Members of Durango's Parks and Recreation Advisory Board have recommended the city not grant the U.S. Bureau of Land
Management a permanent easement to access Animas City Mountain to reduce wildfire fuel.
Instead, board members voted unanimously Jan. 20 to recommend the city attorney's office work out a temporary license
that would allow the BLM to get into areas in need of fuel reduction and then leave.
The BLM's original plan was more controversial because of its anticipated impact to trails and the burly nature of the
equipment the agency planned to use. The BLM wanted to turn several trails into roads, and use a large front-end
roto-mower, known as a Hydro Ax, to clear 733 acres of BLM land at the top of Animas City Mountain of dried
The BLM came back with a more amenable solution: a mini-mower with rubber tires for the flat areas and hand-thinning
along the trails. Access would come via recovered logging roads.
An Environmental Assessment is due out by the BLM in two months. Shawna Legarza, fire-management officer for the BLM
and manager of the Animas City Mountain fuels-reduction project, hopes to get started on the project by mid-summer,after public comment is taken.
Todd Richardson, fuels-reduction specialist for the BLM, said reducing fuels can be done a multitude of ways, but
public input is always important.
Animas City Mountain hasn't been cleared of decadent fuels since 1996, when 240 acres burned in a wildfire that summer,said Legarza. She said Gambel oak and piñon-juniper can grow under pine trees, causing ladder fuels, and removing them
also helps sprout food for elk.
Advisory board members were OK with the new plan but wanted to know, why make the easement permanent?
Once you give something away, you lose power," said board member Sandy Burke.
Board chairman Duane Smith said times change, and no one knows who will be in charge of the BLM in 15 years.
City attorney David Smith agreed with the advisory board.
We all kind of have the same concern. We'd rather go on a case-by-case basis," he said. This project looks fine, but
there's no guarantee it will look that way in the future."
The fuels-reduction project is intended to reduce the risk of wildfire, protect adjacent properties and protect
big-game wildlife habitat, said Richardson. The bureau will still need to access Animas City Mountain from the
city-owned parking lot north of 32nd Street, and use about 1,500 feet of trail on city property.
Public testimony will be taken at the Feb. 2 Durango City Council meeting.
Richardson said the most important thing is that the job get done somehow.
Nobody's life is worth a tree," he said.