Soap Box

Skipping vaccines is a risk to us all

To the editor,

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Colorado has the lowest immunization rates of kindergartners for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) at 87.2 percent. This statistic is important because as an airborne virus, measles has a high contagion rate. Measles causes a rash, fever, sore and watery eyes, and can lead to death in the most vulnerable community members. Recent research (Science News 6/8/2019) has shown that the measles virus attacks the immune system and wipes clean its memory of past infections. This puts patients at risk for fatal infections for months after recovering from the measles.

Due to the high infectivity rate of measles, the CDC estimates that at least 93 percent of the population be vaccinated to keep measles from spreading. Lower levels allow the disease to spread.

One reason for our low vaccination rate is that Colorado allows people to opt out of vaccinations for medical, religious and personal reasons. Some parents are concerned about the safety and side effects of the vaccines even though these concerns have been fully evaluated and the benefits of vaccines far outweigh any risks. These parents chose personal reasons to refuse immunizations for their children despite physicians’ best efforts to provide vaccine information and support. Measles epidemics are a public health hazard as the state of California learned the hard way after an extended outbreak. Now California only allows medical reasons to opt out of immunizations. I support a similar change in Colorado’s public health laws to protect all its citizens.

– Dr. Joan A. MacEachen, Durango

Preserve Durango's uniqueness

To the editor,

Over the past year, citizens throughout our town worked to develop an application to have Durango certified as a Colorado Creative District, as defined by Colorado Creative Industries and the Colorado State Office of Economic Development and International Trade. Though a mouthful, the Durango Creative District effort was developed through communitywide, grassroots efforts through over 40 meetings, 686 individual engagements and online surveys, led by Local First and community volunteers.

Recently, Durango submitted its application to certify the Durango Creative District. The question is: “Why is this important for Durango?”

Many things make Durango unique, including our culture, music, shops, galleries, food, beer, artists, writers, poets, crafts people, students, teachers, entrepreneurs and our creators of all kinds. All make this an amazing place to live and visit. The Creative District is not just about art. It encompasses different industries such as culinary arts, trails, galleries, museums, manufacturing, performance venues, hotels and anything that is made or produced here locally, whether by hand or in the mind.

With population growth comes the potential for a community to lose its identity. By becoming a Colorado designated Creative District, our uniqueness is preserved, our creativity is promoted and a place for creativity to grow is protected. To learn more, attend a Creative Connection Hour held every other month. The next one is Wed., Dec. 4 at the Durango Arts Center, from 5-7 p.m. Learn about and celebrate our creative economy with your support.

– Charles Leslie, Creative District Steering Committee, Durango

The heroes of the 50 other fires

To the editor:

Thanks to the Sept. 26 Telegraph, I learned there were 50 fires put out by those lads in the little railroad carts over the increasingly drought-stricken weeks leading up to the 416 Fire. And it struck me that we have a bunch of unsung heroes who probably never got a communal fist pump or high five, though day after day they rolled into that tinder box and put out fire after fire.

I want to commend those railroad employees who obviously reported every fire and were apparently ordered back out until they failed. Still, 50 times in a row, no more than two at once, they came through! That seems exceptional to me, especially with their primitive tools and comparative squirt gun.

Is it possible their heroic efforts were purposely hushed up? Is it possible these workers were used, abused and discarded, if not blamed? Where are they today? I would like them to know how much I appreciate their dedication and efforts. I don’t think it would be proper to blame them at all.

– Philippe LeFevre, Durango

Putting the 'fun' in fundraising

To the editor,

Looking for something fun on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 29? We’re bringing back an old favorite event where women – and men! – get together to meet strong female political leaders. We began this event more than 15 years ago and now have more women in office than ever before, so you see, wine-ing works.

Secretary of State Jena Griswold will be our keynote speaker, discussing election protections and voter outreach in 2020. Other than that, it will be all fun and frivolity. $15 per person, or $5 under 21 years old. Join us! for more information.

– Anne Markward, La Plata Dems

Elks vs. e-bikes on public lands

To the editor,

During recent years, some of Colorado’s elk herds have been declining, if not collapsing, due to the proliferation of outdoor recreation, including mountain bikes and, more recently, e-bikes, on public lands. Unfortunately, a recent move by the Trump administration will open millions of acres of public land trails to motorized e-bikes, threatening intact fish and wildlife habitat.

If you’re not familiar with e-bikes, they’re motorized (battery-driven) mountain bikes. “The new policy benefits primarily the makers of electric mountain bikes, whose websites encourage riders to blast throughout our back-country trails and set new speed records,” Darrell Wallace, chairman of the Backcountry Horsemen of America, said. “Since land managers lack sufficient resources to limit speeds on trails, how can backcountry users expect to continue to enjoy a tranquil backcountry experience?”

Today, some 98 percent of the lower 48 states is within one mile of a motorized route. Ninety-two percent of all national forest lands in Colorado lie within one mile of a road and there are over 17,000 miles of roads in Colorado’s national forests. In the White River National Forest alone, there are some 5,000 miles of system roads and trails. In the San Juan National Forest, motorized road miles increased from 2,817 in the late 1990s to more than 6,400 miles in 2008. How many miles of motorized routes are enough?

Countless studies have shown that more roads and trails mean fragmented habitat and fewer elk. At some point, we have to stand up for wildlands and wildlife vs. our own myopic self-interests. As Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers founder David Petersen (a former U.S. Marine Corps helicopter pilot), said: “The three-part formula for assuring a rich elk hunting future ... could hardly be simpler ... Those three essential elements are: habitat, habitat and habitat.”

For additional information see: “Colorado BHA Report: Impacts of Off-Road Recreation on Public Lands Habitat.”

– David A. Lien, Co-Chairman, Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers