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Editorial: Cost versus benefit

Cost–benefit analysis is defined as a systematic strategy to compare the potential benefits of a certain course of action to the costs associated with taking that action. One of the main applications of this technique is to help decide whether an investment or decision is sound by determining whether its benefits outweigh its costs, and by how much.

In November, we, the voters of Moffat County, will be faced with a major decision that could reverberate far into the future: Should we support a dedicated mill levy that would fund operations at Moffat County Libraries and the Museum of Northwest Colorado?

The situation boils down to this.

Moffat County is facing significant financial challenges, and during the past two years, county commissioners have tried to meet those challenges by taking extraordinary steps to trim costs, including cuts of approximately $100,000 each to the library and museum operating budgets. These cuts have prompted both institutions to take equally extraordinary steps to continue operating.

The museum is now tapping its limited reserves to supplement operational expenses, and according to museum Assistant Director Paul Knowles, at the current rate of consumption, the institution has less than two years worth of reserve funds remaining. Once these reserves have been exhausted, the museum's future is uncertain, at best.

As for the library, Director Sherry Sampson and the library board have undertaken a number of cost-saving measures, laying off some workers, reducing hours for others, and cutting hours of operation at all three of its county branches. During a meeting of the board early this summer, directors lamented that identifying further cuts would be "challenging."

The mill levy, if approved, could end the financial struggles for both entities.

It is estimated the increase would generate up to $1.2 million annually, money that could only be used to fund operations at the library and the museum. The funds would be divided proportionally between the two entities, with 64 percent going to the library and 36 percent to the museum. According to Knowles, the estimated dollar amounts would equate to roughly $400,000 per year for the museum and $700,000 per year for the library.

That's the situation. So, what are the costs associated with approving the mill levy?

If approved by voters, the ballot measure would enact a 2.85 percent mill levy dedicated solely to the library and the museum and would cost a property owner with a $200,000 residence about $41 per year, or $3.42 per month. For the owner of a business valuated at $200,000, the increase would amount to about $165 per year, or $13.75 per month.

Those are the costs. What are the benefits?

If approved, the measure will ensure both the library and the museum are able to continue operations, prospects that will otherwise fall into serious doubt.

According to a recent news release from the Moffat County Board of County Commissioners, the museum hosts an average of 12,000 visitors each year, with more than half that number coming from outside Moffat County. It is listed as the “#1 Thing to Do in Craig” by Trip Advisor, was ranked among the six “Top Original Museums” by the Colorado Tourism Board, and was recently named at the top of “15 Museums Not to Miss” by True West Magazine.

The Moffat County Library includes three branches — in Craig, Maybell, and Dinosaur — and reported nearly 83,000 visits in 2017, an 18.5 percent increase from 2014. Its circulation of all print materials is up more than 17.5 percent since 2013, and it currently boasts more than 8,200 active cardholders.

It is neither our objective nor our place to tell anyone how to vote on this issue. Each voter must make that determination for him or herself. We also recognize — and appreciate — the general objection to any new tax, particularly in our depressed economy.

But, in our view, we must ask ourselves if the museum and the library are worth keeping around, and if they are, how much are we willing to pay to keep them around.

We must decide.

These days, it seems there are too many taxes on every ballot to say "yes" or "no" to, so we must make choices, and our choices must be informed by facts. Our choice now is, "Are the library and the museum important, and, if so, is their continued existence worth the asking price?"

If so, we encourage you to vote "yes."

The choice is — and remains — yours, but the results of that choice will resonate far into the future. Please, fully weigh the costs versus the benefits before you make it.

Editorial: The struggle is real

It's no secret that the United States of America is in a crisis situation with regard to the abuse of prescription drugs, and Northwest Colorado has been hit particularly hard by this deeply disturbing trend.

That's why we were so encouraged by last week's news that a local group has won federal grant funding to support prescription drug abuse prevention efforts in Moffat, Routt, and Grand counties.

On Friday, Aug. 31, the Craig Press reported that Grand Futures Prevention Coalition had been awarded a $150,000 grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to help create youth prevention programming in Moffat, Routt, and Grand counties for the next three years.

It was noted that Grand Futures was the only Colorado organization to receive such funding under the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, or CARA.

The grant funds will be used primarily to raise awareness of the problem and create educational programs designed to help area youth make informed decisions about drug use.

