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Rep. Lauren Boebert’s bill to delist gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act gets its first hearingU.S. Fish and Wildlife, the agency that lists and delists animal species, testified against the bill41602773FILE PHOTORep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., speaks during a House Committee on Natural Resources hearing on America's Energy and Mineral potential on Feb. 8 on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Associated Press/Mariam Zuhaib file)GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert’s bill to delist the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act faced its first subcommittee hearing Thursday.But before she talked about her bill, Boebert started with an aside, showing photos of human babies she said were born in Washington, D.C., with what looked like birth defects. Boebert, a staunch anti-abortion supporter, then asked if her Democratic colleagues would want to put babies on the Endangered Species Act.After that, Boebert turned to the gray wolf, saying it’s, “an Endangered Species Act success story, and it shouldn’t languish,” on the ESA any longer.The wolf has been on and off the endangered species list various times in recent years as litigation has worked its way through the courts.“Gray wolves are fully recovered and should remain delisted in the lower forty-eight and should be managed by states who have proven more than capable at managing these thriving populations,” the conservative Western Slope representative said. “On the right, we want to be good stewards of our land and the wildlife and our waters. We want to be a part of that managing process with wildlife, not have wildlife manage itself.”0VideoYouTube480360Her bill, titled Trust the Science Act, would reinstate a 2020 rule that delists the gray wolf and would prevent judicial review. According to Boebert’s office, the Administrative Procedures Act would limit courts from reviewing an agency’s action if the statute precludes judicial review. Since the Obama administration, the status of the gray wolf has been in flux, with efforts to delist challenged in the courts.In November 2018, the Republican-controlled House passed a bill to delist the gray wolf, but it did not advance in the Senate.She pointed to a number of groups that support her legislation, from the Colorado Cattlemen's Association to Safari Club international.But U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the agency that lists and delists animal species, testified against the bill.Stephen Guertin, deputy director for program management and policy at U.S. Fish and Wildlife, said Boebert’s bill and others to delist species, “would put Congress in control of delisting species without the benefit of using the best available scientific and commercial information and without considering current conditions. They’d supersede ongoing scientific analysis being conducted by the service regarding the status of wolf and grizzly populations right now.”Boebert said she was surprised the FWS is opposing her bill, “when career officials at your very agency wrote the same 2020 rules.”Water, Wildlife and Fisheries Subcommittee chair Cliff Bentz said the Endangered Species Act is 50 years old and could be improved by these bills.“Any law can be improved, and that’s what we’re about. This is the first hearing that we will hold on the EAS, but certainly not the last.”But Ranking Member Jared Huffman criticized the bill saying, “These bills ignore science, rather than trust it. They bypass science.”Huffman pointed out that Colorado voters supported reintroducing the gray wolf in the state.“The gray wolves are more popular than some of the politicians that want to delist them,” he said.As the bill winds its way through Congress, Colorado senators have written the heads of the Interior Department as well as the Fish and Wildlife Service to grant Colorado a 10(j) exemption to give the state, farmers and ranchers management flexibility, such as lethally removing or relocating the reintroduced wolves.Rep. Pete Stauber of Minnesota, a sponsor of the Boebert bill, pushed Guertin to say the Biden administration will follow the science on listing or delisting the gray wolf.Boebert used her time to show photos of livestock and dogs in Colorado attacked by wolves.“While people of the Denver suburbs and the fake news believe all wolf attacks turn out like fairy tales,” she said. “The reality is much different.”She mentioned an anecdotal story of a 9-year-old boy attacked by wolves while swimming in 2002. CPR News instead found news reports of a 2022 wolf attack that took place in Russia.Huffman noted that of 26 fatal wolf attacks from 2002 to 2020, only one took place in the United States.To read more stories from Colorado Public Radio, visit www.cpr.org.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the agency that lists and delists animal species, testified against the bill
Mining a vein of artistic talentFour artists have started an artist collective in the historic Silverton Powerhouse27121934Founding artists of the Silverton Powerhouse, from left, Hannah Green, Hillary Cable, Anne Chase and Julian Hood stand inside the collective artists space on Tuesday at the old power station on County Road 2 north of town. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)SILVERTON – Two musicians played on a small carpet that demarcated the stage from the mass of visitors clad in duct tape-patched jackets huddled around a wood stove – the lone source of any meaningful heat – at the Silverton Powerhouse Spring Fever Event in early March.Black and white photographs clung to the walls of the former industrial building, covering up decades of wear. When the Silverton power station was built in 1906, it was a critical piece of infrastructure responsible for the distribution of hydroelectric power that was farmed from the Animas River and relayed to a network of mines scattered among the peaks of the San Juan Mountains. And while the telltale circular holes in the brick facade through which high voltage lines once ran still remain, the building now enables the mining of something else: artistic talent. 30001970The Silverton Powerhouse is a collective space for artists and community events located in the former power transfer station that once fed crucial electricity to the mines scattered about the San Juans. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)Four Silverton artists – Hannah Green, Hillary Cable, Anne Chase and Julian Hood – are what one could call the mining foremen of the Silverton Powerhouse, although they prefer the term “founding artists.”Over the last year, the team has worked to convert the former power station into a collective space for artists to work and host community events that incubate Silverton’s artistic talent. It is the building itself, Green says from her balcony studio overlooking the space’s expansive footprint, that propelled the Silverton Powerhouse into existence. “People walk in here and have 10 million ideas,” she said. The Silverton Historical Society put the building up for lease in November 2021. It had sat unused, filled with ski-making detritus, after ScottyBob Skiworks vacated the space several years earlier. Green took the initiative to gather Silverton’s artistic community and gauge what interest there might be in converting the space into an artist collective. 30002004Hannah Green, a Silverton photographer and one of the founding artists of the Silverton Powerhouse collective artist space, with some of her work on Tuesday inside the old power station. Green had been searching for studio space when the powerhouse became available for rent in fall 2021. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)Cable, Chase and Hood were willing to commit to the project, and in February 2022, the group signed a lease. The artists range in age from 23 to 36. “Last year was a lot learning, just figuring out what we really wanted this space to be and how we wanted it to work,” Green said. Since signing the lease, the four artists have begun to make the space their own and open it up for community events.Many of the Powerhouse’s facilities are still under construction and meet only the minimum needs of the founding artists. The temperature in the poorly insulated building hovers below 50 degrees winter days, making it difficult for the artists to justify renting space to others. But having studio space has enabled – and in some cases required – the four to expand their artistic endeavors. They come and go as they please, although most of them are limited by the constraints of having at least one full-time job.Hood works in the uppermost balcony of the building, where he runs his brand, Notorious Blair Street Tees. His multi-armed screen printing press occupies much of the space, which he says is a step up from the basement of The Avon hotel. 30002044Julian Hood, one of the founding artists of the Silverton Powerhouse, in his screen printing studio space on Tuesday inside the old power station outside of town. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)“It feels like I'm starting to be an actual business,” Hood said. “It feels legitimate.”A floor below him, Chase sits in front of an easel perched at the edge of the building’s second tier. She recently quit her day job in favor of artistic career. Chase makes landscape art across a broad range of formats, transcending the constraints of any single defined lane. 30001857Anne Chase, one of the founding artists of the Silverton Powerhouse, with some of her work on Tuesday at her studio inside the old power station outside of town. She stained nearly every counter and table in her house with paint before she began working in the Powerhouse. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)“I have stained all of my kitchen counters and my dining room table with paint,” she said. “I have room for all of my prints and storage and paints. It has been huge.”Directly below her, Cable has a small enclosed studio where she is working on an epoxy backsplash for her brother’s kitchen. “I can't do the project that I'm working on right now without that space,” she said.30002066Hillary Cable, one of the founding artists of the Silverton Powerhouse, said she could not have done the backsplash she is making were it not for the studio space at the Powerhouse. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)She used to work in a section of her bedroom, cordoned off by sheets of plastic hung from the ceiling. She said the studio space has financial impacts that extend in both directions; it allows her to do more work while simultaneously necessitating that she produce more in order to cover her portion of rent. Of course, the profits from Cable’s ski-pole plunger business supplement her income. The four entrepreneurs say they are envisioning the future through two different lenses. One lens is focused one step ahead, on the Powerhouse’s immediate needs. In the other lens, the artists are looking at how their collective will fit into Silverton’s community. 30001978Hillary Cable, a Silverton artist and one of the founding artists of the Silverton Powerhouse, holds her ski pole plunger Tuesday in her studio space. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)The Powerhouse’s facilities currently include a photography dark room and a bare-bones music studio. The darkroom, sequestered under a stairway, darkened by hanging curtains, is ripe for improvement, Hood says.The Powerhouse artists launched a Kickstarter campaign earlier this month to address some of the building’s immediate needs. The campaign, which ends April 2, has raised over $12,000 of the $19,500 goal.First up, Chase said, is heating. “We need to make the space usable year-round in order for it to be a viable business,” she said. “The four of us are pretty hearty and work in a 49-degree building. But I sometimes can't work when it's this cold because of my paint. So we need to make the building warmer.”The founders have emptied their own bank accounts into the Powerhouse and are now soliciting community support because they say the vision of what the space can be, and already is, has been widely backed by the Silverton community. “The whole community loves how beautiful this building is,” Cable said. “It's been really special to be able to share that with them and invite people out here and just enjoy the space with other people from the community.”Already, the Powerhouse has hosted the Silverton Whiteout Fat Bike Race, bonfires, birthday parties and art shows. On April 1, the artists will host a silent auction to benefit their Kickstarter campaign. Once the place can retain some heat, the founding artists say they want to create new studio spaces for up to three more makers, enhance the building for hosting events and turn it into a resource for Silverton’s broader community. They have even talked with Silverton School about opening the space up to kids. Using Durango’s Smiley Building as inspiration, the group is looking to foster a buzzing hub of artistic activity. “It's so important to have a community space in such a small town,” Chase said. “The winters here are really isolating. And (know) so many artists who all work alone, who really value the idea of working together.”rschafir@durangoherald.comJulian Hood, a Silverton artist and one of the founding artists of the Silverton Powerhouse, a collective artist space, at his screen printing studio space on Tuesday inside of the old power station outside of town. Photo by Jerry McBride/Durango Herald20443000The Silverton Powerhouse a collective artist space, on Tuesday that is located inside of the old power station outside of town. Photo by Jerry McBride/Durango Herald19703000Hannah Green, a Silverton photographer and one of the founding artists of the Silverton Powerhouse a collective artist space, with some of her work on Tuesday inside of the old power station outside of town. Photo by Jerry McBride/Durango Herald20043000The Silverton Powerhouse a collective artist space, on Tuesday that is located inside of the old power station outside of town. Photo by Jerry McBride/Durango Herald20003000Some of Julian Hood’s work inside of the Silverton Powerhouse on Tuesday. Photo by Jerry McBride/Durango Herald20473000The Silverton Powerhouse a collective artist space that is located inside of the old power station outside of town. Photo by Jerry McBride/Durango Herald19563000Anne Chase shows the music room at the Silverton Powerhouse, a collective artist space. Photo by Jerry McBride/Durango Herald20003000Founding artists of the Silverton Powerhouse, from left, Hannah Green, Hillary Cable, Anne Chase and Julian Hood stand inside of the collective artist space on Tuesday at the old power station outside of town. Photo by Jerry McBride/Durango Herald19342712Anne Chase, a Silverton artist and one of the founding artists of the Silverton Powerhouse, a collective artist space, with some of her work on Tuesday at her studio inside of the old power station outside of town. Photo by Jerry McBride/Durango Herald18573000Juneau and Rufus, dogs which belong to artists at the Silverton Powerhouse, a collective artist space, play on Tuesday. Photo by Jerry McBride/Durango Herald19863000Hillary Cable, a Silverton artist and one of the founding artists of the Silverton Powerhouse, holds her ski pole plunger that she makes and sells from her studio inside of the old power station outside of town. Photo by Jerry McBride/Durango Herald19783000Hannah Green, a Silverton photographer and one of the founding artists of the Silverton Powerhouse, with some of her work on Tuesday inside of the old power station outside of town. Photo by Jerry McBride/Durango Herald20813000Some of the materials that Anne Chase, a Silverton artist and one of the founding artists of the Silverton Powerhouse, uses on Tuesday at her studio inside of the old power station outside of town. Photo by Jerry McBride/Durango Herald18253000Hillary Cable, a Silverton artist and one of the founding artists of the Silverton Powerhouse, displays some of her work on Tuesday inside of the old power station outside of town. Photo by Jerry McBride/Durango Herald19873000Anne Chase, a Silverton artist and one of the founding artists of the Silverton Powerhouse, a collective artist space, with some of her work on Tuesday at her studio inside of the old power station outside of town. Photo by Jerry McBride/Durango Herald40006000Anne Chase stops and looks at a window that is covered with ScottyBob Skiworks skis, which were once manufactured in the old power station outside of Silverton. Photo by Jerry McBride/Durango Herald60004000
Four artists have started an artist collective in the historic Silverton Powerhouse
Brookside Skatepark to be reworked or rebuiltLocal skateboarding icon envisions new skatepark as best idea30722304Ross Herrera readies for takeoff in bowl at Brookside Skatepark. (David Edward Albright/Durango Herald)City of Farmington Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs department is looking at two options for creating a Brookside Skatepark. One option is to renovate the existing park, while the other option is a complete rebuild.Ross Herrera, 35, has been skating for 23 years.“My primary vision for the park kind of goes a few different ways,” he said.From his perspective, a different location may be the most logical and ideal, but otherwise the current park needs a complete rebuild.Herrera and his wife, Annette, opened 505 Shredz Skateboard in September in downtown Farmington at 211 W. Main St. They welcome local skaters of all ages to enjoy the friendly vibe of their shop, where a video monitor shows local skaters performing tricks at Brookside Skatepark and other locales. Annette said business has been steady.The city of Farmington has scheduled a community input meeting for 5:45 p.m. Monday, March 20, at Brookside Park. Annette expects a good turnout from skateboard enthusiasts. “We shared it and we’re hoping all our riders show up,” she said. City of Farmington spokesperson Christa Chapman said in an email that the planning team is working with Pland Collaborative and subcontractor Spohn Ranch Skateparks, for the design of the skatepark.Spohn Ranch Skate Parks, an award-winning skateboard designer based in Los Angeles, has three decades of experience building skateboard parks in more than 40 states and 15 countries.Herrera and other avid skaters love to skate and film at Brookside Skatepark. “Everybody films everybody down there,” Annette said. They film and upload to YouTube, she said, as a video of skaters played on the screen in her shop.0VideoYouTube480360One of Herrera’s “homies” filmed him doing an airborne skateboard trick called the “backside flip,” which became their business logo and clothing-gear image.The shop was a family venture, but they got some help from San Juan College with their website.“We’re still new, so we’re working on certain products,” Herrera said. “We’re here to serve the skating community … the kids who just want a place to hang out or chill … they’re all welcome. It’s just a good, friendly place.”Their shop also has hosted local competitions.Herrera enjoys working with kids who don’t have quite enough money for a board. “We want to keep everyone riding, whether you’re trying to go pro or just ride around town,” he said.Herrera estimated there are at least 100 local skaters, but many more come into Farmington from the surrounding region.Herrera has competed at events in Albuquerque and Durango, but has skated at some of the best parks around. He has been to a few of the skateparks built by Spohn Ranch and mentioned Fifth Pocket Skateparks from Philadelphia, as another great builder.He said Fifth Pocket just built a skatepark in Two Grey Hills region in the area of Newcomb. Herrera rides for Enchantment Skatepark in Gallup, which was built by Spohn Ranch. “It’s a really nice park … like the one they built in Santa Fe.”When asked if he considers himself to be a mentor for young skaters, Herrera said, “I really don’t like to answer that question because I might sound cocky. But when I hear them and others talking, ‘I’m a Brookside legend!’”“I started here from Day One. It kept me away from gangs. It kept me away from drugs. It kept me away from major trouble,” Herrera said. No matter where his family traveled – Las Vegas or Denver – he headed to the skatepark. 23043072Ross dedicated this photo to his recently deceased friend, Willem “Tomatoes” Tolerdo. “I love you, man,” he said. (David Edward Albright/Durango Herald)“It was literally my love,” he said. That’s why he and his wife opened Shredz and why he hangs out with the young skaters filming and posting on YouTube. Herrera was there with several teenage skaters on a blustery mid-March day.“My main thing for skateboarding is, it don’t matter if you’re doing it for tricks or riding to school, as long as you’re on a skateboard you’re a skater,” Herrera said. “It does’t matter your age, your gender, your ethnicity – skateboarding is for everyone. That’s what make skaters united. And have fun.”Dorian Thrasher, 14, focused on the social benefit.“What he said about keeping drugs away from the park and (expletive) is almost like – true! ‘Cause I know all these people could have been in really serious trouble … but they came here and kind of distracted themselves … and learned to love it.” Logan Bates, 15, a sophomore at Piedra Vista High School, has skateboarded about three years.“It’s just a stress release. It’s pretty fun,” he said.23043072Logan Bates is one of Herrera’s talented young protégés. (David Edward Albright/Durango Herald)“The prefab stuff has to go,” Herrera said, “along with some of the steel features that have dangerous protruding seams and lips.” He said if someone hits one of those on the pyramid feature from the wrong direction “it’s going to be like a cheese-slicer.”A whole new skatepark makes more sense to Herrera from a cost standpoint. The current one could remain as is while another is built to keep pace with more up-to-date industry standards in the skateboard world.He said they have had two sit-down sessions with park officials to discuss redoing the park. The area that is landscaped with wood chips above several of the obstacles at the park also pose a problem, Herrera said, because inevitably the wood chips end up on the skatepark features. Ross said he and the skaters now take care of certain cleanup issues like clearing out dirt, leaves and landscape bark. The current park is overdue for a remodel, he said.Herrera suggested that redoing the existing park with new obstacles would inspire young skaters who have never seen newer features before and motivated them to work harder for what they love and are passionate about.Rachelle Crosby, park planner for the city of Farmington, heads up the project. The design phase of the project has been funded. Brookside Skatepark, built in the early 1990s, is “considered one of our regional parks, and the skatepark is highly used daily throughout the year,” according to Chapman.
Local skateboarding icon envisions new skatepark as best idea
14401439Steep ridges in Lions Wilderness Park are a part of both racecourses. (Courtesy Aztec Adventures)Roost the Ridges still on, Kinsey’s Spring Classic postponedSnow, rain in the forecast prompts rescheduling raceSandstone Cycles planned to join Aztec Adventures in launching the mountain bike racing season this weekend, but rain and snow in the forecast has forced a change in plans. Roost the Ridges Enduro will still take place Saturday, March 18, at Lions Wilderness Park, but the inaugural Kinsey’s Spring Classic was postponed until April 22.Roost the Ridges is organized by Neil Hannum, owner of Aztec Adventures. Registration last year hit 137 riders, and Hannum said registrations are strong this year as well, despite the unpredictable weather Farmington has experienced this year.The forecast for Saturday and Sunday is for a high of about 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but the chance for inclement weather increases from Saturday to Sunday. The National Weather Service predicts a 30% chance of snow before noon Saturday, and a 40% chance of rain and snow Sunday before noon, with possible lightning as well. Concern for the safety of the riders prompted Martinez to postpone the Kinsey’s Spring Classic. As Roost the Ridges enters its second year, Hannum said the main change made to the event was not to the course, but to parking arrangements. Hannum said managing the parking last year was a challenge because there was not enough space at Lions Wilderness Park’s main parking lot and spectators parked around various points of the trail to watch riders. The BLM requires that parking remain unobtrusive to other drivers and remain in designated areas, so this year there will be chalk markings to indicate where participants may safely park. Parking staff will also be on-site to make sure spectators find acceptable places to park. 0VideoYouTube480360Sandstone Cycles owner Christopher Martinez said the idea for the Kinsey’s Spring Classic started developing when he realized that many of the top finishers and participants in the 2022 Roost the Ridges race were cross country racers more so than enduro racers. Enduro racing features timed and nontimed sections, where riders may take their time on the uphills to reach the top of the stage and are then timed as they race through the downhill portion. For an enduro course, Martinez said the Roost the Ridges route is milder than those found in Keystone or Aspen, where the terrain is very rough. That makes it a good season opener, and one that cross-country riders are willing to try. Martinez suspected that many of the racers at Roost the Ridges last year were eager to break out the bikes after a long winter and tested out the enduro race, even if it wasn’t their usual racing preference. He had hoped to capitalize on their interest in cross country racing by holding his race the day after the enduro. Organizing races is not a new task for either Hannum or Martinez. Hannum runs four to five races a year through Aztec Adventures and Aztec Trails and Open Space. In addition to mountain bike racing, he said he hopes to see more dirt bike tracks officially developed so various types of motocross events can be held in the area. 40323024Christopher Martinez opened Sandstone Cycles in February 2020. Kinsey’s Spring Classic is the first race hosted by the store. (DelSheree Gladden/The Journal)Martinez is the current president of Aztec Trails and Open Space and has worked with Hannum to organize the Alien Run Mountain Bike Race for several years. Martinez said the main challenge of organizing the Alien race is always finding enough volunteers. When considering the possibility of hosting the Kinsey race he decided to forgo trying to round up volunteers by staffing the race with Sandstone Cycles employees. His store manager and longtime friend Ellae Montoya, as well as other employees, were will to give it a try. That gave him the manpower for the race, but there was still a long list of tasks to complete in order to host the race for the first time. Martinez said they received ample community support for the race, from sponsors jumping in to help fund the race and prizes to assistance from the city of Farmington and Bureau of Land Management. Part of the process of hosting a race is planning out the route and getting approval to use the land. Martinez said most of the Kinsey’s Spring Classic racecourse is on BLM land, so he had to submit documentation of his proposed route for the bureau’s approval. The process ensures that wildlife are not interfered with and protected areas remain undisturbed. Since the trails used in the race are established trails and Martinez was already familiar with navigating the process, approval for race route went smoothly. Permitting the event and getting supplies ordered went well also, according to Martinez. He said the city of Farmington was very supportive of the race and has helped with marketing and the use of Lions Wilderness Park’s pavilion and the city’s sound equipment needed for announcing during the race. Even though he only started planning the race in December 2022, Martinez said came together amazingly well. The weather proved to be the main sticking point. Hannum said that when it comes to trail conditions, this area can usually absorb moisture pretty quickly, but snow on the backsides of hills tends to thaw and refreeze, creating slick, muddy sections on the trails that can be difficult to navigate. Making sure the race supported the area was a focus for Martinez. The plan to have the races back-to-back would have encouraged racers to spend the whole weekend in Farmington, Martinez said, possibly even camping at Brown Springs Campground in the Glade Run Recreational Area. While traditional snacks like bananas and oranges will be provided for racers, he said he decided against catering lunch in order to encourage racers to dine in town and support local restaurants. In the future, Martinez hopes to see the two events turn into a mini-bike festival with vendors and demonstrations. Hannum agreed, saying he would like to see the races develop into something like the Whiskey Offroad in Prescott, Arizona, a three-day festival filled with races, live music, a beer garden and vendors. Hannum said Farmington has venues for prerace events and after-parties, as well as plenty of dining options and space for vendors at the race site. Making it happen is about pulling all the pieces together and taking advantage of all the outdoor recreation components already in place. The two races are only the beginning of Martinez’s and Hannum’s plan for the year. The Alien Run Mountain Bike race will take place May 6, and Martinez is also working on plans for an e-bike race this fall in the area of Piñon Mesa. While regular mountain bikes were selling well at Sandstone Cycles during the COVID-19 pandemic, Martinez said interest in e-bikes has risen significantly in this area. He said about half his customers come in wanting to look at e-bikes and he wants to incorporate that interest into future events. Hannum’s next race comes quickly, with the Galactic Grinder taking place April 2. Later in the year, Hannum will host the Holy Grit race and the Durango to Farmington Bike Tour as well. As the outdoor recreation industry grows in San Juan County, Martinez and Hannum both expressed hope that community interest and involvement will continue to develop alongside it and bring together organizations and programs that can help procure funding for new projects and outdoor development.
Snow, rain in the forecast prompts rescheduling race
800600Team Guardian completed the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge in 51 days. (Courtesy Mark Pfetzer)Mission accomplished: 3,000-mile row across the Atlantic OceanTeam Guardian raises funds to support first respondersSan Juan County Sheriff’s Capt. Mark Pfetzer said there were “lots of lessons learned” during Team Guardian’s 51-day mission to row 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean. Pfetzer, 43, Lt. Jarrod Slindee, 35, and retired deputy Sgt. Mike Hogue, 58, were recently celebrated by San Juan County officials for successfully completing the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge and raising money and support for first responders in the Four Corners region.Pfetzer’s understanding of the challenges first responders face began with his own father. Pfetzer’s father took medical retirement after 20 years as a police officer. He didn’t sleep, Pfetzer said. “I grew up with a dad who was unwell from the job.”Providing resources for first responders was a goal for Team Guardian. Pfetzer and Slindee talked to professionals and researched training opportunities when organizing Team Guardian Initiatives, and have introduced numerous trainings to support fire, police and dispatch operators.0VideoYouTube480360The team also honored a fallen deputy, Katie Becenti, by naming their boat Katie Ella. Becenti reportedly took her life in 2020 while on duty.Participating in the Talisker challenge not only allowed the team to raise awareness, it appealed to Pfetzer’s athletic interests. A Rhode Island native, Pfetzer spent many hours fishing with his grandfather, an avid fisherman. He grew up about a mile from the ocean, which afforded him opportunities to become very comfortable in the water as he learned to scuba dive and to pursue nonwater-related sports. Pfetzer was the only member of his family to engage in mountain climbing. He attempted two Mount Everest assents with commercial expeditions at 15 and 16 years old. Those experiences taught him the importance of teamwork, communication, perseverance, and mental and physical toughness.The inspiration to participate in the Talisker challenge stemmed from several books and films. “Deep Water,” a documentary about sailboat racing, and “The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst,” a book about Crowhurst’s around-the-world solo sailing journey, sparked Pfetzer’s initial interest in sailing about 15 years ago. “A Fighting Chance,” a book about two men who were the first to row across the ocean, renewed his interest, and he said to his wife, Robyn, “This would be fun. I want to do this.” Robyn said, “Absolutely not … no way. People die doing that.” His wife’s attitude softened after reading Crowhurst’s story and watching the documentary “Losing Sight of Shore,” the story of a team of six women who rowed 9,000 miles from California to Australia. When Pfetzer told Robyn about the plan to join the Talisker challenge, her response was more positive than expected. He said he wondered if that was at least partly because she doubted the trip would actually happen.600800Team members planned and trained for four years for the 3,000 mile race. (Courtesy Mark Pfetzer)Training and preparation began in the fall of 2018. “They say the hardest part of the race is getting to the start line. There’s so much to do, so much prep,” Pfetzer said. The official rules required proof of a specific number of training hours and performance of specific skills and drills, including deployment of a 12-foot para-anchor, a parachute-type anchor that helps steer a boat in the face of high winds. “A lot of the prep was learning all about ocean rowing, and we started a nonprofit at the same time. We said we’re not going to do this if it’s not benefiting this cause … so that’s why we were very passionate – before we even rowed – bringing in training and putting money aside for treatment for first responders,” Pfetzer said. The team trained on the water at Navajo Lake, learning how to move around on the boat, improving their rowing technique and practicing using the para-anchor. The para-anchor proved vital to staying on course in the face of strong northern winds during the final few weeks of the challenge.Their ocean training took place in May 2022. They completed a 36-hour row in the English Channel, then a 55-hour row and a 10-hour row along the Atlantic coast from Florida to South Carolina.The team embarked on its trip Dec. 12 from La Gomera in the Spanish Canary Islands. They arrived Feb. 2 at English Harbor, Antigua, in the Guadelopue Passage of the Caribbean area.1024768The team trained in the English Channel and off the coast from Florida to South Carolina. (Courtesy Mark Pfetzer)They also completed required training in Atlantic Ocean rowing, navigation, first aid and sea survival, and became licensed to operate very high frequency radios. They became proficient at operating the chart plotter, the boat’s electrical systems and automatic identification system, which alerts other boats in the area to its presence.Some lessons were only learned once out on the water, such as keeping the seat bearings oiled and packed with Vaseline every few days to ward off saltwater corrosion after they malfunctioned and had to be replaced early in the trip.Staying physically health during the trip required careful planning.“By race rules, based on your weight, you have to carry a certain amount of calories per day per person,” Pfetzer said. The team’s menu included dehydrated packets of beef stroganoff and stew, chicken dumplings, eggs and biscuits and gravy, which they sampled before the race to pick out favorites. They had each had three meals a day, plus a snack bag, in order to consume the necessary calories.“I ate like a pig from Day One. If those guys didn’t eat from their snack pack, I was eating it,” Pfetzer said. He lost the least amount of weight, about 15 pounds. Slindee lost about 27 pounds, and Hogue lost over 20 pounds.The crew rowed 17 hours a day, two hours on and one hour off, and a four-hour sleeping break. The oars were always manned by a least one person. Hogue admirably kept pace with his younger mates, Pfetzer said, but “we all struggled at times.”The crew’s supply of drinkable water came from use of a seawater desalination system, a supply 0f 40 liters of fresh water, 30 liters of reserve water in the bottom of the boat, which went untouched, and bags of water in their emergency supply bags.30722304San Juan County Sheriff’s Capt. Mark Pfetzer served as boat captain on the 3,000-mile journey. Pictured at Artifacts Gallery. (David Edward Albright/Durango Herald)The team not only faced rough waters, high winds and 20- to 30-foot swells, but also mental fatigue and emotional stress. Keeping up morale when the journey got dark was a challenge. “You got a job to do – you gotta row. You talk and build each other up,” Pfetzer said. He encouraged teammates by saying, “Listen, in two weeks this is all going to be over … and this is all going to be a memory. All you gotta worry about is the next oar stroke.”“We’d joke with each other … but sometimes you just gotta let each other work through it. Like for me, if I’m going to be grumpy, I’m just going to be grumpy for a little bit. More often than not, spirits were good on the boat,” Pfetzer said.The team stayed in touch with family using satellite phones, and Pfetzer used a Garmin inReach device connected to his cellphone for texting, but the time away from their families wore on them. It was really hard when closing in on their destination, Pfetzer said, knowing that family and friends awaited their arrival. They basically seemed to hit a wall at one point. “The winds are coming out of the North, and we gotta turn the boat northwest and row to try to go west,” Pfetzer said, but they worked extremely hard, rowing all day to finally get back on course. They finished the challenge in the early morning hours of Feb. 2. They were greeted by family, friends and San Juan County Sheriff Shane Ferrari. “I don’t regret this ocean row at all, but I wouldn’t do it again. It’s a lot of time away from family, and our wives made a lot of sacrifices. The other members of the team agreed with that sentiment during their welcome home event. Pfetzer and his wife love to hike, fish, camp and mountain bike, so those pursuits will consume their leisure time once again. “The best way I can describe the whole thing is humbling. The support from the community, the rowing with the team … the size of the ocean and the challenge it was. We’re grateful to God, it’s all his story … for allowing it to happen,” Pfetzer said.7681024The once-in-a-lifetime experience was a community effort, with support and sacrifice from friends and family as well as the team members. (Courtesy Mark Pfetzer)This article was republished March 6 to include information about where and when Team Guardian started and completed its journey.
Team Guardian raises funds to support first responders
821462San Juan County Sheriff Shane Ferrari shoots aggressive dog after traffic incident. (KOAT.com video)Update: Sheriff shoots dog during Farmington traffic incident; suspect arrestedFarmington police release video; suspect is arrested WednesdayThe San Juan County District Attorney’s Office is investigating a case in which Sheriff Shane Ferrari shot a driver’s dog during a traffic incident Feb. 17 in Farmington. Farmington Police Department’s original Facebook post on Tuesday stated that FPD was “investigating the incident involving Sheriff Ferrari and a suspect for reckless driving and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon on Feb. 17, 2023.”A video released by FPD shows a gray car pull into a parking lot at La Plata Drive and Padilla Drive, followed by Ferrari in his personal vehicle. The video shows the driver exiting his vehicle wielding a pipe and the sheriff responding by holding his firearm at the ready. A dog exits the vehicle as well and appears aggressive when it is shot by the Ferrari.The suspect, Jamie Nino, 42, was arrested Wednesday evening. He faces charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, reckless driving, passing in a no-passing zone (two counts) and running a red light, according to FPD.htmlIn a long Facebook post Wednesday under the name “Shane Ferrari For Sheriff,” Ferrari expressed his version of events, his love of animals and the fact that he expressed condolences to Nino for the loss of his dog. He said he was threatened and responded, as any citizen has a right to do.He further explained that after 26 years in law enforcement “chasing and following cars trying to ditch me, I know the value of providing good information to assisting units.”Security footage shows the driver run a red light at the intersection of Apache Street and Airport Drive. After briefly losing sight of the vehicle, Ferrari said he located it in a parking lot and pulled in behind it with the intention of making “nonthreatening contact.”The affidavit by Farmington Police Detective Chris Stanton stated that Ferrari was driving his Ford F-15, on West 20th Street and had just turned south onto