November 2013

Sheep Mountain celebrates 25 years

By Art Goodtimes

TELLURIDE ENVIRO GROUP … Back in the late ‘80s, the San Juan National Forest decided they wanted to do a timber sale in the mushroom fields of Sheep Mountain on the east side of Lizard Head Pass. Longtime local and former Timberline owner Jack Pera was incensed. Mushroom hunters like me were worried. Many Telluriders were not happy. The spruce-fir forests at the top of the Dolores River watershed are San Juan Mountains iconic, and the prospect of logging trucks, clearcuts. etc. was unacceptable … The local San Miguel Citizens Alliance group that was in Telluride when I came to town in the late ’70s, spearheaded by Rick Silverman, had kind of dissolved over controversies with the ski-area owners. Telluride was without an organized group to fight the Sheep Mountain Timber Sale. After discussions, Pamela Zoline and I decided to host a meeting to see if we could organize a group to fight the proposed sale. I sent out invitations and chaired our initial meeting. About 20 or so folks attended – I remember Jack, the fearless Helen Newell, Rick, Pam and perhaps John Lifton, George Greenbank, Lito Tejada-Flores, Bob and Corinne Brickell, Lisa Foxwell and Paul Finley, Mary Ann Gaston, I think Phil and Linda Miller were there, Rob Allen, maybe Bernice Garber, Kathy Green, Salli Russell (?) – my memory gets hazier by the year … The name Sheep Mountain Alliance (SMA) was chosen (although, ironically, Sheep Mountain isn’t in San Miguel County, or even the San Miguel River watershed). Another meeting was set for up on Sheep Mountain itself, and a lot more folks came, including Zea Beaver of Montezuma County and Joan May, who would go on to become one of the executive directors of SMA … Jack was made president that first year, and I was vice-president. The darn thing was that we quickly won our battle with the Forest Service. After a couple months they threw in the towel – no doubt because they’d gotten nothing but grief from the public in Telluride and even down in Cortez, where the Sentinel’s curmudgeonly columnist Byron McKelvie railed against the sale, and so they cancelled it … How often does a new enviro group win a campaign that quickly? … At first, a number of members of the newly-formed SMA wanted to call it quits and end the ad-hoc group. But I led a faction that pushed to have SMA join the Western Colorado Congress – a new regional citizen group formed out of the Colorado Plateau Rendezvous that George and I and others had been attending for several years up on Hastings Mesa. Joining WCC, our next battle was fighting a low-level radioactive dump site that (Dem) Gov. Romer wanted to use as a regional state facility, right across the river from Uravan and its federal remediation dumpsite. WCC and SMA teamed up to stop that ill-conceived project, and SMA had a second notch in its coup stick … The rest is history. And this past Sunday a number of hardy SMA members braved fall winds, falling aspen leaves, and intermittent snow flurries to hold a 25-year anniversary picnic up on Lizard Head Pass. Current Executive Director Hilary Cooper organized the shindig, the indefatigable Linda Miller and SMA’s current board members brought food and a lovely party was had by all in attendance – including a number of folks who bicycled up to the festivities, like true tree-huggers.



