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Obituary: Alta “Jean” Muhme

June 27, 1934 – May 9, 2022

Alta “Jean” Muhme, 87, died May 9th at her home in Craig. A visitation will be held at Grant Mortuary in Craig on Sunday, May 15th from 3 to 5 p.m. and on Monday, May 16th at The First Baptist Church in Steamboat from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., followed by a funeral service at 1:00 p.m. Burial will follow at Steamboat Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to The Northwest Council on Aging, C/O Grant Mortuary, 621 Yampa Ave., Craig, CO 81625

Moffat County track takes multiple league titles, top 3A male athlete award

It wouldn’t be a league event for Moffat County High School track and field athletes without bringing home some hardware, and the Bulldogs earned some metal last weekend.

MCHS teams both finished as Class 3A runners-up during the Multi-League Championship Friday and Saturday in Rifle, collecting the gold in four events, as well as an individual victory.

Moffat County's Evan Atkin displays his plaque for the 3A Men's Athlete of the Year for the Western Slope League. Atkin won the high jump, long jump and 200-meter dash during the league event in Rifle.
Courtesy photo

Big day for boys

Moffat County junior Evan Atkin ended the meet as the Men’s Athlete of the Year among 3A Western Slope League schools. His performance across the event included repeating wins from last year in the high jump and long jump, as well as a first-place finish in the 200-meter dash.

Fighting a strong wind both days, he clocked a time of 23.91 in the finals of the 200. The wind was also against him in the long jump, though his leap of 20 feet, 5.5 inches got him the win, while 6-0 got the job done in the high jump. He also finished second in the 110 hurdles at 16.61.

“He had a really good meet,” Coach Todd Trapp said. “The boys did a good job, we had people scoring in places we didn’t expect — a lot of them outdid themselves. It was exciting.”

Andrew Duran set a personal record in the 100 dash finals, taking second place at 11.62, plus finishing fifth in the 400. Boden Reidhead cut nearly 10 seconds off his best time in the 800 run, taking third at 2:04.56, with Owen Gifford also earning the bronze in the 1,600 at 5:17.62. Reidhead also took sixth in the 3,200 (11:46.1), with Noah Beason in eighth (11:54.62).

The boys had their best relay finish in the 4×400 with third for Jimi Jimenez, Zeka Alcantar, Ian Trevenen and Duran, plus fifth in the 4×200 — Duran, Alcantar, Hudson Jones, Jimenez — and sixth in the 4×800 — Reidhead, Trace Frederickson, Trevenen, Gifford.

In the field, Trevenen was right behind Atkin in the high jump, placing second at a season-best 5-11, while Hudson Jones placed fourth at 5-7.

Hudson also placed second in the triple jump at 39-11, with Alex Musgrave sixth, each a personal record. Kenny Frederickson hit his best mark in the long jump at 17 feet for eighth place.

For throwers, Isaac Vallem placed sixth in the discus at 109-7 and also returned to his best of 35-3 in the shot put. Tanner Zimmerman missed the podium but gained personal records in the disc (99-2) and shot (32-11.5).

Moffat County High School's Mikah Vasquez, Halle Hamilton, Emma Jones, and Caitlyn Adams won the 4x200-meter relay league championship in Rifle.
Andy Bockelman/Craig Press

Bulldog baton battle

For the Moffat County girls, the biggest result was in the 4×200 relay with a win that was also their fastest time yet this spring. Emma Jones, Mikah Vasquez, Caitlyn Adams and Halle Hamilton were a full second faster than their last meet with a time of 1:46.31.

Jones and Hamilton have twice won state championships in the 4×200, as well as earning a school record in the half-mile relay last season, and coaches have been looking for the right configuration to get back to that standard.

“They’re close,” Trapp said.

The league event was tricky in all, considering most of the Bulldogs missed a week of competition with April 29’s home event canceled due to weather.

“It would’ve been better to have a meet that week, but it is what it is,” Trapp said.