Municipal Drive. He said he noticed Nino’s vehicle behind him and stated Nino passed him traveling south on Municipal Drive on the curve on a double-yellow line, a no-passing zone. Ferrari indicated Nino passed him by crossing the double-yellow line and traveled south on Municipal Drive in the inside northbound lane. Ferrari indicated in a later interview that there was another vehicle traveling north on Municipal Drive at the time Nino passed him.Ferrari said Nino continued to drive south past the Farmington Police Department and passed another vehicle in a no-passing zone near the 700 block of Airport Drive. Ferrari said he then observed Nino run the stop light at the intersection of Airport Drive and Apache Street and continue south on Airport.Ferrari said he was worried the driver might have been intoxicated and followed him from a distance. He said Nino turned east onto Arrington Avenue from Airport Drive and then turned into the parking lot of Arrington Plaza at 737 W. Arrington Ave. Ferrari said as he approached the plaza, he noticed Nino's vehicle was stopped in the parking lot and he was sitting inside his car. Suspecting Nino might be intoxicated, Ferrari said he decided to stop and contact him. As he exited his truck, Ferrari said Nino jumped out of his car with one arm behind his back approaching him and screaming, “Get the (expletive deleted) away from me.”When he said that Nino carried a metal pipe in the hand behind his back, he pulled out his firearm, pointed it at Nino, and told him, “Get back! Get back! I'm the sheriff!”Ferrari told police that Nino raised the pipe and began to charge him as he commanded him to drop the pipe and get on the ground. At the same time, Nino's dog exited the car and ran toward him. Ferrari shot the dog, and again told Nino to get on the ground. Nino retreated, dropped the pipe and lay on the ground until Farmington police officers arrived.Police Sgt. J. Anaya and Sgt. J. Thornburg arrived on scene and detained Nino, placing him in the back seat of Thornburg's patrol vehicle, according to the affidavit. The brown-and-white dog lay dead on the ground with gunshot wounds to its torso. Nino's car, a 1995 Ford Crown Victoria with Texas license plate RPG 1410, was in the middle of the parking lot.0VideoYouTube480360According to the police affidavit, Nino told police he realized Ferrari was a law enforcement officer only after Ferrari identified himself in the parking lot. Until that time, he said, he wanted Ferrari to stop following him. Nino said he was heading to Cottonwood Clinic as part of some required hours for a college class.According to the warrant affidavit, he admitted passing Ferrari's vehicle on Municipal Drive and running the red light at Apache Street and Airport Drive because he was in a hurry to get to his destination. Nino said he pulled into the parking lot at 737 W. Arrington Ave. because he planned to confront Ferrari there. “When he pulls up in here, as soon as he gets here, I’m like, man, I got to wait till he understands that I’m not (expletive deleted) around, he needs to (expletive deleted) leave me alone,” Nino told police. Nino said after he exited his car with the pipe, Sheriff Ferrari drew his gun. Nino said he told Sheriff Ferrari. (Expletive deleted) leave!” Nino said Sheriff Ferrari told him he was the sheriff and told him to drop the pipe he was holding. Nino admitted he told Sheriff Ferrari at that time. ' “I don't give a (expletive deleted) who you are, man! Leave! (Expletive deleted) leave!”Nino said he accidentally left his car door open during the encounter, which allowed his dog to exit the vehicle and run toward Ferrari. Nino said he began following Ferrari's orders after his dog was shot.The scene was processed by the Farmington Police Department CSI Unit. Three fired shell casings were recovered from the scene, along with one fired projectile that was located beneath the dog. A large metal pipe approximately 2 feet in length and 1½ inches in diameter was found just north of the vehicle. The pipe was consistent with a handle from a car jack. The pipe, casings and fired projectile were entered into evidence at the Farmington Police Station.When first contacted by The Durango Herald, Ferrari responded by email, saying he was awaiting the criminal investigation before making an official statement.Nonetheless, Ferrari defended his actions as a sheriff.“There has been some online debate as to the sheriff being ‘off-duty.’ I’ve attempted to educate those who have this concern with New Mexico state statute regarding the role of the sheriff,” Ferrari said in his email.He quoted New Mexico Statute 4-41-10, Right to carry arms; deputies; appointment, (2006):“All sheriffs shall at all times be considered as in the discharge of their duties and be allowed to carry arms on their persons.”
Farmington police release video; suspect is arrested Wednesday
26531517Celtic Angels Ireland brings traditional and contemporary tunes, dance and storytelling to the Farmington Civic Center on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. Celtic Angels Ireland to perform at Farmington Civic CenterPreviously scheduled show was canceled by pandemicCeltic Angels Ireland brings traditional and contemporary tunes, dance and storytelling to the Farmington Civic Center on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. Everything Irish will blossom as seven Celtic Angel women, joined by the Dynamic Celtic Knights, bring high-energy, precision song and dance.Civic Center Director Randy West said the Celtic Angels had planned to perform in Farmington in 2020 but was canceled during the COVID-19 pandemic. West has been working to reschedule them since that time. “They are honest to goodness from Ireland … and they sing in tight harmony,” West said. The act includes a five-piece male production of “River Dance” and a lively four-piece band with traditional Irish instruments.By introducing their songs with historical details, the Celtic Angels engage and inform the audience. 0VideoYouTube480360West said ticket sales have been strong, with 700 seats filled for the 1,200-seat Civic Center venue.“They’re a very successful touring company. They pull good numbers everywhere. And there is a real interest in Celtic music here,” West said. Headed by the powerhouse creative team direct from Ireland and featuring award-winning Irish and world champion singers, dancers and musicians, Celtic Angels Ireland presents a theatrical feast for all ages. The performance is written, directed and choreographed by Louise Barry from Dublin, Ireland. The Diddley Idols provide the instrumentation with musical arrangements by Peter Sheridan of County Cavan, Ireland. Celtic Thunder and Irish Step Dance Director, Sarah Costello (Belfast, Ireland. Rhythm of the Dance / ADCRG).More than 30 Irish tunes are expected to be intertwined and performed by the Trinity Ensemble, Celtic Angels and the Celtic Knights Dancers.
Previously scheduled show was canceled by pandemic
Team Guardian welcomed home by San Juan County officials First responders honored for rowing mission across the Atlantic30722304Steve Lanier, Lt. Jarrod Slindee, Capt. Mark Pfetzer, Mike Hogue with toy paddles. (David Edward Albright/Durango Herald)About 75 people filled the San Juan County Commission meeting room Thursday in Aztec to welcome home and honor Team Guardian members who rowed 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean to honor first responders.Capt. Mark Pfetzer, Lt. Jarrod Slindee and retired Sheriff’s Sgt. Mike Hogue met the crowd after spending a few weeks to recover and enjoy family time.The crew rowed from La Gomera, Canary Islands to Antigua, Leeward Islands in the Caribbean. The team’s boat, “Katie Ella,” was named in honor Katie Becenti. Becenti, a San Juan County deputy, who reportedly took her life in February 2021.Steve Lanier, San Juan County Commission chairman, hosted the celebration.Lanier read a new resolution, No. 22-23-51, which Recognizing Guardian Initiatives Accomplishments Completing the World’s Toughest Row and Contributions to the First Responder Mental Wellness and Suicide Prevention. It stated in part: “Guardian Initiatives will leave a legacy for the Four Corners first responder community by raising awareness, facilitating training for the first responders and their families, sharing resources, and assisting with treatment costs.”Sheriff Shane Ferrari, County Manger Mike Stark, Farmington Mayor Nate Duckett, Bloomfield Mayor Scott Eckstein and Jim Crowley, representing Aztec, all spoke in recognition of the team’s harrowing 51-day adventure. Laughter and applause erupted when Lanier called the team up to receive a small toy paddle as a memento.“We decided you would never want to hold a full-sized one again,” Lanier said.Sheriff Ferrari said when Pfetzer came into his office with the idea of rowing across the ocean to support first responders, he couldn’t imagine such an undertaking, but he agreed to support the mission. Ferrari and his wife journeyed to Antigua to congratulate the team and slip in a vacation. The team embarked Dec. 12 from the Canary Islands on the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge, to raise funds in support of first responders in the Four Corners. Pfetzer, who was boat captain, came up with the idea to raise awareness of the stress that first responders face.They arrived in the early hours of Feb. 2 at Antigua in the Caribbean area.The crew faced its own fears and hardships along the way.Pfetzer, 43, said that for him, it was the fear of the unknown. “I’m rowing and I’m watching my wife on the dock and I’m holding it as best I can to keep from crying … but the fear of the unknown is there,” he said. For Slindee, the crew crossed a big hump on Day 32. They were dealing with head- and crosswinds and weren’t getting anywhere, he said. “We were just down in the dumps and couldn’t figure out what was going on.”But when they called the weather router, they found they couldn’t blame the weather.“It’s your output boys,” the router said, leaving the crew no choice but to row harder. The next day was a “good day,” he said, drawing laughter from the crowd.Pfetzer said the biggest wave was “probably 20- to 30-foot swells.” He said they learned how to ride those waves, which typically doubled their speed, from about 2½ mph to 5 mph.He said no one fell out of the boat, but extreme rocking from side to side almost caused them to fall out at times. They were always tethered in, Pfetzer said, but “it was crazy how when you’re rowing the waves would suddenly hit straight from the side, especially at night sometimes.” He said they would remind each other about the tether when they came out of the cabin after their breaks and four-hour sleep periods.23043072Capt. Mark Pfetzer served as boat captain. (David Edward Albright/Durango Herald)Hogue said he volunteered to do the first cleaning of the boat’s hull to remove the life-forms that can build up and affect speed. He said when someone gets separated from the boat you have 12 to 15 seconds before they are out of range to get the lifeline to them if they’re untethered.Slindee said one of the “greatest experiences was the wildlife … the whales, dolphins, the sharks.” He recalled fearing that marlins would puncture the boat, which has happened in previous years’ challenges.30722304Jarrod Slindee spoke about his experiences at sea. (David Edward Albright/Durango Herald)Slindee said the journey showed him it was the same with first responders – with good and bad days, with really tough situations to face.