Hopped up on desire
fall winds rip up rooves
Make the elms shake & shimmy

PROUD OF SAN MIGUEL COUNTY … Reading about Ouray County’s budget shortfalls in the Telluride Watch last month was disheartening. It’s hard enough to provide services for growing populations, let alone having to deal with the Bust of ’08 and the vagaries of a Tea Party shutdown and PILT (payment in lieu of taxes – the money the Feds sometimes give counties for all the federal land exempt from county property taxes – about two-thirds of the land base in San Miguel County, and if received, up to maybe a tenth of our general fund budget)… But at the same time, I’m immensely proud of San Miguel County Administrator Lynn Black, county staff and my fellow commissioners for planning ahead for the delayed effects of the real-estate crash. Instead of facing huge budget shortfalls, we’ve built up a large reserve fund to ease our way into the down-sizing that’s been underway in our organization for the last five years. Yes, we’ve pared down local government, offered voluntary layoffs, cut back on payroll, put off projects, ended our non-profit grants, reduced expenses and have not always hired replacements for retiring employees. But we’ve tried to continue essential services so that the public hasn’t felt a lot of the pain citizens in other counties have experienced … At the same time, it’s just as disheartening to read about law-enforcement scandals, like the misuse of public funds alleged against former Montezuma County Undersheriff Robin Cronk in the Four Corners Free Press. It makes me proud of our County Sheriff Bill Masters and the excellent staff he supervises … It’s disturbing to read in the same paper about how Montezuma County Commissioners held a secret meeting without going into executive session, as the law requires, in investigating the Cronk incident, prompting their county administrator to quit that same afternoon … And just as disturbing to read how Montrose County Commissioners changed their mind about a recent gravel-pit decision, according to a Watch story, after leaving a public meeting to privately confer with staff – again without going into executive session, as the law requires … Because of our liberal philosophies on many issues, some folks see San Miguel County as a place without respect for the law. But if you look at the facts, and what’s happening around us, just the opposite is true. And I have to say, it’s what makes me so proud to be a public servant in this county.

LOCOVORE ALERT … As Cortez, Durango, Silverton and Telluride are all tied together by the foodie zine, Edible San Juans, it’s probably about time we started thinking about ourselves as a specific agricultural region. And if that’s the case, let me recommend one of our stellar regional local food producers – Turtle Lake Refuge. Their Acorn Nori Chips are to die for, in my book … Shroomfest goddess Katrina Blair runs the food and land preservation operation. It’s dedicated to the production and promotion of raw foods. All of us have probably tried eating raw foods at some point – some dishes were okay, and some were just plain inedible. But Katrina has mastered the art of concocting raw-food recipes that are nutritious, delicious and raw … It blows me away. I can’t wait to order a whole case of Acorn Nori Chips. And that’s just one product of dozens … 970-247-8395.

MICHAEL ADAMS … My good friend and master poet, Mike passed away at the end of September after a year’s struggle with cancer. His poem “Cloud Acre” was featured as the Talking Gourds piece in last month’s Free Press. The late Dolores LaChapelle of Silverton had bound us together – both of us devotees of her brand of deep ecology and bardic poetry… He was one of the Fire Giggler clan – a group of poets I’d met years ago who admired the metrics of Lew Welch, a legendary San Francisco poet pal of Gary Snyder and Phil Whalen who’d brought American cadence and Pacific Rim savvy to his verse. I’d gotten to hear Welch read once, and it was electrifying. His was a performance where the sea crashed, the sky boomed and giant redwoods swayed in the breeze. Nobody understood the percussive sing-song boomalay of American English better than Welch … Mike came from that tradition. Of Czech ancestry, his finetuned ear ran from the molten steel beds of his native Pittsburgh to the “black rock, sky pilot and Parry’s Primrose” of Broken Hand Peak … He joined many a Talking Gourds poetry gathering in San Miguel County at Windy Point and Faraway Ranch and down in New Mexico at Rockmirth. And he held his own annual corroboree at his hideaway in the Wet Mountains … We hiked together – most recently last year on the Woods Lake Trail to the Dolores Peaks – but in the West Fork Cimarrons with LaChapelle and up to Courthouse Rock ... We read together – most recently at a Gourds Circle in Norwood and before that in Boulder’s Innisfree Bookstore as part of a group of “outlaw poets” … He published an anthology about 9/11 that featured poems from a lot of us, including one by Judyth Hill that went viral and was reprinted all around the world. He’d come visit me at Cloud Acre and stay for a week. I’d go visit him and his wife Claire in their Lafayette digs, and before that in a trailer park outside Boulder, when he lived alone and worked for the City’s Parks & Rec Dept … So many stories. So many memories. Hard to let go of this good man.

DRONES … Thank you, Mahala Yousafzai, the Pakistani heroine shot in the head on her school bus by Taliban gunmen, for bravely telling Pres. Obama at a recent meeting she had in the White House that our military’s drone assassinations, which have massacred hundreds of innocent citizens (including women and children), are making terrorists of ordinary Pakistani citizens … A wonderful case of talking truth to power.

Art Goodtimes is a county commissioner in San Miguel County, Colo.