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Briefs from the San Luis Valley

Brief by Marcia Darnell

San Luis Valley – January 2000 – Colorado Central Magazine

Ranchers Revisited

Cathy and Mike McNeil, who were profiled in the October ’99 issue of Colorado Central, were named outstanding conservationists of the year (ranch division) by the Colorado Association of Soil Conservation Districts for their work in sustainable ranching.

“We were thrilled,” said Cathy, who is president of the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust. “We’ve done a lot of things differently than how they’re traditionally done, and it was nice to have some acknowledgement for our efforts.”

Meeting of the Mines

Mining and environmental interests met at a sort of summit meeting in Alamosa recently. A group called TAG, for Technical Assistance Group played host to the debate about the impact of modern-day, corporate-style mining.

The participants aired grievances, promised changes in mining practices and vowed to get a legislative ban on cyanide leaching, to prevent future Summitvilles.

Accused Meets Accusers

Alamosa County commissioner Bob Zimmerman faced off with his opponents — that is, the people who are petitioning to have him recalled. The group’s gripes include the county’s purchase of 56 acres south of Alamosa, which they say is more land than the county needs for its building plan (a violation of state statute) and that the purchase was made with highway users tax funds (another no-no).

Zimmerman denied those charges, saying the purchase was part of a long-range plan to make room for government and non-profit facilities for the county. Several at the meeting spoke in support of Zimmerman.

Petitions to force a recall election are still being circulated.

Rare Air Accord

The Colorado Air national Guard met with residents of the Crestone-Moffat area to announce they’ll move their flyovers west. The low-level training flights have been protested for years as disrupting peace, quiet, and overall quality of life.

The Guard also plans to move its toll-free complaint number from a public relations flak to a supervising pilot’s office. Violations, it seems, will be reported to a higher authority.

This meeting didn’t reassure members of the Custer County Action Association, which filed suit against the Guard and the FAA to halt the flights altogether.

Pai Goes Public

Lou Pai, the new owner of the Taylor Ranch, went public to scoff at rumors about his intentions to develop the land known in Costilla County as La Sierra. Pai said he just wants to enjoy his 77,000-acre purchase as it is. Locals are still skeptical — and worried.

A Halt to Lilliputians?

The planning commission of Alamosa County has recommended the county commissioners put a moratorium on new minor subdivisions. Historically, these little developments have won easy approval because they don’t create the impact on services and environment that mega-developments do.

However, some say there are enough of these tiny townlets to create the impact of a bigger subdivision, and they should be halted until some regulations can be imposed.

The commissioners declined to impose a moratorium, and approved two new minor subdivisions that same session.