“It was a great experience, and I’m happy to have done it, and we thought a lot about our first responders,” he said, becoming emotional when he noted that the following Saturday was the anniversary of Becenti’s death.“So it’s really tough and we can’t have any more of that,” Slindee saWhen they were about 25 miles from their destination they talked with the race director and told him they thought they would be there in about 20 hours. Pfetzer said they moved faster than expected and started rushing at the end. “We said ‘oh my god, we have to bathe … we stink’.” They also agreed to change their nighttime four-hour breaks to two hours of rowing with one hour breaks. Slindee said OK but was unsure if he could maintain that pace. Pfetzer said, “Come to find out, it was me that was starting to fall asleep at the oars.”Slindee, 35, joked that he “didn’t think he was expendable in the Sheriff’s Office,” but Sherriff Ferrari gave his word of support and backing of the mission. Slindee was then committed to the ventureAfter thanking everyone for their support, Slindee said, “There were some great days out there and there were some tough ones, but the good definitely outweighed the bad.” Initially reluctant to participate in the challenge, the cause persuaded Hogue to join the team. Hogue, 58, now a pastor in Albuquerque, recalled how he had returned to the area for first responder training and was asked to join the crew. He said when Slindee asked him “Why you looking at me that way?” Hogue said, “Because I don’t know you and I can’t believe there’s that much crazy in one place.” 30722304Mike Hogue brought a sense of humor to his storytelling. (David Edward Albright/Durango Herald)“No, I don’t think I can do that,” Hogue said when asked to join the challenge about four years ago.But after more consideration about the important cause of the mission, he called them back and decided to move forward with the training. Hogue, who joked that he “floats like a rock,” said that at one point after departing La Gomera he might have been tempted to jump ship. said, “Can I go with you to take the boat to Florida … ‘cause I can’t swim,” he said, drawing laughter. “I float like a rock.”When asked what he was afraid of, Hogue said, “Drowning, I don’t want to go that way.” “There were times when if a big boat came along I would have gone,” he said.The team also faced challenges outside of weather and dangerous sea creatures. There were “days where you put three alphas in a small area” and it was a challenge to “not tear each other apart,” Hogue said.Age was also a factor. Hogue said they made it because of the support and help from his much younger mates.“Jarrod had to step up at times because I didn’t have it. Thank you so much,” he said, adding that after the journey, he gave them both a joke T-shirt that said, “Helping the Elderly Across the Atlantic.” The challenge not only raised awareness but also funds.During the Q&A, Pfetzer told the audience that they raised about $265,000, including about $2,000 since their return, almost hitting their goal of $100 per mile.Funds raised will go toward training and services for first responders, particularly for volunteers who may not have insurance coverage. Pfetzer also feared not arriving on projected schedule for family and friends during the last six days. “Of course, we’d blame it on weather, not output,” he said, drawing more laughter.Asked if they would do it again, the crew agreed that one experience on the open seas was enough, and that their wives would agree. Pfetzer said it was in Week Two that he called his wife on their rented satellite phones and told her to sell the rowing machine. “When I get home I don’t want to see that rowing machine in our house,” he told her.html0VideoYouTube480360This article was republished March 6 to include information about where and when Team Guardian started and completed its journey.
First responders honored for rowing mission across the Atlantic
Durango police release bodycam footage after accusation of brutalityFive officers respond to arrest of man accused of sexual assault25381545Samuel Keon Potterton, 19, was taken into custody by the Durango Police Department on Feb. 14, 2023, at the Boarding Haus, 1001 Main Ave., in downtown Durango. Bodycam footage from responding officers shows Potterton yelling expletives and struggling against the arrest. Potterton was arrested in connection with an arrest warrant alleging sexual assault. (Courtesy of Durango Police Department/Screenshot)The facts seem straightforward enough. The Durango Police Department received a call on Valentine’s Day that a man wanted on a warrant for sexual assault out of Montezuma County was inside The Boarding Haus snowboard and skate shop on Main Avenue in downtown Durango.The caller, a close family member, warned police that the man – 19-year-old Samuel Keon Potterton of Telluride – would resist arrest. And he did.480640That’s the straightforward part. Then came the accusation of police brutality by a passerby on her lunch break who stopped on the sidewalk and watched as five police officers surrounded Potterton as he was led in handcuffs out of the shop and into the back of a waiting patrol car.Christa Turnell sent an email to The Durango Herald shortly after witnessing the arrest.“I see egregious police violence against maybe a homeless man who was inside the door of a business,” Turnell wrote. “... What the problem was is irrelevant. It was ONE man and there were five cops. They had his arms pinned elbows up in violation of the Geneva Convention and simple good policing.”Turnell went on to question the need for five police officers to arrest one “little guy” and wrote, “I was yelling at them to stop because civilized people don’t beat people up ever.” She added that even if the suspect was wanted for murder, why should five guys beat the guy? Turnell ended the email by accusing the police of wasting tax dollars and called for the officers involved to either be cut from the force or “show” why it was happening.The Durango Herald contacted the police department about the brutality accusation. The DPD responded by inviting the Herald to review and share with readers all of the bodycam footage collected from the officers involved while also explaining its reasoning for sending five officers to arrest Potterton.“Obviously it’s a hot topic going on around the country right now with the Memphis incident and everything else, but every time, every single time we use force it’s going to shock the conscience and it’s going to look bad anytime you lay hands on another human being,” said Deputy Police Chief Brice Current. “If you have any humanity, it's not going to sit well.”Bodycam footage from the second officer to arrive at The Boarding Haus shows one officer already in the store. A third and fourth officer arrive before they approach and advise Potterton that he is under arrest. Police manage to get one of his wrists cuffed before he begins to struggle. The officers then constrain him without inflicting or receiving any blows as they lower him slowly to the floor. Potterton curses and threatens to kill them as he continues to struggle. Police advise him to stay cool and calm and stop fighting as they work to reposition him face down and cuff the other wrist. Two police officers hold his legs while another holds his torso down with his hands. A fifth officer, a supervisor, has arrived to oversee the arrest.0VideoYouTube480360One of the issues raised in the death of Tyre Nichols’ at the hands of Memphis police was that no supervisor was present, Current said.Bodycam footage shows Potterton continue to struggle, cuss and threaten police before pausing to complain the handcuffs are too tight. The supervisor instructs the officers to loosen the cuffs, which can be a dangerous situation, Current said. The handcuffs are loosened, and Potterton asks to be stood up. The officers assure him they will stand him up as they continue to encourage him to stay calm. Then they lift him smoothly to his feet and escort him to a waiting patrol car while Potterton continues to struggle, curse, threaten and eventually spit on officers before he is seated in the back of the patrol car.Potterton is cited for resisting arrest and disorderly conduct and booked into the La Plata County Jail. But if not for the warrant for sexual assault “overcoming victim against their will” – a no bond class 5 or 6 felony, Current said, Potterton would have been released.The need for manpower in such an arrest, no matter the size of the suspect, is based on caution and concern for the safety of the suspect, the officers, and the employees and customers within the confined space of the store, Current said.“And so people are asking for your help,” Current said. “You don't want to come and be part of the problem. You want to be part of the solution. The more officers we have the safer it is taking somebody into custody. And the person that called us also told us, ‘Hey, this person will fight you.’”Current said the officers did a good job of doing everything they could to de-escalate the situation.“He's yelling at them,” Current said. “And they're not even engaging him. They're speaking to each other as if he's not even there which takes a high level of patience, which is great and it's part of our culture.”Turnell, the woman who accused police of excessive force, objected to Potterton being handcuffed with his hands behind his back. She said if police were responding to a warrant arrest they should have had a plan that didn’t involve “ripping his shoulder out of joint.”She stood by her statement that police “beat the guy,” adding that “better police work would have had fewer cops and less injury.”“Colorado has no obligation to do things the old fashioned way,” she wrote in an email to the Herald.Police said Potterton suffered no injuries during the arrest. Boarding Haus manager Jack Groenheim praised police for their actions during the arrest. “It was resisting arrest,” Groenheim said. “And the police were so calm. I think (the guy) had an anger issue or something. I applaud the entire police department. They did the best they could in the situation they had and in a tight space. No one in the store at the time felt like there was any police brutality.” gjaros@durangoherald.com
Five officers respond to arrest of man accused of sexual assault
