Finding the Radical Middle Ground
by Art Goodtimes
Apr 30, 2009 | 1091 views | 1 1 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
COLORADO FOREST RESTORATION INSTITUTE … For 15 years the Public Land Partnership has been creating a regional table of trust for a diverse bunch of stakeholders involved with (or living adjacent to) the Uncompahgre National Forest. It’s won national awards and been featured by the Ford Foundation as one of the national models for a working community partnership on forest issues. Begun in Montrose and Delta counties back in 1994, it was four or five years into its process before Ouray Commissioner Alan Staehle talked San Miguel County into joining. Out of that important networking and informational process have come more result-oriented spin-offs, including science conferences, the on-the-ground, landscape-planning Uncompahgre Plateau project in Montrose County ( and our own Burn Canyon Salvage Timber Sale Monitoring project in the Norwood area ( … Now, over the years a number of excellent collaborative partnerships and watershed groups have formed all over the state. But coordination has been weak among them. Into that gap has stepped Colorado State University’s Colorado Forest Restoration Institute (CFRI). Begun in 2006 with federal monies by Dr. Dan Binkley, it has Dr. Tony Cheng as director these days – a long-time friend of PLP, Burn Canyon and Western Slope forests. Clearly his goal and the goal of his CSU team is to provide networking, resources and a unified voice for community partnerships and forest collaboratives … And the value of that direction became apparent as the conference at the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs last week wound down. The timber industry’s Nancy Fishering, a long-time PLP participant, explained how the current economic downturn had delivered a one-two punch to a forest products industry already down on its heels. If some relief didn’t come soon, the timber industry in Colorado might lose its last viable mill and all the infrastructure and expertise that will be needed to achieve forest health over the next few decades. She proposed a letter come out of the CFRI conference asking the governor to consider low-cost loans or some kind of fiscal assistance and the Forest Service to ease up on their cash-in-lieu of bonds requirements … I said I would take such a letter to my Colorado Counties Public Lands Steering Committee meeting in Denver the following day (I did and it unanimously passed, with Montrose Commissioner Ron Henderson making the motion to adopt) … And Ryan Demmy Bidwell of Colorado Wild echoed the concern, and volunteered to take it out to various environmental groups to sign on to and send … What a different moment this was from just a few years ago! Here was an extractive (if renewable and possibly sustainable) industry collaborating with the environmental community and political types of all stripes (Greens, Dems and Republicans). This is it, I realized. What Courtney White and the Quivira Coalition have been working to strengthen all these years in sustainable agriculture. What we in Colorado, through CFRI, are doing to strengthen sustainable forestry. That is what it means to work the radical middle.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN … Somehow that archetypic Sixties’ hit from Canned Heat rang in my ears as I rounded Redvale Corners several weeks ago on my way to visit my ailing younger brother … Douglas Bontempi, living out in the Silicon Valley of our Fifties’ youth. Named, my mom told me, for Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (one of her heartthrobs) … My bro chose to keep our patronymic while I Americanized mine. Seems my dad had bequeathed his own moniker for Doug’s middle name, Vincent – the Americanized version that Dad used on his checks for the Italian Vincenzo, which I once found on a tattered copy of the elder Bontempi’s 1920 Bronx birth certificate … To the Hell’s Angels he’s known as Dirty Doug. A member of the Oakland chapter for some 25 years before making a radical life change, becoming a devotee of djembes … So on the road it was to see Uncle Doug, as my kids call him … I’ve always been nostalgic for those worn roadmaps of adventures-by-auto that landmarked our childhoods in post-World War II America. Embedded as we are in car culture. Wearing amber teardrops of Ford. Edsel. General Motors … This trip I had Gorio riding shotgun with me in the Red Civic for two weeks of his spring break. Tooling back and forth across Utah and Nevada’s “Loneliest Highway.” Stopping at hot springs … One spring featured free access on private land in Mormon country – a generosity not all that uncommon in the Old West. The 30-foot pool winds down into rock, the hot water issuing up from a subterranean lava tube cavern. As luck would have it, we ended up catching a couple guys just as they were on their way out, one with a scuba pack, who told us a story … The deep tube at the bottom of the spring only descends 35 feet now, since they blew out the lower half of the cavern. Seems a local youth had scuba-dived into a section of an underwater labyrinth of lava tubes that led him to an underground chamber. He climbed up onto the ledge and took off his face mask, started wandering around, thinking the chamber had air – which it did, but only to a limited degree. The youth gradually became disoriented, fainted and died in that chamber, asphyxiated. Locals, the fellow told us, dynamited the spring after the tragedy and blocked further access … After the two guys left, Gorio and I dived into the warm clear waters, deeper than we could dare go, while a brisk wind ruffled the sagebrush bushes, until they rattled like snakes … In San Jose Doug was pretty sick. So Gorio and I rode our bikes around (lots of bike trails in California as well as cars – one of those ironies). We went to a Technology Museum, full of challenging machines that 10-year-olds of all ages could operate and manipulate. Visited seminary friends in Los Altos and San Francisco, and a couple cousins on the Peninsula. Gorio got a buzz cut at a Vietnamese barber shop. We ate lots of sushi, sour dough loaves and fresh crab, and indulged in a round of Mt. Tam organic triple crème ambrosia from Pt. Reyes Station’s fantastic Cowgirl Creamery. I stocked up on my favorite Russian porter, Baltika 6. We caught a big screen IMAX show on the Grand Canyon, narrated by our Mountainfilm and Mushfest friend Wade Davis. And we jockeyed bump’em cars across the electric floor at the Santa Cruz boardwalk … A great trip. A sad trip … Doug called from a restaurant a couple days after we returned. He was feeling a little better … As we move into these elder years, every good moment matters.

MONSTERS OF MONTROSE … The Stupid Band is the 22-year-old brainchild of Uncompahgre Valley attorney Brad Switzer (husband of sometimes Watch stringer and San Miguel County media consultant Caitlin Switzer). Brad sings (beautifully) and plays drums while the mostly geezer band cooks with originals and dance favorites (Michael Erie, Tony Kovasic, Chris Tarman, Byron Hill, and Tim Gillilland). But they only play twice a year, at Halloween and Earth Day. It used to be at the Riverside Grange, where it had more the aura of a kind of rural rave, advertised among friends. All of the Uncompahgre Valley’s wildest show up for the shindigs. But the last few years they’ve moved a tad upscale to the Turn of the Century Saloon at 121 N. 4th St. (across the tracks from Highway 50) … This Earth Day show was my second time, and it was a hoot and half. I danced almost every song of a very long set … If you’ve missed this New West Uncompahgre Valley tradition, then you don’t know the real (underground) Montrose.

SPEAKING OF FOREST HEALTH… Since we’re skipping weeks in off-season, if you’re a local who understands the looming threats of wildfire and drought, mark your calendars for an in-depth discussion free at the Wilkinson Library, Friday, May 8, from noon to 3:30 p.m. It’s a mini-seminar sponsored by The New Community Coalition, the San Miguel County Cooperative Extension and the Wilkinson … For more info, call Colleen Trout at 728-1340 or Yvette Henson at 327-4393.

© 2009 Art Goodtimes


Road Trip

growing up in the Fifties

road trips like Ranch exits

intrigued the Kerouac in us

endless stretches

cheap thrill attractions

mysterious detours

getting lost was an artform

somewhere between widespread

panic & the grateful dead

& only the lonely

took the straight

& narrow

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Michele DePage
May 19, 2009
His path came to end...RIP Uncle Dougie...You will always be missed - Love and Respect