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Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said yesterday that his proposal to promote the cultural heritage of the San Luis Valley will have no impact on the use rights to heirs on the Sangre De Cristo Land Grant. San Luis residents fought a series of court battles for 4 decades to regain access to the 77,000-acre tract of land known as the Taylor Ranch, which had been fenced off by North Carolina timberman Jack Taylor in the 1960s. Salazar said, “We’re not going to undo… the Taylor Ranch case that recognized the historic subsistence rights of the local community”. Shirley Romero Otero asked Salazar if the use rights of the land grant heirs would be protected under any of the proposals. She said she was worried that a designation under the national park service might open the land to the public, thereby infringing on the rights the heirs regained in court. Any proposals to have land brought under the park service would still have to go through a number of hoops with congress, including the Senate Subcommittee on National Parks.

Backers of a personhood amendment to the Colorado Constitution are taking their third stab at the issue after being defeated by voters in 2008 and 2010. The state title board approved the language of the latest initiative yesterday. The initiative seeks to ban abortion even in cases of incest and rape and prohibit stem-cell research or any fertility treatment that would kill a fertilized egg. Opponents of the personhood amendment called for the title board to review its language. They claimed wording in the proposed measure was deceptive and opened the door to consequences that voters might not expect. Crafters of the proposed amendment say it is more thorough and clear about its intent than past versions that have appeared on Colorado ballots. Opponents objected to the phrases “right to life” and “innocent person” in the text. The title board struck “right to life”, but left “innocent person” in place. The board passed the modified language of the initiative by a 2-1 margin.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar was joined by Governor John Hickenlooper and U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall yesterday to speak to over 400 people who were gathered at Adams State College to hear Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar’s vision for preserving and promoting the rich heritage of the San Luis Valley. Salazar’s proposals included a program to promote trails in the valley, encouraging the use of conservation easements and the creation of a national historic park. Salazar presented the reconnaissance survey report on part of the valley, northern New Mexico and central Sangre De Cristo mountains. Over 3.2 million acres are included in the area being studied. In Colorado, that includes parts of Saguache, Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Custer, Huerfano and Las Animas counties. In New Mexico, the counties of Colfax and Taos are included. Many in the audience took advantage of the question and answer period to express their concerns. Since creating a corridor of conservation easements on both public and private lands is at the heart of the study, many landowners invoked the sanctity of property rights. Salazar told the group that private land ownership would not be infringed upon.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is accepting applications from individuals, organizations and local governments to distribute up to $1.7 million for outdoor recreation activities in Colorado. Matching grants are available in this cycle for projects in Colorado that benefit fishing, shooting ranges or motorized boating. The grant programs are partially funded by federal excise taxes on the sale of boating, hunting and fishing equipment and come to Colorado through the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program. More information on the wildlife and sport fish restoration program is available at http://wsfrprograms.fws.gov.

Trinidad Lake State Park is currently allowing visitors to gather firewood in designated areas of the park through February 28th. Driftwood found along the shoreline at the boat ramp, in Reilly Canyon and around the south shore may be taken for personal use. No other wood may be gathered. A permit and state park pass are required to collect firewood. For more information, call 719-846-6951.