We feel this is a sensible approach to countering the insidious and growing trend of prescription drug abuse, because preventing a problem from materializing is almost always easier and more effective than addressing a problem once it has emerged.

And what better place to begin creating new mindsets with regard to drugs and drug abuse than with our children?

Frankly, we were horrified to learn that a 2015 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey revealed that 14.8 percent of youth age 12 to 18 in Moffat, Routt, and Grand counties have taken prescription medication without a prescription in their lifetimes; that figure is 1 percent higher than the state average and 11 percent higher than the national average.

But the percentages, while sobering, are beside the point. In our estimation, if only one child takes a prescription pill without a prescription, that's one child too many.

That's why early education is so vital and why we have such high hopes for the CARA grant.

The funding will be used to support a number of specific strategies, including a youth summit, educational opportunities for adults and concerned community members, community events to drive awareness and help destigmatize the disease of addiction, develop educational materials for patients, create an online resources library, partner with local schools to establish an opioid prevention curriculum, and create additional prescription drug disposal sites in each of the three counties.

Will this, in and of itself, solve the prescription drug crisis?

No.

In a recent interview with the Craig Press, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton rightly pointed out that effectively addressing the nation's — and the region's — opioid crisis will not come in the form of a single, silver bullet, but rather as a multi-pronged approach to a multi-faceted problem.

"Obviously, it's not something the federal government alone is going to be able to solve," Tipton said. "It's going to take collaborative effort with our state governments, our counties, our city governments, and our families, as well."

On this point, we are in complete agreement with the congressman.

The solution will be neither quick nor easy.

It will require personal responsibility, such as ensuring unused prescription medications are properly disposed of. It will require thoughtful legislation that recognizes addiction as a disease rather than a character flaw. It will require revised medical protocols that balance the legitimate need for such drugs with the recognition that unwitting addiction is a real possibility.

All these factors will have to be considered in developing overarching strategies.

But it seems self-evident that providing our youth with the education and tools they need to make informed, prudent choices is the bedrock upon which an effective strategy can be built.

Grand Futures — with the help of these grant funds — is working to establish that bedrock, and we offer our wholehearted support.

Editorial: Seize the opportunity

An open letter to Moffat County students and teachers:

On Monday, you will return to classes following the long summer break. A new year stretches before of you, a year that might be compared to a blank page waiting to be filled. What will fill that page is entirely up to you.

With that in mind, students, we encourage you to do two things.

First, recognize the incredible opportunity you've been given simply by virtue of having been born in the United States of America.

Even in this age of burgeoning technological and scientific advances, there are still places on this planet where even a basic education is in no way guaranteed, places where people are only offered that opportunity if they happen to come from the correct economic caste or happen to have been born the appropriate gender.

Here in the United States, neither social status nor gender plays a role in determining who is to be educated and who is not. This fact offers you an enormous potential advantage, but that advantage can only be realized if you seize the opportunity.

That brings us to the second thing we encourage you to do.

Make the most of what you're being offered.

School is like a giant warehouse filled with all sorts of fascinating and useful items, and you've been given free access to explore this warehouse and take anything you want. All that is required is for you to pick the items up.

So, pick them up.

Even if you don't plan to go on to college, education a reward unto itself. Learn how to learn. Technology is evolving so quickly these days, it's difficult to keep up, and chances are, you're going to have to reinvent yourself over and over again throughout the course of your lives. The greatest benefit of an education is the ability it affords you to learn from your experiences and adapt as new situations arise.

So, listen to your teachers, question them, critically evaluate the things they're teaching you; if those things are sound, incorporate them into your lives.

Learn to think, to reason, to understand, to grow.

In short, learn while learning is the highest priority you have. Contrary to what some believe, learning does not end with graduation. You'll soon be faced with a lifetime of it, so build a strong foundation now.

And to the teachers — those incredible people who dedicate their lives to offering the gifts we just described — thank you. The difficulty of your job is rivaled only by the importance of your job, and we know you probably don't always feel your efforts are noticed, much less, appreciated.

You work long hours, and you often take your work home with you. During the summers, you enroll in continuing learning classes, you attend seminars, and you undertake independent reading projects, and you do all this so you can better perform your jobs when you return to your classrooms.

