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Aug 18, 2023

Thompson DivideAll my years volunteering for preserving the Thompson Divide, and just last Saturday I accepted an invitation from Wilderness Workshop for a guided hike. Sam Feuerborn, field coordinator, is a gem of a guy and a reservoir of knowledge. He carpooled three of us and we met a couple at our starting point. We walked to Babbish Gulch. Sam showed us a couple of maps documenting the reduction in the number of oil and gas leases to a handful. The superlatives for the Thompson Divide, Wilderness Workshop and Sam Feuerborn continue to enter my awareness.

My appreciation goes out to all who have been and are a part of this continuing campaign.

Richard Vottero, Carbondale

More than just tree loversI was a little disappointed with our local newspaper, The Sopris Sun’s coverage of the Carbondale Town Hall meeting on Aug. 22. The headline, buried on page 14 of the paper, read: “Tree lovers fill Town Hall.” Thankfully, the article states that it was standing room only with over 70 people in attendance. As one of these attendees, to simply call these folks “tree lovers” is a bit of a cop out. What I saw was a diverse group of our community standing for something deeper, standing for something in our hearts, standing against a specter. What I would call a specter of violence… an unforeseeable change in life on Earth that all of humanity feels deep in their guts, yet we often feel powerless in how to respond or defend those feelings.

In our country, every day we live in fear of another mass shooting in a school or elsewhere. And we feel helpless as to how to take political action. Is it just a coincidence that the U.S.A. is the biggest weapons manufacturer/dealer on Planet Earth? Every day we hear the news in the background, telling us that our country has approved billions of dollars worth of weapons to send to the battleground of Ukraine, in a land of innocent people caught between a power struggle of aggressive nations. I think we stomach it because we ultimately care for life on Earth. The Caterpillar excavators that bulldoze over life every day in Carbondale and surrounding communities are like a symbol of the Russian and United Statesian tanks of destruction that roam Ukraine… the weapons of mass destruction that benefit few and displace many. We all accept it for some reason. We also accept the land grabs in our own country by the super-rich in this community, and at the forefront of the post-destruction of the wildfires in Maui. Are we too busy, tired, distracted?

The people of our community that filled Carbondale Town Hall on Aug. 22, 2023 aren’t simply tree lovers, we are the living beings of our community that demand something better for our locale and beyond. When the U.S. Forest Service’s Kevin Warner said, “We have a need to create a more professional environment for our employees and the public,” I couldn’t help thinking that professionalism stems from creativity, resourcefulness and reverence for the past. Learn how to deal with the 80+ year-old buildings that were built from local materials and represent our town’s character — or move to El Jebel! We don’t need anymore parking lots, toxic, new buildings, and ESPECIALLY to cut down mature trees for ANY reason. Business as usual is obviously not working for anyone on Planet Earth, and those of us that brought our voice to Town Hall last Tuesday, were not just “tree lovers,” we will stand for life in our community and future generations!

Cody Lee, Satank

PoliticsI watched the movie “The Great Dictator” recently: Chaplin’s cutting caricature of Adolf Hitler, boldly going after the fascist leader before the U.S.’s official entry into World War II. Chaplin’s character gives a closing speech at the end of the movie. It reminded me of the old saying: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (George Santayana)

Following is a portion of the speech:

“…I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help anyone, if possible: Jew, gentile, Black man, white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world, there’s room for everyone, and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful. But we have lost the way.

Greed has poisoned men’s souls and barricaded the world with hate and goose stepped us into misery and bloodshed.

We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in.

Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want.

Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind.

We think too much and feel too little.

More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent, and all will be lost. The airplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men; cries out for the universal brotherhood, for the unity of us all.

… The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed; the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people.

… Only the unloved hate, the unloved and the unnatural.

… You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful.

Then, in the name of democracy, let us use that power! Let us all unite! Let us fight for a new world, a decent world. Dictators free themselves, but they enslave the people.

… Let us fight

… to do away with greed,

to do away with hate and intolerance.” Charlie Chaplin, “The Great Dictator,” 1940

The main way we can fight the hate, greed, and intolerance in this country is by electing representatives that promote the opposite qualities: love and kindness. As we begin another election cycle, it is vital to use sound discernment and to vote!