Emma Jones, Mikah Vasquez, Alexis Jones and Hamilton also placed second in the 4×400, and MCHS girls earned points in every relay with sixth in the 4×800 — Teya Miller, Bree Meats, Brook Wheeler, Lizzy LeWarne — as well as third in the 800 sprint medley — Quincy Lowe, Antonia Vasquez, Mikah Vasquez, LeWarne — and fourth in the 4×100 — Lowe, Alexis Jones, Sadie Dunckley, Antonia Vasquez.

In the 400, Hamilton had her best time of the year in the prelims (59.16) and placed second in the finals ahead of Mikah Vasquez in third.

Hamilton also placed second, Jones third, and Adams seventh in the girls 200. Antonia Vasquez had the wind in her favor for the 100 dash with a personal record at 13.71 for fifth, with Lowe also reaching her best at 13.95 for eighth.

In the first attempt for any of the girls distance runners in the 3,200 run, Josefina Kuberry took ninth at 14:13.12.

In the girls field events, Emma Jones and Alexis Jones took second and third in the high jump, each hitting 4-11. Hitting a personal record in the long jump with a leap of 15-3.5 for fourth place was Teya Miller, with Adams seventh at 14-9, while on the other end Ruby Short took eighth in triple jump at 29-3.25.

Though she missed placement points, Taylen Hume earned a PR of 27-8.5 in the shot put.

MCHS track and field athletes will be back at Stocker Stadium this weekend for Grand Junction’s Tiger Invitational, their final chance to post their best results and qualify for the state championships.

Community Budget Center’s executive director wants to lift up people in the community

Amanda Eisenhauer is the new executive director of the Community Budget Center. She said she wants to provide a light of hope for people when they need it.
Amber Delay/Craig Press

Craig native Amanda Eisenhauer has stepped in as executive director of the Community Budget Center as the former director, Karen Brown, retired earlier this month.

Eisenhauer said she is excited to take everything Brown has put in place over the years and continue working toward the mission of the organization.

“She is a shining example in the community,” Eisenhauer said.

The transition into the executive director’s role was fast for Eisenhauer after Brown’s 24-year tenure with the organization. But Eisenhauer first began working with the Community Budget Center two years ago and has earned her way into the leadership position.

“Unfortunately, I had to do some community service, and I think everyone here saw potential in me,” Eisenhauer said. “They said that they were hiring and kept encouraging me to apply.”

Eisenhauer said the budget center’s crew has always been great to work with. In fact, it was the encouragement from everyone Eisenhauer was working with that led her to apply for the job.

Outside of work, Eisenhauer is mother to a 2-year-old daughter. Making her daughter proud was another big influence that led to Eisenhauer taking on this leadership role.

Eisenhauer said her daughter will always come first in life, but landing the job is a huge bonus for Eisenhauer, who gets to take on a role where she is tasked with helping the community.

“I really like the fact that I get to help people,” Eisenhauer said. “I have been in a position to need help before.”

The newly appointed director said the best thing about being in this role is watching people thrive once they get some of the help that they need.

“It’s an investment you put in for people,” Eisenhauer explained. “Then you get to see them do something with it.”

As executive director, Eisenhauer handles all of the consultations for community members to get assistance through the budget center and other community resources.

“I believe in this place,” Eisenhauer said. “They’ve been here for me and helped me when I have needed it.”

The Community Budget Center sees assistance as a stepping stone that helps people get what they need to better their circumstances, Eisenhauer explained. She said her office is a place where very sensitive conversations take place, and she gives a lot of hugs.

“It’s hard for people to come in and ask for help,” Eisenhauer said, “so I want to lift them up and provide that light of hope when they need it.”

In addition to connecting clients to financial resources for things like utility assistance or rental assistance, Eisenhauer also works one on one with clients on developing a personal budget. All of the assistance services are delivered on an individual and confidential basis.