We recognize that, and we appreciate that.

So, as you embark into the new challenges and new opportunities of another year, please do so knowing you have our full support and our boundless thanks.

Frankly, we cannot imagine — and would never wish to imagine — a nation — a world — without you.

Editorial: CRAFTing local tourism

As the Moffat County Tourism Association works toward spotlighting and promoting Northwest Colorado's numerous tourist attractions, we were thrilled to learn last week that the county has been awarded a Colorado Rural Academy for Tourism, or CRAFT, technical assistance support grant in the first round of the CRAFT Studio 101 initiative.

MCTA applied for the grant in partnership with Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership.

CRAFT Studio 101 is a 12-week, comprehensive training program provided to select rural communities that are in the beginning stages of building tourism into a viable and sustainable economic strategy.

The CRAFT grant will bring six full-day training workshops to Craig in September, October, and November, as well as provide $10,000 to help with implementation of strategies developed during the workshops. According to MCTA Director Tom Kleinschnitz, winning the grant represents a tremendous opportunity for the county to develop new tourism opportunities and better capitalize on those already in existence.

"This technical assistance will help us to grow our tourism operations, as well as understand, as a community, the importance of visitor readiness and what being a gateway community looks like." Kleinschnitz told the Craig Press in early August. "Moffat County is in a prime position to be taking advantage of all of the opportunities that are available to us in our own backyard."

Citing western Moffat County's Sombrero Ranch as an example of a traditionally non-tourist business that has successfully tapped into the tourism angle, Kleinschnitz said there are many other such opportunities in the county, adding that the CRAFT grant should prove beneficial in development of those opportunities.

To kick off the process, Jill Corbin, director of destination development for the Colorado Tourism Office, will be in Craig from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 21, to meet with MCTA, the CMEDP, and other parties interested in tourism to set the agenda for the six seminars, which will be held in September, October, and November.

Lunch will be provided for Tuesday's planning meeting, and everyone interested in expanding tourism in Moffat County is invited, but those planning to attend are asked to RSVP to Kleinschnitz at tomk@moffatcounty.net.

The workshop days will deal with rural tourism, sustainable tourism, visitor readiness, marketing and social media, culinary and agritourism, and outdoor adventure tourism. Though more specific topics and times will be published later, dates for the workshops are Tuesday, Sept. 18; Thursday, Sept. 27; Tuesday, Oct. 9; Thursday, Oct. 25; Thursday, Nov. 8; and Friday, Nov. 16.

Kleinschnitz credited State Rep. Bob Rankin for championing additional resources for the rural development program at the CTO.

We feel this is a tremendous opportunity for Craig and Moffat County to set the stage for a thriving tourism industry into the future.

"The program will drive our community to take a comprehensive inventory of our assets, then look into the future and understand the opportunities for our county," Kleinschnitz said.

We agree completely.

As the energy industry continues to undergo sweeping changes, Moffat County will need to identify alternate paths to economic prosperity, and we feel tourism could be a major piece of our community's future prosperity.

We encourage those interested in the development of Moffat County tourism to attend Tuesday's meeting and participate in the subsequent workshops.

This is a great opportunity for our community.

Let's make the most of it.

Editorial: We support our neighbors

The reverberations arising from Bank of the West's recent social media post are still echoing across Moffat County, and with each passing day, it appears more and more likely that the future may not be all that bright for the institution, at least not in Moffat County.

Readers will no doubt recall that, last week, Bank of the West proclaimed in a Facebook post it will no longer do business with industries that support tobacco, coal, fracking, or Arctic drilling.

Beneath the heading "REAL CHANGE" (and it was not lost on us that the word "REAL" was set down in stark, black letters, while the word "CHANGE" was rendered in a soothing shade of green) the post read: "We've made the decision to take action; we will no longer fund tobacco, coal, fracking, or Arctic drilling."

Moffat County's response to the post was swift, decisive, and, in certain cases, brutal. Many residents — some of whom acknowledged having been Bank of the West customers for years — said they would immediately close their accounts; one respondent even vowed he'd put his money in a jar and bury it in the backyard before he'd do business with the beleaguered bank.

The original post was later edited, perhaps in the hope of rendering the message less offensive to communities such as ours, communities that rely on coal and the energy sector for their continued existence.

If that was the hope, it was a vain one.

