Soap Box

Vermont – for Rilke
12/20/2018

Tell me again about that clearing in the woods where she kissed you for the first time. Immortals – angels – never tire of those stories. That is love, isn’t it? That image, that memory? Clothed ineradicably in self and time when the caustic is removed. What we don’t have. It is your story, not ours – tell it again, while you can, to those of us removed from all actuality or potentiality except in essence. We muses long to cry once more forever as you have. Not like you, because of the loss, in time, but for the gift of its happening after all.

– Christian Hatfield, Durango

Broken street lights pose hazard
12/20/2018

To the editor,

There are a lot of street lights along the River Trail and on Bennett Street that are out. There is also a street light at the 32nd Street boat launch that has been flashing like a strobe light for over two weeks, which is dangerous for a couple reasons: one being the amount of deer that cross right there, and the second being the vision of the people biking, running and driving. Now that it is winter and the days are short, it would be nice to be able to go out and exercise safely or walk after work and to be able to see and not get potentially hit by a car.

– Amanda St Pierre, Durango

Wolf symposium shared science
12/20/2018

To the editor,

I was honored to share some lessons learned about ranching in wolf country at the Durango Wolf Symposium on Nov. 29. And I was disappointed by the letter to the editor (Dec. 6) sent by Naomi Dobbs representing the La Plata County Farm Bureau, La Plata County Cattlemen’s Association and La Plata Liberty Coalition – a letter that misrepresented both the symposium and the science on wolves.

Wolves are native to most of North America. Gray wolves lived from northern Mexico to the Arctic, from the Pacific to the Great Lakes. As with most species, individual size increased from south to north. Gray wolves were nearly extirpated south of the Canadian border; and after decades of recovery in the Northern Rockies, Great Lakes and a small part of the Southwest, they now occupy 

about 15 percent of their former range in the Lower 48. Gray wolves from any of those places could be reintroduced to western Colorado. Wolves already coexist with people and livestock in those places, and, in Europe, several times as many wolves live with millions of people.

The symposium brought together a group of wolf biologists, Native Americans, a historian, a range conservationist, a member of the Colorado Wolf Management Working Group, a rancher who has learned to live alongside wolves, and a local rancher who would rather not. The point of the symposium was to share multiple perspectives of professionals who have lived and worked with or studied wolves, not to have a debate between two sides. The organizers did not pay any of the presenters for our time.

It turns out that most biologists and even some ranchers think that western Colorado could once again be wolf country, and if so, that ranches would continue providing benefits to society, including habitat.

Colorado’s existing wolf plan (2004-05) did not address reintroduction, only management of dispersers from other states. That’s the plan that Mark Pearson outlined – a presentation misrepresented in the Dec. 6 letter.

The comparison of the Durango Wolf Symposium to the so-called “symposium” hosted by Big Game Forever, an anti-wolf propaganda organization, is an insult to science.

Had the writers actually attended the symposium, they could confirm it covered the usual issues raised by people who fear wolves. In contrast to what the letter writers would have you believe, the risk to big game is greatly exaggerated: most of the Northern Rockies now have more elk than they did when wolves were reintroduced. Only where wolves were allowed to reach very high density were they able to locally reduce (previously overpopulated) elk herds.

The purported threat to human safety was only addressed because it is a persistent concern, not a real issue. And hydatid disease, a parasite associated with domestic dogs and sheep, is a red herring.

I ran cattle in the northern San Juan Mountains for a few years. I never lost a calf, and thanks to strategic grazing

management and low-stress herding, my cows rediscovered their herd instinct and learned to mob up and run off potential predators. I actually left Colorado for five years to work on ranges shared with grizzly bears and wolves in Montana and Wyoming.

Since Montana stopped trying to count all of its wolves, those wolves have been verified as killing about 50 cattle (mostly calves) per year, out of about 2.5 million. Not all predation is documented, but it is far from what anti-wolf extremists would have us believe. Nevertheless predation can be locally significant. And it turns out that my experiences with strategies for preventing predation – while making the ranch more resilient – aren’t unique to me. Other ranchers in big-predator country, including Joe Engelhart who joined the symposium from Alberta, have successfully applied those ideas.

My purpose at the symposium was not to argue for wolf restoration in Colorado, but to share some experiences and the stories of some ranchers and cowboys who are learning to live with wolves.

But, full disclosure: I think Colorado is more Colorado with its ranchers than without. Our cowboys would be punchier, our mountains higher, our breeze more invigorating if it carried the howl of the wolf.

Colorado ranchers, tough as their wolf-country brethren, have a soft spot: love of their animals. It’s time for us to expand our love beyond humans and domestic animals to the wild ones. Our greatest wildlife biologist, Aldo Leopold, also a forester and farmer, saw it most clearly: only the mountain has developed a broad enough perspective to listen objectively to that howl.

– Matt Barnes, Dolores

Playing 'Masters of the Universe'
12/20/2018

To the editor,

I have a message for the people who want to relocate wolves to Colorado – and those who don’t. Leave native fauna (and flora) alone! If wolves return to Colorado on their own, fine. If they don’t, fine. Native animals have challenging lives as it is and don’t need our interference to make things worse. We need to:

1. Stop destroying habitat;

2. Unless you plan to eat what you kill, stop shooting, trapping, poisoning, experimenting on, feeding and relocating wildlife;

3. Remove domestic livestock from public land and leave it to wildlife. Take responsibility for your animals without public subsidies. Maybe meat should cost $40 a pound;

4. Quit playing “Masters of the Universe” as if humans know what’s best for every other living thing. Our hubris is appalling. Will species go extinct? Yes; they already are and will continue to do so at an alarming pace (and once they’re gone, we will go, too). Why? Because humans have determined that everything else on Earth was put here to serve our every greed, including the “right” to reproduce ad infinitum.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, everyone. (If I haven’t pissed you off, you’re not paying attention. Wake up!)

– Eilene Lyon, Durango

Board doesn't reflect county folks
12/13/2018

To the editor,

Congratulations to the city of Durango for having captured all three seats on the Board of County Commissioners! Going back 24 years, the Democrat county commissioners representing District 3 have yet to win a majority of the voters in that district that includes Bayfield, Ignacio and Vallecito.

In the last election, results showed that the current county commissioner for District 1 received 5,869 votes and his opponent got 5,155 votes within the precincts for that district. That’s a 714-vote margin for the current District 1 commissioner that lost the overall tally by 23 votes!

In May, a bill allowing counties of 70,000 population or less to elect commissioners strictly by districts was passed with bipartisan support in the senate. The Democrat-controlled house killed it. House hearings on the bill included testimony by phone from FLC. The only two La Plata County residents testifying against the measure were Jean Walters, former head of the La Plata County Democrats, and Durango’s mayor Sweetie Marbury.

According to 2017 population statistics, La Plata County had 55,589 residents, and the city of Durango had 18,465 residents. In other words, a third of the county residents (those living in the city of Durango) elects 100 percent of the county commissioners.

Beginning in January, we’ll have three Democrat county commissioners, two of which couldn’t even win the majority of votes in the districts they were “elected” to represent. How is that representative government?

– Dennis Pierce, Durango