The Community Budget Center also works closely with other human services agencies to provide referrals for assistance.

“We’re community driven,” Eisenhauer said. “This place wouldn’t run without the community. We are just managing it.”

Eisenhauer brings previous experience in management —from working in local restaurant management and most recently managing her family’s salvage yard east of Craig.

More than anything, Eisenhauer hopes to serve the community to the best of her ability and meet the expectations that have been set for the budget center.

“I want to make this community proud and lift them up as much as I can,” Eisenhauer said.

Academy Mortgage finds home in Craig’s Centennial Mall

Sherri Brown stands with her great-nieces, Craig residents Harper Sue, 3, and Haylee Miller, 6, at the new Academy Mortgage Branch at the Centennial Mall in Craig.
Courtesy photo

For several years, Academy Mortgage Corporation has been working within Moffat County by way of its Meeker office.

With the opening of a branch in the Centennial Mall, however, the company is poised to provide Craig and the surrounding area a more localized, better service in purchasing a home.

The opening of the branch at 1111 W. Victory Way, Suite 115, will be celebrated with an open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony from 11:30 a.m. throughout the early afternoon on Friday, May 13.

“Come by and say hi,” AMC field marketing coordinator Kendall Montagriff said. “We’d love to meet as many people in the community as we can, whether you’ve been a customer or not. The more, the merrier.”

Academy Mortgage is a direct mortgage lender, handling all loan processing, underwriting and funding locally. The Craig branch is expected to work primarily in servicing mortgage lending for individuals and families.

The corporation’s emphasis on keeping the work local is a major piece of its brand.

“Having everything centralized allows clients to have a more fluid experience,” said senior loan officer and team leader Sherri Brown, who has worked with clients in Craig for the past three years. “That streamlines the process, so it’s all right there.”

Beyond the practical reasons for keeping a loan process local, Brown points out there are other benefits to having staff work locally, as well.

“I’m going to see my clients at the grocery store and ask them how their kids are doing, and how the house is,” Brown said.

“It’s a great fit for Sherri to open this branch,” Montagriff said. “She’s part of the community already.”

The Craig team will include loan officer and Brown’s business partner Kacie Murphy, loan officer Karyn Collins, and several other loan officers from Grand Junction and Rifle. Montagriff highlighted the officers’ connections with the region.

“They know the lay of the land,” Montagriff said. “They know how to get that process completed.”

The branch opens during a wild year for both regional and national housing markets, with high demand and low inventory.

“What we’re seeing in this market, and really, nationally, is lack of inventory,” Brown said. “COVID has shifted the dynamic of how people live and work. These communities are experiencing a lot of growth that’s not internal. We recognize that the community is growing and will continue to grow, and we want to be part of that foundational service base.”

In addition to keeping the loan process and staffers local, Academy Mortgage also connects with the communities it works with through community service.

“We really want to get out into the community and help where help is needed,” Montagriff said. “We’re looking for those projects in the Craig community, as well.”

Other branches of Academy Mortgage, for example, have helped provide school supplies, support the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program and give families Thanksgiving meals, according to Brown and Montagriff.

Academy Mortgage Corporation is headquartered in Draper, Utah, and has grown to include more than 250 branches with 2,000 employees across the country. For more, AcademyMortgage.com.

Ag on display: Field trip gives elementary students new appreciation for local agriculture

Chris Rhyne presents an animal by-product fact or fiction game to local fourth graders at Ag Day on Thursday at the Moffat County Fairgrounds.
Amber Delay/Craig Press

Fourth graders from elementary schools in Craig and Maybell gathered Thursday at the Moffat County Fairgrounds to learn the ins and outs of local agriculture practices.

The fourth grade Ag Day originally started with CSU Extension until Moffat County Cattlewomen Association took the lead. The Cattlemen’s Association has been sponsoring this youth education event for decades.

“It takes a lot of people to make this happen,” said Chris Rhyne, a Cattlewomen’s member and event organizer.