Following are examples of what we've observed so far.

  • The original Facebook declaration prompted Bank of the West Craig Branch Manager and Vice President Stacy Razzano to announce she would resign her position of 27 years, effective Aug. 17.
  • During the subsequent weekend, we heard several reports that other local banks had been deluged with people last Friday, all clambering to open new accounts.
  • On Tuesday, the Moffat County Board of County Commissioners announced the county — doubtless among the branch's largest depositors — is taking steps to close its accounts and do its business elsewhere.

These are pretty extreme reactions — and we wholeheartedly support every one of them.

The coal industry built this community, and the coal industry is what allows this community to continue. Our family members, our friends, and our neighbors are coal miners, and in most Moffat County households, coal is what puts food on the table and gasoline in the tank.

What's more, coal is a way of life here in Northwest Colorado. It's a time-honored and noble line of work, and in many families, working in the mines is a proud tradition that's been passed from father to son for generations.

And that last part is perhaps at the crux of what we find so offensive about the message. Honestly, we've had just about enough of being told by corporate interests that coal is somehow evil and that, by extracting it from the ground, we are also evil — that we're a bunch of greedy, morally bankrupt ingrates who care nothing for the environment or the future of our planet.

Well, that's simply not true, and, frankly, we resent the implication.

Furthermore, we find Bank of the West's pronouncement a little on the hypocritical side. We wonder if the bank's France-based parent company — BNP Paribas — plans to put its wallet where its lofty convictions are and outfit all its branches with solar panels or wind turbines, so as not to have to purchase electricity produced by coal-fired power plants.

Somehow, we doubt that, and it's really not even the point.

The point is, Bank of the West has publicly proclaimed it will no longer support us, so we see no reason for us to continue supporting Bank of the West.

That said, we neither encourage nor discourage residents and businesses from pulling their Bank of the West accounts. That's a personal decision everyone must make for him or herself.

But to those who choose to respond by closing their accounts, please remember two things:

First, this is a protest of conscience; it will have little — if any — effect on the institution as a whole. Bank of the West operates some 600 banking offices in 23 states and boasts more than $80.7 billion in assets. The loss of all its Moffat County accounts would be akin to one of us losing a quarter on the sidewalk.

But again, the money isn't the point: The principle is.

And, second, if you do decide to pull your account, please remember that the personnel manning our local branch have nothing to do with the company's policies or social media posts. They are also our friends and neighbors, ordinary folks who are only trying to earn an honest living and support their families. As righteous as our anger may be, it is misplaced if directed toward local employees.

Against the expansive backdrop of the worldwide banking industry, Moffat County is less than insignificant, and we're sure BNP Paribas did the math before publishing its post.

We can't seriously harm it financially, but we can send a message, and we can do it just as effectively as an international banking institution.

And our message is this: Banks can support — or refuse to support — whomever and whatever they please.

As for us, we'll go on supporting our friends and neighbors.

Editor's note: Publisher Renee Campbell and Community Representative Tom Kleinschnitz were unable to attend this week's meeting of the Editorial Board. In their absence, Office Manager KayCee Goncalves joined the board in developing this position.

Editorial: It’s about time

We were gratified to learn last week that the Craig City Council is planning to adopt a more aggressive strategy in dealing with vacant — and, in some cases, derelict — properties around town.

Specifically, during a July 24 meeting, council members — in response to a complaint from the Downtown Business Association — reset their sights on the Golden Cavvy Building, a downtown structure located at 538 Yampa Ave. In its prime, the Golden Cavvy Building was, no doubt, a credit to the Craig streetscape.

In recent years, however — particularly since the building became vacant in 2013 — it has fallen into serious disrepair.

It's exterior walls are covered with graffiti, and the structure has begun to attract homeless persons in search of a place to sleep, even though a March 27 inspection of the property by Craig Building Official Marlin Eckhoff concluded the building is not suitable for human occupation.

The Downtown Business Association claims the building's owner, Harley Guess, has had ample opportunity to correct the problems but has offered little to no communication with the association.

The city, too, has made attempts to work with Guess.

Eckhoff posted a letter to Guess in April, outlining the problems and giving him 60 days to correct them. According to Eckhoff, after confirming receipt of the first letter, he sent a second at the beginning of July, allowing Guess an additional 30 days to take action or face intervention by the city.

