Not collaboration, but collusion |

Not collaboration, but collusion

A recent article by Scott Condon on the marble-mine expansion near Redstone left out some important issues.

I absolutely take issue with the findings of no impact to the unique wildlife and habitat in the area, but am still waiting on copies of the reports. There is plenty of data that will refute those findings.

A couple of factors are coming into play regarding this expansion. It has been well-documented statewide that the Division of Wildlife is being systematically neutered by Gov. Owens, to make sure that they do not stand in the way of development.

The DOW has been a strong force for wildlife protection for many years, even if its focus was to provide animals for hunting. Now, Owens and his Natural Resources Director, Greg Walcher, have decided that the DOW is getting in the way of “bidness,” and Walcher has begun to join the Republican choir in questioning the Endangered Species Act.

The last “dodo” could have been found in Avalanche Creek, along with the bald eagle, bighorn sheep, bobcat, and elk that live there, and the finding would have still been “no significant effect”!

The other factor is coming from the Department of the Interior, and is being touted as a new way of dealing with the conflicts between uses of our public lands, between extractive industries, business interests, recreational uses, wildlife protection, etc.

I have been extremely skeptical of this plan, which will supposedly work collaboratively with the involved parties to avoid litigation and lengthy delays that, according to the administration, are crippling the Forest Service and BLM. Every inch of this mining operation is occurring on public lands in a popular recreational area, however the Forest Service has decided that there will be no public input on the winter use of the mine and a half-dozen other changes, despite their assurances to the contrary at the September Crystal Caucus meeting.

The major player has been left from the table in this collaboration. I believe that the Forest Service is acting illegally and violating the National Environmental Protection Act by refusing to conduct a supplemental environmental assessment, if not a full blown EIS.

Not only are they required to allow public involvement in the decision about winter use, they should welcome the participation of the public in reviewing the application and crafting conditions for any new uses. This isn’t collaboration, it’s collusion.

Neighbors found out about these proposals accidentally, barely eight weeks before the mine was scheduled to shut down for the winter. I now believe that the Forest Service never had any intention of informing the public, and intended to keep their negotiations below the radar.

They have repeatedly failed to enforce any penalties for the operator who chronically violates his permit conditions. District Ranger du jour Bill Westbrook’s statements that the mine is so quiet that you can hear a pin drop are insulting to neighbors who have listened to the mine operating illegally at 5 a.m. It’s not always noisy, but there is often a loud industrial drone now. I guess that will be drowned out soon, once the chain saws start up across our wild lands.

Our neighborhood is in a rockslide area and is zoned by Pitkin County as an avalanche zone. The state issued a permit to the operator to blast after shutting him down for blasting without a permit earlier this year. Two homes sustained broken windows, another has cracks in the walls, and we have legitimate concerns about the aquifer and our community well system.

There are thousands of pages on the Internet about the damaging effects of nearby blasting on building structures worldwide. The potential threats to life and property have never been studied by the state and the Forest Service has completely ignored these concerns.

A neighbor close to the mine told me that the former District Ranger suggested that she consider selling her home because of how big the impact of this operation is going to be. In light of that comment, it is reprehensible for a public agency to refuse to allow public involvement in the process.

Bill Brunworth


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