The event hosted fourth graders from Moffat County Christian Academy, Ridgeview Elementary, Sandrock Elementary, Sunset Elementary as well as all grades from Maybell Elementary.

Middle and high school 4-H leaders helped support the event by escorting elementary groups around the different stations set up across the fairgrounds.

Event organizer and Cattlewomen Association President Kacey Green explained that children are getting further and further away from knowing the source of their food and products, and that’s what this longstanding event is all about.

“We are showing youth that you can’t go a day without having some kind of agriculture involved,” Green said.

The Cattlewomen had a full day planned for the students to learn how expansive local agriculture is.

Youth started by learning about sustainable grazing practices used locally to preserve the land and raise healthy animals. They also learned about ruminant digestion, and how cows digest the plant material through a four-chambered stomach system.

Youth also learn about all of the different byproducts from animals, many of which are made locally. The Cattlewomen talked with the students about which animals different kinds of meat come from, and their nutritional value.

Local students gather around a beef by-product display to learn more about quality and nutrition of different cuts of meat on Thursday at the Moffat County Fairgrounds.
Amber Delay/Craig Press

The event featured a large display showing the different cuts of meats on a cow. Youth gathered around the display to learn about the different kinds of protein and meat quality that comes from the cow.

Youth filtered throughout the entire fairground campus to the different stations. In the swine barn, there were animals on display. There also was a milking station where the students could practice milking goats using a simulation.

Elementary school students gather around the fiber station on Thursday at the Moffat County Fairgrounds where Lorrae Moon is talking about how wool fibers are produced and sold in the Yampa Valley.
Amber Delay/Craig Press

Under the grandstands, volunteers talked with youth about preventative animal health and what local producers use to keep animals healthy. Lorrae Moon, owner of Yampa Valley Fiberworks, had a loom set up to show youth how fibers and yarns are made from wool.

“Even if we can get one kid who hangs on to this and thinks about it later on, it’s worth it,” Moon said.

Lorrea Moon, owner of Yampa Valley Fiber Works, teaches students about how local fibers are produced. This cotton fiber will later become a dish towel.
Amber Delay/Craig Press

Brad Ocker, brand inspector for Moffat County, attended the event to educate youth on why brands are used and about the branding practices.

The National Resource Conservation Services also hosted a water trailer station where students learned about how streams run throughout the area and how local water supplies are taken care of. There were even antique tractors on display in the fairgrounds parking area for youth to see.

Along with a new understanding of local agriculture, the elementary school students walked away from the all-day field trip with a gift bag containing beef sticks made locally by Brothers meat processing, as well as other animal by-products like crayons provided by the Colorado Beef Council.

The Cattlemen’s Association does other community outreach and education events throughout the year to promote local ag and meat production.

The group sponsors Meat Day to promote local businesses by encouraging local residents to eat or shop at local establishments. Anyone who shops local on Meat Day is entered in a contest to win a cooler full of locally raised meat.

Cattlewomen volunteers also host a booth in Alice Pleasant Park on Meat Day to provide education about local agriculture.

Kelli Wamboldt, a first-year volunteer, sits with Ramona Green, right, who owns a ranch north of Craig and has been volunteering for the Ag Day event for over 20 years.
Amber Delay/Craig Press

Pipi’s Pasture: Witnessing a mother’s love

Pipi's Pasture

Even though Mother’s Day was celebrated last weekend, my thoughts are still on moms and grandmas and the love and dedication they have for their families.

New mothers don’t know what sleep is for some time, getting up at all hours to feed and comfort their babies. Then, as their children grow up, mothers assume the huge responsibility of teaching their children everything from using manners to how to tie their shoes.

With the COVID pandemic, many mothers also became teachers — taking on that job along with household chores and even work outside the home.

I could go on for pages and pages about a mother’s responsibilities, and then there are grandmothers. They have special relationships with their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. These days many grandmothers are even raising their grandchildren.

