San Luis heats up again

  The historic town of San Luis in southern Colorado is shaking again from the rumble of logging trucks. After a halt in timber cutting due to spring mud, 15-20 trucks a day started hauling logs in early June from the mountainous Taylor Ranch, called La Sierra by the predominantly Hispanic residents below.

The 77,000-acre ranch in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains has been at the center of a dispute about Mexican land-grant rights since 1960. Today, fifth- and sixth-generation farmers fear that early snowmelt due to a lack of tree shade and erosion from the logging shortens their irrigation season and harms the high-altitude watershed (HCN, 6/9/97).

Allied with San Luis residents are volunteers with Ancient Forest Rescue and Earth First! who blockaded entrances to the ranch last month. Six people, including one San Luis resident, were arrested for trespass on June 10.

"We held all three entrances for 24 hours," says Heath Hansens, one of the activists.

Robert Curry, a watershed scientist at California State University at Monterey, flew over the Taylor Ranch this spring. He reports that logging has been so extensive and rapid that he thinks only one year of tree-cutting remains. The owner of the ranch, Zachary Taylor, is asking $20 million for the ranch; the state of Colorado will finish its independent assessment of the ranch's worth this summer.

*Peter McBride
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