Based upon the timeframe outlined in the second letter, that 30-day extension has either expired or is about to.

With these facts in mind, we encourage City Council to follow through, even if that means condemning the building and placing a lien against it to cover mitigation costs.

That said, please allow us to qualify our position.

We do not blanketly condone the condemnation and removal of every historic building in Craig that has fallen a little behind in the upkeep department. Our historic buildings — when properly maintained — can serve as local treasures, linking past to present in a tangible representation of brick, mortar, and wood, and such buildings should be preserved whenever possible.

But when a piece of the past becomes a drag on the future, it's time to reevaluate.

On the front page of this edition of the Craig Press, we report that Peter Brixius has been named Craig's new city manager, and it is our sincere hope he will offer the leadership we need to eliminate the eyesores around town that serve only as a drain on our economy and our quality of life.

And we're not talking only about the Golden Cavvy Building. From the old K-Mart building to the shuttered Safeway store, there are examples of this troubling trend across the city, and the situation is made even more untenable when one considers that other local business owners — and the Downtown Business Association — have invested heavily in making — and keeping — downtown Craig an attractive and inviting place for residents and visitors, alike.

"We need to start being more aggressive and budgeting some money to take care of these structures," Mayor John Ponikvar said Thursday morning. "The city may wind up owning some buildings, but in the longrun, it might be worth it."

On this point, we are in complete agreement with the mayor, and to his sentiment, we would add only this.

It's about time.

Editorial: 100 years of tradition

The whole community turned out. With flags flying, the Streeter Mine surprised everybody with a parade, and the Craig band performed. Huge tents housed the displays of local crops, with babies being the biggest crop.

The foregoing is an excerpt from a newspaper account of Moffat County's first fair, which opened in Maybell on Sept. 2, 1918, roughly one month short of 100 years ago.

Next week, the community will once again gather to celebrate as we mark the opening of the 100th Moffat County Fair.

Almost anything with a century's worth of staying power is worth celebrating, and in recognition of the significance of the centennial fair, the Moffat County Fair Board has pulled out all the stops to make the 100th incarnation of this beloved local tradition a grand event, indeed.

But it occurs to us that perhaps more relevant than the simple fact that the fair has endured for 100 years is the realization of exactly what has endured, and we feel the opening sentence of the historical account above offers an apt summation.

"The whole community turned out."

How often does a "whole community" turn out for anything anymore? And what is it about that word "community" which — even in this day and age of political turmoil — still carries the power to bind us one to another like strong glue?

We think it's our shared history, our common experiences — the trials, travails and traditions which, because we share them, make each of us part of something bigger.

The Moffat County Fair is a reminder that, despite the disagreements and discord that work to tear us apart, we remain part of a culture and a tradition that began long before we were born and, hopefully, will endure long after we're gone.

Lots of things breeze into and out of our little community: carnivals, concerts, festivals, sporting events — you name it, and it has probably made a stop here at one time or another.

But the fair is different, somehow, and we think that difference is to be found in its constancy — it is an unbroken, 100-year-old tether that ties us both to those courageous pioneers who first thought to settle here and to those of us who — a century later — choose to remain here.

The fair is a symbol of our heritage, and one need not look far to see how deeply that heritage runs. The fair stands as a signpost to our shared past and a beacon to our collective future, and though it has changed over the years, one thing remains constant: community.

We hope to see you there.

Editorial: To our heroes

An open letter to the brave men and women who risk their lives to protect us from wildfire.

Dear Firefighters:

"Thank you" hardly seems enough for what you have given us — what you are giving us. Because of you, we get to sleep peacefully at night, and we get to do that as you charge headlong into the mouth of hell so we'll never have to.

So, no — "thank you" is not nearly enough.

But inadequate though our thanks may be, we still offer them, and we offer them from the bottoms of our hearts.

We thank you for your selfless willingness to leave your families for days, weeks, even months at a time to brave perils most of us will only ever see in our nightmares, to risk your lives as a matter of routine so your communities can be safe.

It is impossible for most of us to fully comprehend what you do, and even more, why you do it. Maybe some of you were born to the life of a firefighter and now carry forward that proud family tradition bestowed upon you by your fathers and grandfathers. Others among you were perhaps drawn to the life of a firefighter in pursuit of a childhood dream. Still others may have landed in this line of work by way of accident or happenstance.