720438One of 10 adult feral dogs captured by the Montezuma County Sheriff's Office on Dec. 21. (Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office body camera)Records show gaps in process after 18 dogs are euthanized in Cortez Case highlights problem of dogs at large and management of a five-year caseA case involving 18 feral dogs surrendered from a home on County Road 20 and euthanized by the Cortez Animal Shelter late last year sheds light on a growing problem with feral and at-large dogs in Montezuma County, a rising threat to residents and to domestic and wild animals, and an extended response by local agencies.The 18 surrendered dogs were not tested for disease, although a sheriff’s deputy involved in their capture said they showed symptoms of canine distemper, a highly contagious and deadly disease for wildlife, pets and livestock.The feral dogs presented a potential threat to wildlife, but Colorado Parks and Wildlife was not notified about the situation.Public alerts about the threat of the free-roaming dogs were not issued by government agencies, and Sheriff’s Office documentation of the dog surrender was incomplete.After obtaining dozens of documents through Colorado’s Open Records Act and conducting dozens of interviews for this article, The Journal found that the case of uncontrolled dogs and livestock had lingered since 2017.The dogs – eight puppies and 10 adults – were found at a home at 10900 County Road 20 by the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office after residents complained about roaming dogs, according to shelter and incident reports.“We responded to complaints over there. It was getting to be a real problem,” said Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin.Deputy Michael Marston reported Dec. 14 that residents complained about “feral dogs running all over the area and worrying neighbors who would walk in the area.”The property residents, William and Sally Douglas, said they were caring for the dogs, which continued to breed after a neighbor moved “and the dogs were left behind,” the incident report said. William Douglas voluntarily surrendered the dogs to the Sheriff’s Office, and they were impounded by the Cortez Animal Shelter. Under Montezuma County ordinance 1-2010, it is unlawful for any person to harbor or possess a dog that is not under control. The puppies were put to death in October, and the 10 adults in December, ending the case after five years.According to Cortez Animal Shelter supervisor Jennifer Crouse, packs of feral dogs are rarely surrendered to the shelter.“It was something where it had just gotten away from them,” Crouse told The Journal. 720518Ten adult dogs were surrendered to the Montezuma County Sheriff in December at a residence on County Road 20. (Montezuma County Sheriff video)‘Hot dogs covered in cheese sauce’William and Sally Douglas bought the 160-acre property in 2005, according to county assessor records. Their modern, adobe-style home and attached two-car garage sits back from the road in a piñon-juniper forest. Nearby is a fenced horse corral and a barn containing farming equipment and hay. William Douglas, a retired law enforcement officer, farms the land, which borders Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.Douglas told deputies that as the dogs arrived at his property, his wife, Sally, insisted that he build shelters and provide heat for them. He set up five igloo-style dog houses, tarp coverings and a propane heater.Sally Douglas “cooked chicken, and hot dogs covered in cheese sauce,” for the dogs, according to the incident report, and the couple spent about $600 per month to feed them.“None of these dogs were approachable or friendly,” the incident report stated. “Any attempt to walk toward the dogs would cause them to run away.”The dogs were free to come and go as they pleased.“They put domestic animals as well as people at risk,” Nowlin said. “That’s why we have an ordinance.”Nowlin said that by law, the Douglases became the owners of the dogs once they provided food and shelter.Managing the dogs became difficult, and the couple agreed to surrender the dogs to the Sheriff’s Office to be impounded at the Cortez Animal Shelter. Because the dogs were surrendered and not seized, the dogs became the property of the shelter, and the couple were not charged the usual impound and daily boarding fees.The Sheriff’s Office released body camera footage of the roundup of the adult dogs.The Sheriff’s Office described the dogs as feral, but Sally Douglas told The Journal they were not feral or wild because she was caring for them.“I loved the dogs and cooked for them every morning,” she said. “They had a tough life being abandoned, so I was giving them a good life. They were healthy. It was horrible to see them dragged off.”She said officers indicated the dogs would be adopted.“They said they would go up to Denver for adoption,” Sally Douglas stated.Nowlin explained if the state Animal Protection Bureau had become involved in a seizure of the dogs, the puppies would have been taken to Denver and might have been made available for adoption.0VideoYouTube480360Officers round up dogs, puppies firstOn Oct. 12, deputies Michael Marston, Nathan Horton and Cortez Animal Control Officer Taylor Marston captured the puppies, according to the incident report. The officers returned to the home two months later, on Dec. 21, and captured 10 adult dogs that had been contained by portable fences by the Douglases. The dogs acted aggressively while being captured and were taken to the shelter, according to the incident report.Deputy Marston told The Journal that the dogs had runny eyes and noses, which are early symptoms of the canine distemper, a fatal disease.But according to shelter records signed by Crouse, only one puppy that was euthanized exhibited a “runny nose,” and impound notes states the dogs did not show signs of disease.Shelter impound documents show there were eight puppies, and 10 adult dogs. The incident report stated the total amount of dogs was approximately 20 dogs. In addition to the conflicting reports, Nowlin said a voluntary animal-surrender form for the puppies was not filled out by the deputies, “but should have been.”He said the correct number of dogs was not recorded in the incident report. A surrender form was filled out for the 10 adult dogs picked up Dec. 21.Dogs euthanizedWhen initially contacted by The Journal about the dogs Jan. 10, shelter supervisor Crouse declined to provide information.The Journal then obtained the information after filing a CORA request with the city of Cortez.According to the released shelter records, 18 dogs were deemed unadoptable and were euthanized.A report by Crouse that The Journal obtained under CORA stated that when the eight puppies arrived Oct. 12, they looked to be about 8 weeks old “and appeared to be very wild and feral. They had to be handled very carefully by staff as to not be bitten.”The puppies were vaccinated with a five-way shot and bordetella to prevent any disease spread while being housed at the shelter, stated Crouse, who was out of the office on vacation when the puppies arrived.720493An officer captures a feral dog at a residence on County Road 20 (Montezuma County Sheriff's Office)When she returned Oct. 17, the puppies were evaluated and deemed unadoptable. No medical testing was necessary, Crouse stated.“They continued to show fear and aggression and were declining in mental well-being,” Crouse stated in a report.Crouse said she contacted several rescues and shelters to see whether they would take the puppies, but after none agreed to accept them, “it was decided that euthanasia was the humane conclusion for these puppies.” They were put to death Oct. 18.Shelters contacted to take the dogs were the Colorado Department of Agriculture, Intermountain Humane Society, Ridgeway and Montrose Shelters, according to Lt. Andy Brock of the Cortez Police Department.The 10 adult dogs impounded by the shelter Dec. 21 “exhibited extreme aggression, were unable to be handled safely, and were mutually deemed unadoptable and were humanely euthanized,” Crouse stated. “No visible signs of disease or infection were observed, so no medical testing was done.”Brock added that the dogs were “a danger to everybody at the facility.”Crouse told The Journal that she had no photos of the dogs, a function often taken during intake at shelters.The shelter is a division of the Cortez Police Department, but it is licensed and regulated by the Pet Animal Care Facilities Act under the Colorado Department of Agriculture, said Brock, who is Crouse’s supervisor.About half the dogs the shelter receives come from the county, Brock said.Montezuma County Administrator Travis Anderson said the county has provided $27,500 per year toward the shelter budget, going back at least six years.720312A captured dog is loaded into a pen during a roundup at a home on County Road 20. (Screen shot/ Montezuma County Sheriff body camera)Laws regulate euthanizationAccording to shelter records, the 10 adult dogs were euthanized on Dec. 21, the same day they were impounded, an option allowed under the law in specific circumstances.Colorado’s Pet Animal Care Facilities Act, CRS 35-80-106, states pets held by an animal shelter and not reclaimed by the owner shall be held for a minimum of five days before it may be adopted or euthanized at the discretion of the shelter. The minimum may reduced to three days if the animal is deemed dangerous or nothing else can be done for them.The restrictions change, however, when animals are voluntarily surrendered. The law also states that if the shelter acquires the animal from the owner or becomes the authorized representative via the surrender procedure, “the pet animal becomes the property of the animal shelter at the time of transfer of the pet animal, and the pet animal may be disposed of by and at the discretion of the animal shelter.”In an interview with The Journal, Crouse stated the dogs brought to the shelter were “extremely aggressive,” trying to bite and unable to be handled.“So then the decision was made amongst all of us that it would be better to euthanize them because of the safety of the staff and the animals,” Crouse stated. “So since they were surrendered, we did not have to hold them for any holding periods. They become our property as soon as they are surrendered to the shelter.”Crouse added that a city ordinance protects shelter workers.The “Disposition of Unclaimed Animals” section of the city ordinance states, “An animal may be euthanized at any time when in the judgment of the chief of police or his designated representative it is dangerous and represents a threat to employees of the shelter or other animals.” Crouse and the officers qualify as a designated representative.A shelter may also euthanize a pet that experiences extreme pain or suffering after the shelter exhausts reasonable efforts to contact the owner, according to the state law.The Pet Animal Care and Facilities Act, a Colorado Department of Agriculture branch, manages and oversees animal shelters in Colorado. The branch was adopted in 1994.Olga Robak, PACFA director of communications and public awareness, said PACFA doesn’t set guidelines for whether an animal should be tested for disease before being euthanized. The euthanasia must be performed according to guidelines set by the American Veterinary Medical Association.The dogs were evaluated by Crouse and experienced staff, Brock said.Crouse has more than 20 years of shelter experience and training, Brock said, adding that a veterinarian’s exam is not required before euthanization.A medical exam would cost about $60 per animal with an additional $50 per test, Brock stated in an email.