Briefs from the San Luis Valley

Brief by Marcia Darnell

San Luis Valley – November 2001 – Colorado Central Magazine

Fallout from 9-11

Even in a small town, the effects of the terrorist attacks have been widespread. Aside from the prayer vigils, blood donations, and fundraisers, the reactions to the event are pervasive.

* The Alamosa School Board is encouraging teachers to lead their students in the Pledge of Allegiance every day.

* The Alamosa County Nursing Service is applying for a government grant to buy equipment and antibiotics to fight bioterrorism.

* Armed guards now stand at tiny Bergman Field, the airport in Alamosa. Members of the Colorado Army National Guard are providing ground protection at the state’s small airports.

* An American flag will be painted on the old water tower in southern Alamosa, as soon as funds are raised.

Dunes Summit Draws Dignitaries

The Dunes Summit II on Sept. 8 drew many of the same movers and shakers as the first event in December ’99. Mark Burget of The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, U.S. Sens. Wayne Allard and Ben Nighthorse Campbell and monument superintendent Steve Chaney gathered at the site to fete the monument’s progress toward park status.

The U.S. Secretary of the Interior attended the last summit, but apparently Gale Norton had other business — she sent a substitute.

Bear Buffet

The bears are alive and ravenous, and dining at a campground near you. A 20-year-old man was awakened by a bear biting his foot.

The ursine diner tried to drag the man, but dropped his snack and left when the man verbally expressed his displeasure.

PILT Picks Up

The Valley will cash in on higher PILT (payment in lieu of taxes) money from the federal government this year. The compensation for uncollected taxes on federal land went up dramatically for most of the Valley’s six counties. Saguache County is the big winner, hauling in over a third of a million dollars, part of which is recompense for the expansion of the Great Sand Dunes National Monument and Preserve.

Got elk? No!

A privately held herd of elk in Del Norte was destroyed as part of a statewide effort to combat chronic wasting disease. Rick Forrest, owner of the 200-member herd, hopes that the action will stop the disease in the Valley. Wild elk and deer in the Valley were also tested for the disease. Ag officials are now tracking and testing elk that were sold and exported to other states.

Recall Redux

Another form of wildlife commonly seen in the Valley is the recall election. This time it’s Costilla County Sheriff John Mestas on the block. He’s accused of allowing deputies to harass and threaten citizens.

Another recall effort, of the Sangre de Cristo school board, failed to garner enough signatures for a slot on the ballot.

Summitville Forever

The final plan for cleaning up the Summitville Mine site near Del Norte includes infinite water treatment. Since the mine drainage can’t be shut off, the Alamosa River and its tributaries will be under perpetual care. The 100-year cleanup plan will cost $240 million, according to federal officials.