Gary Langley, Marble

Forest Service redevelopmentIn gratitude, I thank the 700+ people who signed our petition, the 450+ who signed the Change.org petition, and those of you who came to fill every seat at the Carbondale Board of Town Trustees meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 22. I am also grateful to District Ranger Kevin Warner and the Town’s mayor and trustees who put the U.S. Forest Service redevelopment plan on the agenda so all could learn more about it. We have sent a strong message that there is dissatisfaction with the current design plan.

Although this plan is out to bid, there is a group of vigilant citizens who are now requesting the opportunity for an enhanced design for the new Sopris Ranger Station to be presented and approved. This plan conserves the building and parking designs, while repositioning it so that healthy trees can remain undisturbed and a plan for historic and cultural buildings can be formulated by vested entities.

Carbondale — your voices are needed! Please come by our table this First Friday, Sept. 1, in front of the Sopris Ranger Station for more information, to see the drawing of the Enhanced Plan, or to sign our petition. You can still sign online at change.org: save the spruce trees on main street carbondale co where updates will also be posted.

Diana M. Alcantara, Carbondale

Keep it aliveI wanted to take a second to write about the Carbondale Board of Town Trustees meeting on Aug. 22 regarding the proposed Forest Service building and the potential loss of trees. It was fantastic to see so many passionate townsfolk come out, and we have not had a room that packed in a long time. But my mind keeps questioning the reasoning behind how our mayor, Ben Bohmfalk, acted.

Why did he keep demanding to be the only one addressed during this time? What was the point of that? It came off as very intimidating, and having a two-minute time limit did not help either. I understand that there were many people there, but it felt like Mayor Bohmfalk wanted to hurry things along and get it all over with because he had already made up his mind.

I’d like to see the mayor bring light into the room rather than intimidate and make orders. This was not a debate but concerned citizens of Carbondale expressing themselves. Many there had concerns, passion, and love for our community. I would just like to know why he kept stating he was the only one to be addressed and what other members of our community thought of this.

Thank you for your time.

From someone who has spent their life in Carbondale and wants to keep the past alive and remembered,

Jillene Rector, Carbondale

S.O.S.Hundreds of citizens have signed petitions and attended a recent town meeting to say “no” to the needless cutting down of mature trees by the Forest Service on Main Street next to Sopris Park in Carbondale.

Tree huggers, ecologists, environmentalists, architects, and members of the community came together to create an enhanced plan which would spare the trees and historic buildings on our public property. We believe that if this plan was given any serious consideration by the Forest Service they would find that it both retains much more humane Carbondale character and is more fiscally responsible in the long-term.

The enhanced plan is very simple. It rotates the existing planned building 90° and builds it on the existing parking lot. Demolition, curb rebuilding, new paving, and new landscaping is significantly reduced. Expensive and uncertain tree replacement costs would be eliminated. Collaboration with the Town’s pool project could unify duplicated neighboring excavation projects. The front door and porch of the building would actually face Main Street. The ADA parking would be visible from Main Street.

Saving mature trees and historic buildings would save sequestered carbon and existing usable resources, reduce long-term building energy use and heat island impacts, and improve citizen and ranger mental health. All of these potential benefits and the value of nature and authentic character on the site have been discounted by a penny-wise but pound-foolish defense of the current plan.

Readers who support the adoption of a simple enhanced plan which would spare local trees and likely save Forest Service financial resources are invited to contact their political representatives. You can call Senator Bennet’s office at 202-244-5852, Senator Hickelooper’s office at 303-244-1628, Rep. Boebert’s office at 970-208-0460 or Rep. Velasco’s office at 303-866-2949.

Patty Lecht , Carbondale

Re: Wild horsesThe Aug. 10 issue of The Sopris Sun included Barbara Sophia’s excellent column spotlighting the ongoing decimation of wild horse herds across the West. She makes clear that the BLM’s rationale for the increase in the agency’s roundups year over year — namely, that the policy is intended to prevent the starvation and suffering of the horses — is contradicted by both data and observation. Her stunning photos prove this point.

Among the upcoming roundups she mentions is the BLM’s plan to “zero out” the West Douglas Creek herd starting Sept. 1 — a small, isolated herd with a big history, whose home range is near Rangely, north of Grand Junction. This news hit me particularly hard. In 2017, through a series of magical connections, I became the lucky owner of a young West Douglas horse. Rio was rounded up by helicopter in late 2015 when he was just 4 months old and taken to the BLM’s holding facility in Cañon City for adoption. Until recently, any time a helicopter flew anywhere that he could hear or see, he went into complete panic mode.