“If bloodwork was required, the total cost could be as high as $400 before any treatment is provided. This also would require staff to move often dangerous animals out of kennels into a transport van, to the veterinarian’s office and then back to the kennel. Exposing the animal, the kennel staff and veterinarian staff to possible injuries.”According to a 2021 report by the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Animal Rescue Professionals Association, 81 adult dogs and 12 juvenile dogs were euthanized at the Cortez Animal Shelter Society in 2021.That means the Cortez shelter has the highest number of euthanizations on the Western Slope.In 2021, the shelter brought in 264 adult stray dogs, and 80 adult dogs were relinquished by owners, according to the report.720413An officer attempts to capture a dog at a Road 20 residence. (Screen shot/Montezuma County body camera)Not reported to Colorado Parks and WildlifeFree-roaming dogs are a potential threat to wildlife, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. They may chase or hunt small game, deer and elk, and cause stress and fatalities.Unvaccinated dogs may carry diseases such as canine distemper, which can infect and kill wildlife and be transmitted from wildlife to dogs.But the feral dog situation on Road 20 and possible signs of disease were not reported to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, according to spokesman John Livingston.“I haven’t heard about that. I think we certainly always would like to be notified just to see what the potential impacts are to wildlife in that area,” he said.CPW will work with city, county, state, tribe and federal agencies, along with members of the public, to address and resolve threats to wildlife, he said.Vaccinating pets for distemper is critically important, Livingston said, because the disease is relatively common in wildlife communities that pets might contact, including raccoons, foxes, coyotes and skunks.Feral dogs usually are unvaccinated, and if they come in contact with an infected animal like raccoons or skunks or coyotes, the dogs become vectors for spreading the disease even further.“Anytime you get animals congregating in a pack like that, they are going to spread diseases quickly to each other,” Livingston said.Farmington acts quickly during distemper outbreakThe 18 dogs euthanized by the Cortez Animal Shelter were not tested for disease.If canine distemper is suspected in animal shelters, euthanization often is necessary because the disease is difficult to treat and is usually fatal.In November, a distemper outbreak shut down the Farmington Regional Animal Shelter. More than 100 dogs were euthanized, said shelter Animal Welfare Director Stacie Voss.Because the shelter has limited space for isolation areas, there “was an uncontrolled spread within the shelter,” Voss said. Most of the euthanized dogs were in the general holding area.All movement of dogs in and out of the shelter was stopped to prevent further exposures. The Farmington outbreak initially appeared to be kennel cough, but as symptoms worsened, it turned out to be distemper.Dog owners who fail to vaccinate their dogs and people who abandon dogs contribute to distemper outbreaks, Voss said. The COVID pandemic also might have contributed, because of shutdowns and because people were afraid to go out in public, even to a veterinarian.When the outbreak was detected, the shelter announced publicly that it had taken in a large number of at-risk dogs from November to Aug. 1.“We have taken in over 600 dogs and puppies, the majority of which are unvaccinated,” Voss stated in a Nov. 7 news release. “In an effort to save as many lives as possible, we open ourselves up to issues like we are seeing with this distemper outbreak. The public can help by spaying and neutering their animals, keeping their animals up to date on vaccinations and trying to find the owners of stray animals before bringing them to the shelter.”The Farmington distemper outbreak was controlled, and it ended in December. The shelter has since reopened.The public was notified of the Farmington shelter distemper outbreak and closure through news releases and regular social media posts, Voss said.“The public needs to know,” she told The Journal. “It came from out in the community somewhere, people’s own dogs were in danger if they were going to public places or dog parks or that type of thing. People needed to know that there’s a possibility that there was the disease being spread in the community.”Journal staffThe feral dogs were roaming along the eastern border of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, a refuge for a variety of wildlife species and a winter range for deer and elk.Wildlife are more vulnerable from dogs in winter, Livingston said.“Protecting that winter range is really critical for their survival,” he said.Winter food sources for wildlife lack nutritional quality, compared with spring and summer. Wildlife depend on built up fat reserves to compensate for the lack of food in the winter.“When they are having to run to avoid a perceived threat, whether that’s human recreation, dogs off leash or in this case feral dogs, they burn valuable calories they need to survive to the spring,” Livingston said. “Dogs are capable taking down larger animals and causing injury.”Deer and elk disturbed by dogs can hurt the health and survivability of fawns and calves.In Colorado, the fine for knowingly or negligently allowing a dog to harass wildlife is $274, including surcharges. Any law enforcement officer in Colorado is authorized by state statute to use whatever force necessary if a dog is chasing, injuring or killing wildlife.BLM Ranger Tyler Fous said his office received complaints about the feral dogs, but an investigating officer did not see the dogs or evidence that dogs had harassed or killed wildlife.720393Residents on County Road 20 have been struggling with feral dogs in the neighborhood. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)Neighborhood concernsCarol Melton lives off Road 20, a rural area characterized by farms ad homes separated by sagebrush plains and pinon-juniper forests.She was aware of the dog problem in the neighborhood, but had not seen them. The situation had gone on for years, and residents were worried, she said.“We’re all keeping a close eye on our animals,” she said looking toward her free-range chickens. “The neighbors are worried about the pack attacking their pets and horses.”She said people were glad when the people who first owned some of the dogs moved away. However, she said some that were left behind continued to breed.“Poor things, they were probably starving and having to kill deer or look for whatever they could find,” Melton said.The neighborhood has not experienced a dog problem of that magnitude before, she said.Nowlin said it is difficult to determine how many of the dogs at the Douglases were from the neighboring property. Over time, the pack likely gained stray dogs from other places, he said. Marston believes stray dogs also migrate from McElmo Canyon via Trail Canyon and end up in the Road 20 neighborhood.720440Unconstrained dogs in this Road 20 neighborhood of Montezuma County were captured and euthanized. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)Public alert wasn’t issuedA public alert about the dogs was not issued, Nowlin said. “Distemper is out there,” and that is why people should vaccinate their animals, he said.In Colorado, it is up to local jurisdictions to require vaccinations of pets. Cortez requires vaccinations, but Montezuma County does not.The U.S. Department of Agriculture issues public warnings regarding distemper outbreaks, but the county did not tell the agency about this case, Nowlin said.Canine distemper is not a reportable condition for health departments in Colorado because it cannot be transmitted to humans, said Montezuma County public health nurse Julie Jacobsen, in an email.Canine distemper can spread easily among unvaccinated dogs and is usually fatal, Jacobsen stated.Problems with roaming dogs are an issue in the county, Nowlin said, and are human-caused.“A hiker’s dog chases a deer, which is illegal, then the dog is reported missing. OK, here we go, that’s how it starts,” he said, because it joins up with other lost or abandoned dogs.Calls to the Sheriff’s Office regarding dogs have been on the rise in Montezuma County, according to sheriff data.In 2022, deputies responded to 182 calls about dogs running at large, up from 125 calls in 2021.In 2020 there were 40 calls for dogs at large, up from 22 the previous year.Dogs uncontrolledThe Douglases claimed the dogs began coming over from the neighboring property at 11092 Road 20 occupied by Kevin Kartchner, according to a sheriff report and interview.In November 2019, an affidavit for a search warrant for suspected horse neglect was issued for 11092 Road 20. The affidavit written by Sgt. Bryan Hill documents that Kartchner’s neighbor, the Douglases, helped to feed Kartchners’ dogs and horses.The affidavit stated that William Douglas said he had been feeding the livestock and dogs of his neighbors since 2017 out of concern for the animals’ well-being. He estimated there were 15 to 20 dogs on the property.“He felt sorry for the animals and that is why he spends money and time to take care of them,” Hill said.According to the affidavit, Hill reported he observed animal neglect for a horse with overgrown hoofs.A warrant to seize the animal was sought by the Sheriff’s Office, with assistance from the Colorado Department Humane Society. The seizure was deemed unnecessary by the state veterinarian, and no charges were filed, Nowlin said, because Kartchner complied with a directive to improve care for the horses, including farrier care, providing hay where the horses reside, and keeping them on the property.Nowlin said Kartchner was cited for dogs at large on March 18, 2021, but the case was dismissed.District Attorney Matt Margeson said the case was dismissed because the court summons was issued for a day that county court was not in session. An Oct. 7 court memorandum advised all law enforcement that the court would not be in session from March 29-April 2, Margeson said. The memorandum advised that law enforcement not write any ticket summons into the court during the dates court was not in session.For Sally Douglas, the dogs’ capture was a difficult experience. She said her goal was to vaccinate all the dogs, but had trouble finding a service to accommodate the situation.She said she was led to believe the dogs would be put up for adoption. And she said she did not know they had been put to death until The Journal called her.“I thought the roundup was brutal and uncalled-for,” she said. “They had no health problems, they were not sick. They were not a pack of wild dogs and mainly stayed on our property. I loved those dogs and tried to give them happiness. It is so sad how it turned out.”
Case highlights problem of dogs at large and management of a five-year case