Where a mother’s love is concerned, one endearing memory stands out for me, and it comes from my own family. It’s about my daughter-in-law Cindy (Prather) and my grandchildren Jessica and Jaycee.

Some years ago Cindy was working on a teaching degree, taking some classes from Colorado Northwestern Community College in Craig, and her children were elementary ages. Jessica and Jaycee stayed with me when Cindy was in class.

One day in early summer, Jessica and Jaycee found a litter of newborn kittens here at Pipi’s Pasture. They had been abandoned by their mother.

Jessica and Jaycee watched them all day — sure enough, no mother. I told them the grim truth; abandoned kittens usually don’t survive. However, the grandkids wanted to try to save them.

So we found a small box, lined it with towels, and put the kittens inside. We brought them inside. I found some eyedroppers and filled one of them with warm milk.

We attempted to feed them a little milk from one of the eyedroppers by putting it in the corner of their mouths. We fed them slowly — not too much at first — several times that day.

Jessica and Jaycee talked to their mom on the phone and asked if they could take the kittens home with them. Cindy agreed, and later that day she arrived with a small animal cage that she had purchased somewhere in Craig.

I know that she was tired after a long day at school, but she took the time to find a cage for the kittens and never complained one bit. As I watched her help transfer the towels and kittens to the cage, I realized that I was witnessing a mother’s love for her children while supporting their concern for other living things.

Cindy, Jessica and Jaycee gathered up the kittens and the eyedroppers and left for home. The kittens died during the night, but Mom and kids had given it a shot.

Cindy went on to become a teacher, and she currently teaches first grade in Vernal, Utah.

Her motherly instincts have helped mold her into a wonderful teacher; perhaps that’s why she has been named teacher-of-the-year — twice. I will never forget that summer when Cindy helped Jessica and Jaycee in their efforts to save the abandoned kittens.

Big Pivots: Hot and dry winds licking at winter’s backdoor

Ponds on a ranch in northwestern Colorado last week were full, a rare treat in recent years for horses that have gathered like at a spa. It was a good winter there, cold and snowy. Now, a ranch owner had begun planning for a fiery summer.

“It’s a hot, dry wind licking at the back door,” says Kathleen Kelley of Meeker. “We can lose everything we’ve gained in just a few days to high temperatures and wind. The ponds have already lost half their volume.”

A poet I know has been singing that James Taylor song but with new lyrics “Oh, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen wind.”

We had the Marshall Fire with its 1,084 homes and other buildings destroyed while Christmas wreaths still hung on doors. Then came April with wildfires on the crispy-dry prairies of southeastern Colorado. Now the spring sky has become sullied by smoke from New Mexico’s latest wildfire, already the state’s second largest, causing people in Santa Fe to inspect their insurance policies.

In Colorado, the three National Weather Service offices together issued 62 red-flag warnings, in April, the most since record-keeping began in 2006. The previous one-month record was 43.

On Earth Day, one of those red-flag days, an executive with a utility that delivers electricity to exurban homes in the foothills between Central City and Nederland was fretting about wildfire risks.

“These fires have already started,” said Bryant Robbins. the chief operating officer of United Power, Colorado’s second largest electrical cooperative. “We usually don’t see them until later in the year. I am highly concerned about our lack of moisture, especially in the foothills west of Arvada, and I’m just worried sick about that.”

Colorado’s electrical utilities, both large and small, have been stepping up their game in recent years. They want to avoid wildfire destroying their infrastructure, but they also have taken steps to minimize risks of their wires causing fires, as has happened in several of California’s largest and most deadly blazes.

Most people correlate wildfires and mountainous areas. At the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, Rocco Snart directs attention also to fire risks on the eastern plains. He sees the greatest risk until July being east of the Continental Divide, including in the foothills but also the San Luis Valley, Colorado’s reddest area on drought maps. Southwestern Colorado is of slightly less concern.