Some may recall the sad news from Cañon City in May of 2022 that 131 horses had died in a 14-day period from the contagious but preventable Equine Influenza Virus (EIV). “All 131 of the dead wild horses originally came from the BLM West Douglas Herd … and were either unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated against EIV, despite being rounded up in July/August of 2021 and being in BLM’s care for nearly 10 months,” informed the American Wild Horse Campaign.

It is BLM policy to “process” all wild horses in their care within 30 days of arrival at a BLM facility, processing that is to include adequate EIV and other common vaccinations. These West Douglas horses, because of their particularly remote home rangelands, had never been exposed to EIV and were especially vulnerable to these BLM’s failures. Truly, they suffered a much worse fate in Cañon City than foraging with their family bands out on the arid land they had adapted to over centuries.

The small number of West Douglas horses who evaded being caught in 2015 and 2021 are now in the BLM’s crosshairs to be “zeroed” out. When the herd is completely gone, a rich piece of Colorado history will die with them. Those who’ve followed their trajectory over the past decade know the removal of the West Douglas horses from their homeland has not been based on concerns for their welfare so much as pressures from the oil and gas industry, as well as cattle ranchers interested in more land for grazing. This pattern echoes the forced removal of indigenous people from their ancestral lands generations ago, a sad irony under a Department of the Interior (and thus BLM) led by its first Native American secretary, Deb Haaland. Secretary Haaland’s leadership on other issues has been stellar. But her BLM is failing our wild horses and those who care deeply for their legacy and their future.

Barbara Dills, Carbondale

Thank you, Suzanne!This year, we honor and thank Suzanne Stephens for her 20 years of service building community and protecting special places with Aspen Valley Land Trust (AVLT). Over these 20 years, and especially since 2016 when Suzanne became executive director, AVLT and our partners have created a greater balance between the built environments and the natural open spaces that help us thrive. We have strengthened efforts to enable more people from all backgrounds to connect more deeply with nature. And for this, we greatly appreciate Suzanne’s direction.

Suzanne grew up in a subdivision in the middle of the vast elk calving grounds of Old Snowmass. The first ranchland she worked to protect was the same in which, as a child, she was fortunate enough to bounce over the hills and meadows on horseback, and watch the flight of the bluebirds in the spring and meadowlark in the summer and fall.

When listening to her speak of her experience in our region, it is clear she has a true passion to preserve its evermore scarce lands and connect people, old and new, to it and with one another.

Her spoken and written words, as well as her cooperation with staff, volunteers and partners, conveys hope and promise for future generations. We are grateful for her earnest passion that stems from a lifetime of connection to our local lands. Suzanne’s commitment to our region serves as a lasting legacy.

If you know Suzanne, you appreciate and enjoy her steady “can do” and collaborative attitude. We recognize how her determined, peaceful approach attracts success in the face of many challenges from divergent interests. Suzanne believes most people in Colorado live here, to some degree, for its connection to nature. She encourages us to cooperate to find a balance that fosters healthy relationships and the protection of land, air and water.

With Suzanne’s unassuming and determined leadership, the amount of AVLT conserved land has increased, and our community connections have deepened significantly.

With the support of community members and partners, we have been able to guarantee and increase student access to Chapin Wright Marble Basecamp for outdoor education programming; protect access to public trails at Red Hill; and, ensure Coffman Ranch, east of Carbondale, provides space for local agriculture, wildlife and people to enjoy.

With Suzanne’s leadership, this fall we are aiming to more than double the permanently protected acreage of the Marble Basecamp, so students from across the state can experience the outdoors and become future stewards of nature.

Thank you, Suzanne, for your leadership and authentic approach to building relationships for the common good. With you, we anticipate AVLT and our partners will connect more people to more land which they love, and double the amount of AVLT conserved lands, from 46,000 acres to 90,000 acres in the coming decade.

Ellen Dubé, AVLT President, 2022 to present

David Chase, AVLT President, 2020-2022

Gary Knaus, AVLT President, 2018-2020

Fred Lodge, AVLT President, 2016-2018

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