UP BEAR CREEK
Fen Tour Reveals Prospect Basin’s 12,000-Yr-Old Wetland Treasures
by Art Goodtimes
Sep 16, 2010 | 1159 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
DR. DAVID COOPER … It started out as a negotiated settlement. Unable to stop a planned ski expansion within the original Telski operational boundaries, the County obtained an important migitation concession from Ron Allred to allay Sheep Mountain Alliance concerns about the unique ecological wetland niches threatened by the new Prospect Basin ski runs, lifts, earthwork and tree-cutting. A sum of $100,000 was committed by Ron’s company to engage Colorado State University’s Dr. David Cooper – a personal friend and one of the leading wetlands experts in the country. The money would allow Dr. Cooper and his graduate students to collect data for three years on the five very different fens in Prospect Basin (a fen is a peat-producing wetland fed by underground water flow) – while a local advisory group would oversee the expansion construction to be sure the fens were not damaged. Telski did a good job, in large part thanks to a very dedicated on-the-ground staff, and after three years the five fens were intact and Telski had significant new acreage to brag about in its marketing campaigns … But in becoming educated about the ancient nature and relic value of the unique Prospect Basin fens over the course of the expansion construction, those of us on the Oversight Committee were amazed to learn that this was one of the first multi-year studies of fens in North America. Prospect Basin, it turns out, is an invaluable repository of scientific data stored in the peat about climate change in the San Juans dating back to the time that our species first migrated onto this continent … San Miguel County was able to talk its local partners in its Intergovernmental Group (Telluride and the Mountain Village) to kick in a share of the seed money to keep Dr. Cooper’s research going. The Oversight group changed its name to the San Juan Fens Partnership and found a nonprofit umbrella in the Mountain Studies Institute of Silverton and Durango. Commissioner Joan May currently sits on the MSI board, and I served a previous term on that board as well … MSI has recently changed directors, but it continues to write grants for Dr. Cooper’s work on wetlands, and the local partnership continues to provide advice, resources and a sounding board with the community … So, why are peat-producing wetlands important, besides being unique and only poorly studied? While they compose only a third of the wetlands in the world and a mere 2 percent of the earth’s land area, they store some 20-25 percent of our terrestrial carbon. They filter and regulate water flow, storing snowmelt and releasing it slowly down the watershed. And they support a unique assemblage of animals, insects, plants and fungi. Relic alpine species that grow in one fen in Prospect Basin are not found in the others … Last week Dr. Cooper took members of the Partnership on a tour of four of the fens. He showed us three kinds of moss – mosses being the first true land plants some 460,000 years ago. Many of us walked on a floating mat of aquatic plants, so thick the vegetation on one of the bigger fens. Dr. Cooper is in the process of writing the first definitive text about North American fens, and the Prospect Basin examples (and the almost decade worth of monitoring data our community has supported) will provide a baseline for measuring fens all over the West, as well as serve as the San Juan’s canary in the climate change cave.

POETRY CORNER … Kathy Berg runs a most marvelous poetry program out of the Cortez Library, bringing the likes of Danny Solis, Sandra Cisneros and David Feela to perform and run workshops. I was honored to kick off this fall’s program last week, hooking up with a lovely community of poetry lovers, old and new friends … Caleb Parson surprised me at a party at the Southwest Open School (one of my favorite regional educational centers), having just returned to Cortez after years away. I had last seen him in Brazil’s Cruziero do Sul back in 1993, when he took a group of us from San Miguel County on a wild adventure up the Rio Moa into the Amazon’s deepest recesses, where we found amethysts, tracked jaguar, and experienced the faunal and floral wonders of the Brazilian rainforest … James Mischke read at the open mike and came to our Friday morning gourd circle (in lieu of a workshop) … Bill and Joanne Teetzel put me up for the night in one of two cabin’s on their art colony acres out in Arriola, with the property’s spacious artist loft/studio/shop structure, a castle’s giant metal doors and stylish Tesla pillars in a colonnade in front and square windows with glass circle intaglios all around. Bill’s a dazzling craftsman. We stayed up late into the night drinking Porfidio.

CORTEZ … I miss Joey’s. Just up the main drag into town past Safeway’s. Not a lot of great eateries in Montezuma County, but Joey’s was good. Now gone … But in its place, I found Zac’s. Now the peanut butter raviolis in strawberry sauce and “atomic coffee” may be un-PC novelties (like the boxcar graffiti décor), but my large helping of serrated pasta squares packed with shrimp swimming in a creamy alfredo sauce was downright delicious (and I’m really picky about Italian food). The service was cheerful and quick. And the cook came out to welcome us. Definitely a spot to return to … Managed to make two stops at the Spruce Tree Coffeehouse and Bookstore, where Charlie noted that his beacon of rationality in a sea of Cortez craziness won kudos from the Mountain Gazette in its recent Mountain issue.

THE TALKING GOURD

ah, getting old…
but no, not me. i just
scored a senior ski pass
dirt cheap

i mean, cloud acre...

finally she gets a metal roof
just as her ceilings start to sag
only the pump in the pumphouse
freezes up & the water heater busts

we huff & we puff
but the pump won't jump
so we lift out the foot valve
& the casing collapses

i mean last night i come home
to a San Miguel power blackout
& when the lights come back on
the stove won't work

so i fiddle with the switchbox
uplug the stove & the electricity
for a third of the house
dies

i mean, geez
sixty-five & i'm about

all that's left here

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