There is precedent. Major wildfires occurred in the foothills along the fringes of Colorado Springs and west of Fort Collins in 2012 and again in 2013. But the Great Plains have had major fires before, too. It’s just a matter of fewer people living there.

Come summer, the fire risk shifts as lingering snow melts in the high country. Snart predicts fire restrictions this summer. Expect fireless camps.

Is he apprehensive? He has, he says, “a healthy respect for the environment.”

Angler Eric Rehnberg of Yampa battles the wind on a blustery day May 8 while fishing on the Yampa River.
Dylan Anderson/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The Yampa River Valley this week had snow-water equivalent 89% of average. Water managers warned of a water year similar to that of 2020. That snowy winter in Steamboat Springs and Craig was followed by an early spring, then an abnormally hot and dry summer. It was like a busted first-round draft pick, a benchwarmer.

It’s part of a broader trend manifested at Lake Powell, which barely has enough water to produce electricity for consumption in places like Granby and Gunnison, Aspen and Avon. Runoff again this year disappoints. The Bureau of Reclamation has revised its inflow projections downward to 59% of average.

North of Steamboat, on the Wyoming-Colorado border, rancher Pat O’Toole tells of unrelenting winds that have left his family’s three flags — American, Wyoming and Ukrainian — tattered prematurely. On Interstate 80, a place notorious for winds that can knock over trucks, the intensity has picked up, something that O’Toole correlates with the changing climate. “Everybody’s talking about it,” he says of the wind.

An array of flags flap in the wind across the street from the author’s home.
Allen Best/Courtesy Photo

O’Toole hopes for more management of forests ahead of catastrophic wildfires. “We have to start realizing that we are in a different climate and react to it like it really is and not like it used to be.”

Colorado’s three largest wildfires as defined by acreage occurred in 2020. At her ranch near Meeker, Kelley remembers another fire, too, one that caused her and her husband to build a more fire-resistant masonry house.

“I glance toward my little town five miles to the east and hope the barrier mitigations they are now planning can soon be implemented effectively,” she says. “By mid-June the temperatures will be in the 90’s and might even push 100. By July I know my beloved country will be nothing more than brittle fuel.”

Western Slope groups advocate for funding for more wildlife crossings

A moose darts across the road in front of drivers in Steamboat Springs. Local wildlife advocates are lobbying in support of a proposed bill that would created a dedicated fund for wildlife crossings in Colorado.
Karen Desjardin/Courtesy photo

Northwest Colorado residents and wildlife conservation groups are among those advocating for more state funding for wildlife crossings proposed in Senate Bill 22-151 that currently is moving forward in the state legislature.

The bipartisan legislation called Safe Crossings for Colorado Wildlife and Motorists would provide additional funding for wildlife road crossing projects across the state.

The bill was up for discussion on Friday, May 6, in the State House of Representatives as the final step for approval.

The bill would create a Colorado Wildlife Safe Passages Fund for wildlife crossing projects on stretches of roads and highways with high rates of wildlife-vehicle collisions or where the ability of wildlife to move across the landscape has been hampered by high traffic volumes, explained Paige Singer, a conservation biologist with nonprofit Rocky Mountain Wild.

“Hunting, fishing and watchable wildlife contribute $5 billion in economic output in Colorado each year and support 40,000 jobs across the state,” the Colorado Wildlife Conservation Project — which includes Keep Routt Wild —wrote in a May 3 letter to the Colorado House Appropriations Committee.

“The $5 million allocation and the fund that would be established by Senate Bill 151 would begin to make travel through the state safer for residents, visitors and wildlife and would ensure that healthy, resilient wildlife populations and quality hunting opportunities continue to be part of the Colorado way of life,” the letter continued.

Routt County resident Gaspar Perricone, who serves as chair of the Colorado Wildlife Conservation Project, said he “is pleased at the commitment the state is making and hopes for continued investment in this ongoing effort.”