But we're convinced that — regardless of your individual motivations — you share at least one common motivation: You do it, we suspect, because you're driven to serve, because you were born among those few heroic individuals who are not content to sit on the sidelines while their friends, families and communities are in harm's way.

And though we cannot fully grasp the perils and pitfalls you face, we are keenly aware that your work is tremendously dangerous and requires the steely determination to forge ahead into situations that would cause most to turn and run. More than that, we recognize where we'd be were it not for your heroism.

Heroism: It's an interesting and often misused word.

Heroes are not renderings in a comic book, nor are they Hollywood actors who don capes and tights to portray invincible characters on the big screen, characters who charge into the fray because, essentially, they cannot be harmed. You can be harmed, just as any other human being can be harmed, and that fact is a big part of what makes you so heroic. You fully recognize the dangers you face, and yet, you face them anyway. In so doing, you embody the words of Mark Twain: "Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear — not absence of fear."

So, it is not superhuman invincibility that makes you brave; rather, it is human frailty.

It's a little ironic to consider that most of you will probably feel slightly embarrassed by our words. Were you to respond, we imagine most of you would say something along the lines of, "We're just doing our jobs."

We would respectfully disagree.

We're the ones who are "just doing our jobs" when we go to our offices, our factories, our stores every morning. What you're doing is an incalculable public service purchased through unimaginable individual sacrifice, a service that enables us to continue going to our offices, our factories, and our stores every morning.

Quite simply, you are our heroes, and we just wanted you to know that.

It's been a very bad fire year already, and conditions seem primed for the situation to get worse before it gets better. And even though it's you who are doing the heavy lifting, please know that we stand ready to assist you in any way we can, whether that's providing support services or simply observing fire restrictions and doing all in our power to ensure we're not the cause of the next fire you'll be called upon to fight for us.

We're behind you all the way.

We'd thought to list all the agencies and individuals who stand on the front lines of this vital effort, but were we to do that, we'd almost certainly miss some group or individual who deserves our recognition and our thanks.

So, instead, we'll simply say it again: Thank you, to all the firefighters and support workers who are out there risking life and limb to keep us safe.

We could never be grateful enough.

Editorial: Let’s be careful out there

It's been said that people come to Colorado for the winters, but they stay for the summers. And, certainly, there's a solid argument to be made for the truth of that statement.

As beautiful as our winters are, there's still nothing quite so pleasant as watching the green spread back across our valley after lying months dormant beneath drifts of cold white. The days grow warm and long, and a whole new world of activities appears before us.

Biking, hiking, camping, floating, fishing — all these and more open up to us as summer takes hold. And we encourage everyone to take full advantage of the boundless outdoor recreational opportunities we are afforded simply by virtue of where we live.

But, while you're out there having fun, it's important to remember that the season of outdoor fun in the sun also brings its share of danger. Every year, we hear far too many stories about people being seriously injured or killed, and even worse, most of these incidents turn out to be tragically preventable.

Those of us who live here already know about the potential hazards, but summertime in Colorado also brings visitors, many of whom might be arriving here without the knowledge they need to stay safe. That said, we offer a few tips for enjoying all Northwest Colorado has to offer while avoiding the possible pitfalls.

The kids are out

With the end of the spring school term, kids are out enjoying their summer, as well, and often, kids aren't as quite mindful as they should be. That means we — as adults — must be even more mindful.

While you're driving, please be watchful for children who may not have looked both ways before riding or running into the street. It's also not a bad idea to just take things a little slower, in general, particularly when driving in areas children frequent. Sure, you might be a few minutes later getting where you're going, but you might really need a little of that extra time if you find yourself bearing down on a kid who just pedaled into your lane.

Additionally, always remember to buckle up at all times. It's been said many times, but seatbelts save lives.

Fire danger

Moffat County is currently under Stage 1 fire restrictions, which place strict prohibitions on most outdoor burning, and with more dry weather ahead, there's a good chance these restrictions will be upgraded. There's good reason these restrictions were put in place. Those of us who live here know how easily a single spark can grow into 20,000-acre inferno, but some of our visitors likely do not. Please, observe the restrictions, and should you see anyone engaging in prohibited or risky behavior with fire, please take a moment to educate them.

