In nearby news: Family welcomes soldier home after 76 years

san juan mountains colorado
A hiker enjoys the San Juan Mountains in Colorado. Photo courtesy of Paxson Woelber via Wikimedia Commons

SW Colorado chosen for $50M forest project

DURANGO, Colo. – Southwest Colorado has been chosen for $50 million in additional funding for expanded forest health and wildfire mitigation efforts on public and private land. The newly formed Rocky Mountain Restorative Initiative selected the forest project proposal, which encompasses nearly 750,000 acres along Colorado Highway 160, including portions of the San Juan National Forest and towns of Dove Creek, Cortez, Dolores and Durango.

“It’s a really great boost, and we expect to get a lot more fuel reduction work done through this collaborative effort,” said San Juan National Forest Supervisor Kara Chadwick. The RMRI is a partnership between the U.S. National Forest Service and the National Wild Turkey Federation, along with local 30 collaborative organizations, businesses and government agencies. The entities will pool resources to fund local wildfire mitigation efforts and programs over a 10-year period, with a target of spending $5 million per year. It will be used to pay for prescribed burns, forest thinning, and programs that support affordable and practical defensible space projects for residents and towns within the wildfire urban interface zone. Protecting recreation areas, water resources and wildlife habitats also is a focus of the additional funding.

Southwest Colorado’s request for the funding stood out because programs and groups that are needed to carry out the mitigation plans are already in place, organizers said. “Collaborations already exist on the ground to get work done on a large scale. Also, there is an existing wood products industry and social license to utilize all tools, including prescribed fire,” said Cindy Dozier, board chairwoman of Club 20, a Western Slope advocacy group and one of the RMRI collaborative partners. There also is a real need to reduce the region’s overstocked forests, which presents the risk of unnaturally large wildfires that threaten recreation, water sources and communities. The infusion of additional funding means on-the-ground work can begin sooner, officials said.

– The Durango Herald

Family welcomes soldier home after 76 years

WOODS CROSS – Robert James Hatch is coming home. After 76 years of waiting, the Hatch family can finally lay their beloved son, brother and uncle to rest. The 21-year-old’s remains have been unaccounted for since he was killed on Nov. 22, 1943 in World War II.

Recently, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced that he was accounted for on Sept. 23, 2019 and his remains returned to Woods Cross on Dec. 11. “Hatch was a member of Company D, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, Fleet Marine Force, that landed against stiff Japanese resistance on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands in an attempt to secure the island,” a DPAA statement said. “Over several days of intense fighting at Tarawa, approximately 1,000 marines and sailors were killed and more than 2,000 were wounded, while the Japanese were virtually annihilated. Hatch was killed on the third day of battle. His remains were reportedly buried in either an isolated burial or in Cemetery 33 on Betio Island.”

Almost half of the known casualties were never found and no recovered remains could be associated with Hatch, so in October 1949 a Board of Review, according to the statement, declared him “non-recoverable.” In 2014, a nonprofit organization called History Flight, Inc. identified a site correlated to Cemetery 33. Multiple sets of remains were uncovered during excavation of the site and turned over to the DPAA in 2015. “Out of the clear blue we heard from the Dept. of Defense,” said Tom Hatch, James’ nephew. “We knew a group had been searching for remains a few years ago then they identified the common grave. Through forensic analysis and a chest X-ray that lined up almost perfectly they identified him. We heard from them in September and we were very surprised. For 76 years not much had happened.” Jim’s mother had three sons, Tom said, his father Alvin being the oldest. “My grandparents received notice of Uncle Jim’s death on Dec. 23, a month and a day after his death on Nov. 22. My Uncle Gene, also a Marine, was killed in battle on Guam eight months to the day after Uncle Jim was killed, making my grandmother a Gold Star Mother twice over.”

– Davis County Clipper

Man dies after getting buried in avalanche

PARK CITY – A 45-year-old Salt Lake City man died Sunday after getting buried in a backcountry avalanche near the boundary of Park City Mountain Resort, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office said. According to an online posting from the Utah Avalanche Center, the man triggered the avalanche while snowboarding in Dutch Draw, a backcountry area near the Canyons Village side of PCMR. Officials believe he was alone. Authorities were notified of the avalanche just before 11 a.m., according to the sheriff’s office. Two people saw a snowboard sticking out of the snow after the slide and dug the man out of about three feet of snow. They performed CPR while waiting for help to arrive.

The man was transported to Park City Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. “We send our sincere condolences to the family of the deceased man,” the sheriff’s office said in a prepared statement. “We are also very grateful to the citizens who worked their hardest to save this man’s life.” The area where the slide occurred is “steep, rocky (and) avalanche prone,” according to the Utah Avalanche Center, and was the site of an avalanche fatality in 2012. Authorities planned to investigate the area on Monday.

– The Park Record

Best Friends announces leadership program

CEDAR CITY – Best Friends Animal Society and Southern Utah University have announced the nation’s first university-endorsed animal services leadership program for working professionals. The Best Friends Executive Leadership Certification (BFELC) is a comprehensive, six-month blended learning program utilizing in-person and online interactive instruction. Training top-level leaders in animal services throughout the nation, the goal of the program is to end the killing of companion animals in shelters. “Best Friends is a game changer in animal welfare, pushing animal services toward life-saving efforts as opposed to control and disposal,” said Best Friends Chief Executive Officer, Julie Castle. “There are now more than 4,700 no-kill communities in this country.”

Castle continued, “This new leadership program is rooted in proven animal services techniques, skills, programs and policies and is pivotal in transforming animal services as a profession and ending the killing of pets in shelters. We are excited to be engaged in such a powerful academic partnership.”

SUU will award an Institutional Certificate and up to six academic credits to those who complete the BFELC. Beyond the program, and dependent on educational backgrounds and goals, participants will have opportunities to earn additional academic credits that may be applied toward SUU bachelor’s or master’s degree programs.

– Southern Utah News