The fund would help advance projects identified in CDOT’s 10-year pipeline of projects with wildlife infrastructure components, as well as projects identified by the Colorado Wildlife and Transportation Alliance.

Perricone said a key benefit to the state funding would be to help leverage more federal funding.

A moose in the road on the morning of Monday, May 2, on Village Drive just south of Walton Creek Road in Steamboat Springs is just one illustration of the importance of avoiding wildlife-vehicle collisions in Northwest Colorado.
Karen Desjardin/Courtesy photo

“This is a great step in strengthening the landscape connectivity necessary to support a healthy wildlife population while reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions across the state,” Perricone said Thursday, May 5. “It’s good news for public safety and wildlife and hunting opportunities and the associated economic activity in the county.”

The section of U.S. Highway 40 stretching from east of Craig to Hayden is just one area of significant wildlife-vehicle collisions. That section is also on the state’s list as a priority for Northwest Colorado for developing funding strategies and future projects, said Elise Thatcher, a spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Transportation.

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An elk herd is often seen on the southern edge of Steamboat Springs.
Karen Desjardin/Courtesy photo

Area motorists and law enforcement officials also witness numerous wildlife-vehicle collisions on many sections of U.S. 40 throughout the Yampa Valley and up through Rabbit Ears Pass, as well as on other area roads.

Vehicle collisions with large wildlife have killed bears and moose near Steamboat Springs several times within the past year.

Rocky Mountain Wild noted that law enforcement officials report an average of 4,000 wildlife-vehicle collisions annually in Colorado, though the number may be closer to 14,100 each year when estimating unrecorded collisions.

An elk herd crosses Highway 40 in December 2021 near Haymaker Golf Course on the edge of Steamboat Springs. Wildlife conservation groups say roads bisect important migration routes for wildlife species in Colorado.
Karen Desjardin/Courtesy photo

According to Rocky Mountain Wild, wildlife-vehicle collisions can have tragic consequences, including hundreds of human injuries and some fatalities, the death of thousands of animals, and an annual cost of approximately $80 million in property damage, emergency response, medical treatments and other costs. That figure does not include the value of lost wildlife — estimated at about $24 million — or the impact on the health of wildlife populations.

According to the CDOT Western Slope Wildlife Prioritization Study completed in 2019, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials estimate that more mule deer are killed each year in wildlife-vehicle collisions on the Western Slope than from the annual hunter harvest.


Health: Meet family medicine provider Dr. Netana Machacek

Dr. Netana Machacek, a family medicine physician at the Memorial Regional Health Medical Clinic in Craig, is shown with her family.
Courtesy photo

Dr. Netana Machacek isn’t one of those doctors who knew that she wanted to work in medicine from a young age. Instead, her interest started in late high school. That interest grew, especially in college, as she continued to learn more about practicing medicine.

“It just solidified that I was making the right choice,” she said.

Dr. Machacek grew up in Grand Junction. Now she is a family medicine physician at the Memorial Regional Health Medical Clinic in Craig. She became a doctor because she grew up in a rural area and knows the need for quality healthcare.

“I love smaller towns and the Western Slope, so I knew I wanted to practice in a rural area — that’s what drove me to medical school,” she said. “Family medicine specifically opened up a lot more opportunities and gives me the ability to care for all demographics.”

When going through medical school, Dr. Machacek trained to be a doctor of osteopathy, or DO. She learned all of the same topics as an MD school but in addition, she took courses in manual medicine and a philosophical focus on treating “the whole person.”

“The hands-on part is similar to chiropractic work, but with a different philosophy,” she said. “DOs practice Western medicine, but our training is just an additional tool in the toolbox.”

Chiropractors focus much more on manual medicine and have more limited training in internal medicine topics, but DOs cover both. Dr. Machacek said she came upon the path partially on accident.

“I didn’t know much about osteopathic medicine until I interviewed at Rocky Vista,” she said. “I really identified with the culture that I found there and was excited to have another option to offer my patients.”