The property — and life — you save may be your own.

Hydrate

The need for proper hydration can hardly be overstated, particularly in a climate as dry as ours. At high altitudes, oxygen and atmospheric pressure are both lower, causing water to evaporate via the lungs and skin at a higher rate than at lower altitudes, and increased summertime activities accelerate these processes.

Even without increased activity, studies suggest people at higher altitudes should drink twice the recommended amount of water as those living at lower altitudes.

Wildlife

For many, one of the greatest allures of Colorado is its abundance of wildlife, and while the state is home to a host of magnificent creatures, it should be remembered that many of these animals are potentially as dangerous as they are beautiful.

Enjoy these animals from a distance, and never harass or attempt to approach them.

Getting that selfie with a moose is definitely not worth the potential consequences.

On the water

Last winter's dismal snowpack, coupled with an uncharacteristically dry spring, means lower river levels and flow rates. If you're floating, be aware of potential foot entrapments, and wear a flotation device whenever you're on the water.

And, if you're not as confident as you'd like in the water, consider taking swimming lessons before setting out.

We do not write this to discourage outdoor recreation — indeed, quite the opposite. We hope everyone — resident and visitor, alike — will get outside as much as possible this summer and enjoy the natural wonders Northwest Colorado has to offer.

In short, don't be afraid — just be aware, and be careful.

Editorial: Democracy in action

Among the most cherished — and important — rights we enjoy as citizens of the United States of America is the right to freely choose our own leaders, and nowhere is the simple beauty of our election system more clearly expressed than at the local level.

We saw ample evidence of that in Moffat County on Tuesday, as voters turned out for the 2018 primary election, choosing candidates to represent the two major parties in November's general election.

The primary is now over, and we'll not comment on the specifics of the outcome. The county voted its collective conscience, and we won't debate the choices the county made. However, we do have some congratulations and thanks to offer.

First, the congratulations.

We congratulate Sombrero Ranch Manager Don Broom — a newcomer to the political scene — who emerged as victor in a hotly contested, three-way race for county commissioner to capture the Republican nomination.

Likewise, we congratulate Tammy Rashchke — a longtime county clerk and recorders office employee — who defeated her co-worker, Tori Pingley, to win the Republican nomination for county clerk and recorder.

And finally, we congratulate Jesse Arthurs, who defeated Moffat County Coroner Kirk McKey in the Republican primary and will face Democratic nominee Alec Brown in November to determine who will be the county's next coroner.

Each of these candidates ran good campaigns, and we salute them on their success.

Second, the thanks.

We're thankful to all the candidates who threw their hats in the ring. Running for elected office is a difficult, expensive, time-consuming task, a task most of us would never even consider undertaking. Candidates place their entire lives on hold for months to shake hands, make speeches, distribute yard signs and talk with constituents. They open their private affairs to public scrutiny and often become the targets of personal attack. And, they do all this out of an honest desire to serve their communities.

For that, they have our gratitude.

We are also grateful to outgoing County Commissioner Frank Moe and outgoing County Coroner Kirk McKey. Both have served our community to the best of their abilities, and we have never doubted their honest desire to better their community and do what they felt was right.

They stepped up, they served and they have our thanks.

We would be seriously remiss if we neglected to thank outgoing Clerk and Recorder Lila Herod and her staff at the Moffat County Courthouse. If anything is as difficult as running for elected office, it's organizing and executing an election. Herod and her staff operated with astonishing efficiency and accuracy — both in the months leading up to the primary and on election night. Thanks to their skill, hard work and dedication, results had been compiled and delivered to the public within a couple of hours of the polls closing.

And finally, we thank you — the voters of Moffat County — for participating in this vital election, and not only by casting your votes. The way we see it, you — through your thoughtful questions and your incisive letters to the editor — fully engaged in this election, and in an age when voting on a whim or just skipping the process altogether is becoming more and more popular, your level of engagement was most refreshing.

While most of our local races were — for all intents and purposes — decided by the primary, we still have a general election coming up in November, and we encourage you to be just as engaged in that process as you were in this one.

Listen, ask questions, talk to the candidates, learn where they stand and how their stances align with your own. Then, make informed decisions.

This is democracy in action, and through the choices we make, we hire the architects of our future.

Let's make it a bright one.