LAWSUITS … San Miguel County, under its current board, doesn’t enter lawsuits willy-nilly. We are very careful not to involve our local government in legal proceedings, unless all other avenues of settlement have been exhausted. But there are times when we are forced into taking action, because the other governments we rely on aren’t. I think the Bush Administration’s refusal to recognize the Gunnison Sage Grouse as an endangered species was one of those instances (see below) … Now, in the wake of the deeply flawed West-Wide Energy Corridors process (another Bush-era fiasco), we’ve joined with several environmental groups seeking to overturn that dubious effort. We see it as attempt to ramrod utility corridors through 11 western states and numerous local counties (including ours) without local input and without a serious look at the full impacts of these corridors on private property owners … Bush’s Dept. of Energy (DOE) took the lead in identifying preferred future corridors around the West for power – and pipelines. An understandable (if misguided) goal – as even our current energy grid is insufficient to serve our expanding needs, as projected. But the way the Bush DOE went about the planning was downright shoddy, as well as partisan. And the structure of the process they devised had a flaw that made its work of questionable value … The process was mandated by Congress to involve local governments, who were to be notified and given a chance for comment and collaboration. Except they weren’t. None of the counties that I talked to in Colorado had even heard of this process. I only learned of it unofficially through a computer advocate who provides email notices on all issues involving private property rights to a select national mailing list (in San Miguel County’s District 3 that’s a big deal for almost everybody I know) … Back in DC for a National Association of Counties meeting, I was able to question the DOE directly after a presentation they made to NACo’s Western Interstate Region. That sparked an effort on their part to come and talk to San Miguel County, and we did get them to move a proposed corridor a few miles to avoid the sensitive Naturita Canyon area. So, while we were not properly consulted in the original corridor location in our county, we did get the DOE to respond to our concerns and we were successful in getting them to adjust their plans slightly … So, why are we suing, you might ask? We got involved and were consulted (eventually) … There’s a deeper flaw with the whole process. As per the compromise legislation that passed a Republican Congress, utility corridors were not completely identified. Only those segments of lines that went through public lands were involved. Private lands were not examined. Thus, in San Miguel County, we have a small segment of corridor now identified by the Feds a running through the middle of our county, but we have no idea how that segment will connect with segments identified in Montrose and Dolores counties. Thus, private property owners north and south of the identified segment are left in the lurch, not knowing if their land might be condemned at some future date for a utility corridor … And even more politically objectionable, the utility corridor segments that were identified on public lands seem to correlate with existing coal and natural gas deposits – that is, the segments envision lines that will serve existing extractive energy supplies. But the corridors appear to have consciously avoided areas high in alternative energy potential, such as solar and wind … In our own county a corridor in our West End could facilitate the development of solar concentrating plants exactly in an area suitable for that use and in need of economic development. But the only public land segment identified for a utility corridor under this West-Wide process is next to Norwood’s wild land jewel … We at the County think that’s a huge mistake. One that needs correcting … I’ve already testified once in DC at a congressional hearing on the subject, and I look forward to being involved with my fellow commissioners in getting this flawed utility corridors process overturned and a new, more inclusive process started – one that involves local governments, identifies public and private corridor segments, and provides for access to alternative energy sources, not just existing extractive energy deposits.
GUNNISON SAGE GROUSE … Lek counts for 2009 are down once again. Of the 11 historic lek sites in San Miguel County, birds were observed on all of them at some point this spring, but the high count for the most active leks turned up only 33 males and 3 females. The 33 high count of males compares with past years (since 1999) that have ranged from 80 in 2001 to a previous low of 44 last year … Clearly the Gunnison Sage Grouse is on the edge of extinction in San Miguel County. Which, I think, vindicates the County’s stand in suing for listing of the bird as an endangered species with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service… While I remain a strong supporter of the local and state efforts to save the bird, it’s obvious that what we are doing isn’t enough. The Feds need to be at the table helping us save this unique avian species from extinction.
RAINBOW IN CUBA … That’s Cuba, New Mexico. The Jemez Mountains, to be more exact. And what a dazzling place it was in the giant meadow at Parque Venado … Numbers of attendees were way down (maybe six to seven thousand), after the police riot last year in Kiddie Village that saw Rainbow peace-keepers shot in the back with paint ball guns, while trying to prevent angry Rainbows from surrounding a posse of heavily armed officers who decided to arrest a Rainbow in the middle of the encampment on Cannibis charges (see the video yourself on YouTube) … Nothing like that happened this year. Sandoval County sheriff deputies didn’t even wear visible weapons, and were quite friendly and peace-keeping … However, anyone riding to the gathering in vehicles with traffic infractions were almost guaranteed to be stopped, and often searched – the kind of minor harassment that has been going on for at least the last dozen or so of Rainbow’s 38 years … My son Gorio and I set up a Goodtimes Camp in the rainy spruce-aspen-pine forests of the beautiful quartz-rich Jemez at 9,000 feet. We found a giant Aspen Bolete (Leccinum spp.) in the woods, and it formed the basis of one of our communal meals … But you don’t really have to cook at Rainbow. It’s this most amazing event where thousands are fed at kitchens for free. Anyone who shows up is welcome. There were skinheads, sunyassin, bikers, alcoholics, hare krishnas, urban yuppies, rural hippies and everything in between. All ages, all styles (from Goth to Emo). And everyone welcome … Former Tellurider and local Pastor Chuck Parry ran the huge Bread of Life kitchen once again this year, feeding thousands over the course of the week-long event (my Norwood buddy Jim Rosenthal spent the week before the gathering helping that good Christian tribe set up its camp) … In talking with folks who visited us at the Goodtimes Camp, I finally came to realize what it was about Rainbow that has drawn me back over a dozen times in the last 30 years (my first Rainbow was in 1979) – it’s experiencing unconditional love among strangers. Oh, many of us get unconditional love in our families or among our friends, at our churches or in our jobs. But I can think of very few places in this country where you experience a week of unconditional love from folks you’ve mostly never seen before, and may never see again. That, truly, is the amazing core of why the Rainbow Gathering appeals so deeply to me and – I think – to so many others … Gorio and I spent a good chunk of our Rainbow week trekking (sometimes barefoot in the mud) over to PopCorner, where we sampled various popcorn concoctions from Bad Movie and Stinky Fish to Hippie Classic [tamari & yeast] and Rocky Road (we missed out on Flaming Asshole – thankfully) … I got to play a mean set of claves at Vegas Lounge one night, dancing into the wee moonlit hours and making wonderful music … On the way out of the gathering, under a light rain, I ran into David Earl Hotz of Slick Rock -- a great storyteller with a wealth of historical knowledge about San Miguel County. His buddies Wolverine and Dr. Who made me a hot cup of java, laced with rum, as naughty A-Camp toast & sendoff … Packing up, the boy & I drove off to Santa Fe to see a show by former Norwoodian Ana McArthur. But more on that next week.
DREAMTIME … If you have a chance, before or after the San Miguel County Fair & Rodeo this weekend, you might want to check out this amazing gathering over near Paonia. There will be a Talking Gourds camp at the festival, run by North Fork poet Tara Miller and her partner Sam Brown … <www.dreamthefuture.org>
THE TALKING GOURD
After the Gathering
& trailing star.
all the way
Cuba a Coyote.