An open letter to the Forest Service about the Durango & Silverton

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Saturday, July 18, 2020

U.S. Forest Service

San Juan National Forest Headquarters
15 Burnett Court
Durango, CO  81301

Attn: Supervisor Kara Chadwick

Dear Ms. Chadwick:

You and I have never met, but I hope you will allow me to speak frankly about an issue dear to my heart and the hearts of the 80,000-plus readers of Trains magazine and the quarter million who use our web site. I would like to express my concern for how your office treats the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Of recent issue is the fire mitigation logging that the railroad has undertaken on its right of way, which the Forest Service has told the railroad to stop work. Also, I understand that the Forest Service has stepped in to prevent the railroad from repairing a washed-out bridge. Given that the Forest Service has sued the railroad for the 2018 416 fire, claiming that its locomotives set the fire, I find a bit of missing logic in telling the railroad to stop fire mitigation efforts. Perhaps if their efforts are not being done as your office prefers, instead of stopping them, your agents could take a helpful stance and advise the railroad on how to proceed. As for the washed-out bridge, I see no role for the Forest Service unless the railroad needs to exceed its right of way.

I am not here to condemn your department. I applaud your efforts to manage our forests, and I have enjoyed the San Juan National Forest for almost 30 years. I grew up near a national forest in North Carolina, and one of the attractions to me about travel by train was the expanded platform it provides to see and experience our forests. My father was an agricultural agent for U.S. Department of Agriculture, and he admired railroads because of their small footprint on the environment.

The Durango & Silverton is one of the best steam train trips in North America. It is a national treasure, an engineering feat, a magnificent way for thousands of people to come together and enjoy nature from a moving train.

My company does a small amount of business with the Durango & Silverton. But that is not the reason I am writing. Most importantly, I have many friends who work there, and many others who admire the railroad. I know that they are good people, who care deeply about the environment and their community. Their intentions are good. I encourage your office to get to know them, to help them, and to learn what a jewel you have there in the San Juan Mountains.


Jim Wrinn, Editor


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