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Mountain Town News

Allen Best

DURANGO, – In the summer of 2002, one of the giant forest fires of the West soared across hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands near Durango. Now, the U.S. Forest Service wants to speedily harvest 13.4 million board-feet of dead and dying timber on a small sliver of those lands.

As envisioned, helicopters and skyline logging systems would be used, but 76 miles of existing roads would also be reconstructed, and several new miles of road would be built.

If the wood isn’t removed soon, it will deteriorate, says foresters. But a coalition of environmental groups say the Forest Service is risking too much, reports the Durango Telegraph (Sept. 12).

“Cutting new roads and skidding logs across the steep, denuded slopes of the Missionary Ridge burn area simply makes no sense,” said Mark Pearson of the San Juan Citizens’ Alliance.

Another appellant, who owns a local logging operation that does its work primarily with horses to avoid impact, said that contractors will have to cut corners, because burned timber garners lower prices.

School enrollment sagging in Steamboat

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. – Where are the kids? Like nearly all ski towns in the West, Steamboat Springs is still perking along, if not at quite the same pace as during the hurry-up, hurry-up “90s. But enrollment in public schools is sagging.

The Steamboat district has less enrollment than it did in the mid-“90s. In South Routt, an adjacent area where theoretically young families could move, the story is of declining enrollment. And to the west, at Hayden, the story is of flat or faltering enrollment.

What’s going on? School officials concede losses of students to private schools and home schooling, but also blame the always underachieving GenXers. Born in the late 60s and 1970s, they are now of child-bearing ages, but there just aren’t enough of them. And what about immigrant labor?

Other resort areas are experiencing similar trends. In the Eagle County School District enrollment increases of 4 percent were common during the 1990s, and some years spiked to 7 percent. For the last two years, enrollment growth has been essentially zero. Again, private schools and home schooling are part of the story, but the greater story is the sluggish growth in the construction and service sectors.


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