June 23, 2015
June 21, 2015
|Led by a white Forest Service pickup, the "auto tour" forms up.|
|What I think of when I hear "auto tour."|
We were instead in M’s faithful 1997 Jeep Wrangler, and I was shifting in and out of 4wd low range all day long, mostly when descending steep, rocky, glorified wagon roads into the Puragatory Canyon.*
Seventeen vehicles full of people who had paid $15 apiece for adults started out; fifteen made it into the canyon. Flat tires were like a spreading virus — blame the sharp shale up top or the sharp rocks anyplace?
Friends in Pueblo set this up—we were supposed to have gone in May, when it would not have been over 100° F as it was on Saturday, but all tours were canceled due to wet weather. We still had to skirt a few mud bogs, but most of the roads were dusty. Very dusty. And there was little shade, and if there was, the piñon gnats were waiting.
famous dinosaur trackway, which preserves more than "1300 prints in 100 separate trackways [along] a quarter-mile expanse of bedrock," to quote the brochure. And there are more waiting to be uncovered.
Credit for the discovery goes to a 1936 schoolgirl in the downstream hamlet of Higbee; some paleontologists made quick visits shortly after that — and then scientific interest languished until the 1980s when they were "re-discovered."
|Scaled-down dinos play out the tracks' drama|
In the photo, our Forest Service interpreter-guide-wagonmaster has set down Allosaurus and Apatosaurus models — placing them in the tracks made by real things in the muddy shore of a Jurassic lake. At this spot, the carnivorus Allosaurus has stepped directly on the tracks of an apparent family group of large and small Apatosaurus browsers. The presumption is that it was stalking them.
Some smaller dinosaurs, Ornitholestes, also left their tracks. They too walked on their hind legs and weighed maybe 25–35 pounds.
As Anthony Fredericks wrote in Walking with Dinosaurs: Rediscovering Colorado's Prehistoric Beasts, "You don't have to be a dinosaur fanatic to enjoy this venture."
In fact, the different stops are like an experiment in temporal dislocation. While it is 150 million years ago at the trackway, at another stop, it is a few hundred years or a couple of millennia ago. At yet another, a 19th-century family cemetery holds the graves of New Mexican settlers who farmed from the 1860s to the early 1900s, while up the canyon, time has stopped in the 1970s, when the Army condemned thousands of acres to create the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site. All of this in eight hours of dusty roads!
|A juvenile hominin follows adults across the trackway by the Purgatory River. No Allosaurus is chasing him!|
*In Spanish, El rio de las animas perdidas in purgantorio (River of the lost souls in Purgatory); in fur-trapper French, Purgatoire; and in cowboyese, Picketwire. Named for members of a 17th(?) or 18th(?)-century Spanish expedition wiped out by Indians, an expedition that no one seems to be able to date or accurately describe. Nowadays often just called The Purg. But the name is old. M. is dismayed that the Forest Service has given its official blessing to "Picketwire" in its maps and signage on the Comanche National Grasslands.
June 04, 2015
|John Gale from Backcountry Hunters and Anglers speaks to a rally|
at the Colorado State Capitol in February 2015 (Durango Herald).
Unlike the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion of the mid-1980s, this is stealthier.
State legislatures in places like Colorado and Montana are seeing bills introduced urging that public lands administered by the federal government — Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, maybe even National Parks Service — be turned over for the states for management.
Doing so would be “more efficient,” “closer to the people,” whatever. The states, of course, would not be able to take care of them.
Can you imagine Colorado footing the bill for a bad forest fire season? Even my state representative, Jim Wilson, R-Salida, who strikes anti-Washington poses (“Personally, I would like to see the Feds out of the picture”) admits it:
If the Federal government were to give the land to the state of Colorado, how would we be able to afford the management costs? I doubt that the Federal government would give back to the Colorado all the public tax dollars that are spent annually on those lands. Not to mention the PILT (Payment In Lieu of Taxes) dollars that are used by Colorado counties to fund essential services as well as education. And, to sell and/or develop the land to afford to manage the land is like eating your seed corn...not a sustainable practice!But this stealth movement keeps puttering along.
You can imagine the scenarios if a state with a lot of public land, such as Utah, got ahold of it. Everything would be wide open — even more than now—to leasing for drilling and mining. Wildlife, water quality, etc., would not be be merely in the back seat; they would be clinging to the rear bumper of the development-mobile.
Since the state always is short of money (roads! schools! Medicaid!) the pressure would be on to start selling. The buyers would line up:
(a) energy companies
(b) mining companies
(c) rich people wanting huge ranches (doubling as private hunting grounds
(d) other land developers
So who is bankrolling this movement. My bet is (a).
There has been some media coverage, but it is isolated. No one is connecting Montana with Colorado, for example.
Some sample headlines:
Colorado Wildlife Federation's "Public Lands Update":
Throughout the 2015 legislative session of the Colorado General Assembly, CWF defended public lands managed by the US Forest Service and BLM from two bad bills: Senate Bills 15-039 (an attempt to confer concurrent state jurisdiction over federal lands) and 15-232 (to study how the state could manage these lands). Both bills were rejected. Colorado, as well as other western states where similar bills have been proposed, does not have the financial resources or personnel to take over management of a huge additional 23-million acre portfolio of public lands that are managed by BLM and US Forest Service. The likely outcome from such transfers would be sales of some of these irreplaceable lands to private interests."[MontanaGovernor Steve] Bullock Vetoes Federal Land Task Force Bill”
"A careful reading of the bill … reveals that the transfer of public lands is still very much in the sights of the task force,” Bullock’s veto letter says. “My position on this issue is crystal clear: I do not support any effort that jeopardizes or calls into question the future of our public lands heritage.”If you backpack, hike, hunt, fish, look for mineral specimens, collect mushrooms, take photos, or do anything else on public lands, imagine losing that access. You would be no better off than a Texan.