength required to haul this equipment up into these unforgiving alpine valleys. Regardless of who you are – a coal miner, an environmental activist or maybe just someone in between – we all ought to be grateful to those who pioneered settlements and towns in these mountains. The San Juans hold a special place in my heart, after all I came to these mountains when I was 18 to find myself.

But times have changed around here. No longer are prospectors exploring these peaks. It is skiers, hunters, boaters and other recreationists. Acknowledging this is the first step toward understanding what our watershed needs most right now.

Last August, when a toxic plume from the Gold King Mine turned the Animas River orange, I, like many of us in the Animas Valley, asked, “What can I do?” The Gold King Mine blowout has made noise in Washington, D.C., because we all wanted to do something, so we attended meetings, penned letters, created short films and called our congressman. And to that end, change has begun to take place.

Who’s to blame for the blowout no longer matters. What matters now are three things: 1) that we have allowed mining companies to extract valuable minerals from public lands and walk away scot-free, leaving taxpayers to deal with leftover toxic messes; 2) that there is a solution available to correct this immorality and; 3) that we need to take advantage of this political momentum to create long-overdue change.

Because we spoke up, the EPA, after 30 years of inaction, will publish draft regulations this December for public review, requiring mining companies to provide financial assurance for mine reclamation once a mine goes dormant (something that is required for other extractive industries), creating an opportunity to ensure that another Gold King spill won’t happen in some other beautiful mountain watershed. Want to fault the EPA for the Gold King blowout? Want an improved and healthier watershed? Well folks, here’s a stake in the game to guarantee that mining companies will be held accountable to clean up their messes. This regulation will safeguard taxpayers and watersheds, and ensure that hardrock resources are managed more fairly, honestly and responsibly. The right to mine does not outweigh the right to clean water. Beauty in our watershed is not a frill. It’s a necessity; a God-given right. Let’s not let there be another Gold King blowout. Let the EPA know!

– Beau Kiklis, Durango

Olympics’ unfortunate reality

To the editor,

The unfortunate reality at The Olympic Games in the 21st century should shine a glaring light on greedy corporate sponsors.  In the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, smog-producing factories had to shut down for weeks so runners, bicyclists and other outdoor events had healthier settings. You think the smell at Santa Rita Park is bad, just buy airline tickets, get an over-priced hotel room and hold your nose and pay big money for seats at the Olympic water sports venue in Rio de Janeiro this summer. 

The world can’t blame all our problems on global warming because there is big-time stupidity on where the Olympic games are held, and millionaire/billionaire athletes – no longer called “amateur” as they once were – will not morally protest about unhealthy conditions the “little people live in” when they go back home to their mansions. Oh, yeah, “the little (poor) people in Rio” are being poisoned by plumes of agent orange, instead of safer methods available, so the Zika bugs won’t infect the well-heeled.  Can’t all of us on Earth be better human beings for heaven’s sake?

– Sally Florence, Durango

Students stand up for McLachlan

To the editor,

We write this letter in strong support of Barbara McLachlan’s candidacy for state representative in House District 59. As former students and editors of the Durango High School student newspaper, El Diablo, we believe her nonstop enthusiasm, hard work, dedication and passion for service and education make her an outstanding choice to represent Southwest Colorado in the Legislature.

Mrs. McLachlan’s career and accolades speak for themselves. As a 20-year teacher at Durango High School, her reputation and qualifications are impeccable. Entering high school, everyone always talked about Mrs. McLachlan’s freshman honors English class as a must-take: difficult, but one of the best classes at the school. Furthermore, she built El Diablo into a well-recognized publication in the community, and under her leadership it won numerous state and national awards. In 2012, Durango School District 9-R recognized her as Teacher of the Year, and in 2014 she received a Lifetime Achievement award from the national Journalism Educators Association.

As much as these awards speak to her qualifications and dedication as a teacher, for us she also served as a role model and mentor. Whether it regarded an assignment or the newspaper, Mrs. McLachlan taught us that putting in the time and effort was worth the end results. As a former journalist, she taught us how to dig deep into our content. In class and on the newspaper staff, she pushed us to be responsible, professional and take pride in our work. She took a personal interest in each and every one of us, unabashedly serving as an ally and advocate for students and fellow teachers.

Even after we graduated, she made sure to stay in contact. She sent us care packages with cookies and other necessities during our first finals period in college, and her genuine interest in our continued education and life experiences makes her an incredibly valued friend. There is no one who will work harder or is better qualified to listen to and work with people to ensure the interests of Southwest Colorado are well-represented at the State Capitol. We strongly support our teacher, mentor, role model and friend Barbara McLachlan in her campaign for state representative, and we urge you to do the same.

– Ben Marvin-Vanderryn, Elle Rathbun, Emma Zink, Carl Sallee, Isabella Bussian, Claire Ochsner, Emma Russell, Elise Tidwell, Logan Graham, Taylor Graham, Aama Harwood, Laura Mummery, Brooke Kniffin. Megan Curry, Kyla Patterson, Isaiah Branch-Boyle, Sadie Geauthreaux, Haley Cotgageorge, Alora Lind, Kelsey Pool, Kate McElwain, Amelia Wigton, Jacqueline Heinrich, Mikayla Montoya, Kaylee Blevins, Bonne Matheson, Abby Jackson, Emily Schaldach, Emma Costello, Sheila Prentice, Lydia Thompson, Sarah Barney, Katie Pannell, Heather Schadt, Audrey Morris, Hakon Sigurslid, Amy Katz, Colin Deaver, Megan Deaver and Kaitlin Barela