Being seen by a DO can affect the type of care patients receive. Dr. Machacek said that DO practitioners can decrease pain and symptoms with options other than medication. The top three things that she would consider treating with manual manipulation besides pain complaints are constipation, ear pain and congestion, but not everyone has the same course of treatment.

“My number one philosophy is knowing that everyone is different and that guidelines are just that — they are guidelines,” Dr. Machacek said. “I take what I know and I apply it to a given situation in a way that makes the most sense for a patient.”

While Dr. Machacek stays busy working at MRH, she said she loves being able to get outdoors with her husband and daughter. She enjoys skiing the most, but also mountain bikes, paddleboards and hunts.

“The best part of living in Northwest Colorado, hands down, is the access to the outdoors,” she said.

Family medicine at MRH

If it’s time for annual physicals, if you have the occasional cold or flu, or if you’re simply not feeling healthy — physicians, physician assistants and other clinical staff at Memorial Regional Health can assist you with ease and expertise. No matter your age, family physicians are an excellent starting point for any of your medical needs.

To learn more about the services offered at MRH or schedule an appointment with Dr. Machacek, call 970-826-2400 or learn more at MemorialRegionalHealth.com.

Faith: Why should we go to church?

Jeff Womble, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is pictured with his family.
Courtesy photo

Growing up, church was an important part of my life. My parents made sure that we attended church. As a child, I didn’t always want to go or be at church. I thought that I had better things to do such as play outside or watch TV or sleep in.

As it says in 1 Corinthians 13:11 “I understood as a child …” As I grew and matured (some), my attitude toward church changed and I began to understand a bit more the importance of church. But when I left for college, I had to decide for myself if I would “put away childish things” (1 Cor 13:11) and continue to attend church when there was no one there to make me go.

Thankfully, the teachings of my parents had sunk in and I indeed continued to attend church. What a life-changing decision.

Without church, I would not have met and married my wonderful wife who has been such an incredible influence for good on me. Without church, I would not have had the faith to endure the trials I have faced in my life.

Without church, I would not have my beautiful family or a solid foundation from which to raise my children. Without church, I would not be who I am and more importantly, I would not be able to become better than I am today.

My faith and church worship, center around Jesus Christ. But all churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious institutions can and do have profound impact on their members’ lives. However, there have been two recent studies that are cause for concern.

In 2019 the Pew Research Foundation published a study titled “In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace.” One of the alarming trends that was identified concerned not just Christianity but religious affiliation as a whole.

In 2009 the U.S population was 307 million people. At that time, 17% reported “no religious affiliation” which would include atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular.” This equates to about 52.2 million people in the U.S. By 2018 the U.S. population had grown to 327 million and 26% or 85 million people reported no religious affiliation.

The largest shift was seen in the younger generation, the so-called millennials. Similarly a Gallup Poll conducted in 2021, showed that, for the first time since 1937, (when the data was first collected) being a member of a church, synagogue or mosque put you in the minority.

That’s right, according to the poll approximately 53% of the population of the United States reports that they do not belong to a church, synagogue or mosque. Now, this does not mean that 53% do not believe in a god or or some sort of supreme religious being. But it is concerning to me.

So, why go to church? Living here in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, many feel that they can be closer to God in nature than in church. Can’t I be “religious” and be a good person without attending church? Of course you can.

But, I would counter that you could be a better person and closer to God by attending church. In church we learn about God and religious principles, and we can associate with others who are striving to do the same.

In church, and by the associations we gain from it, we can learn from one another. We can see the religious principles being applied in others’ lives and how these principles are helping them.

Some may feel that they don’t get much out of church. They may not attend because they feel like they don’t learn anything or because someone in the church or perhaps even in the church leadership has offended them. Maybe they just don’t have a friend in the church. But those things are not what church is truly about.

Church is about worshiping God. That is our own personal responsibility, and we shouldn’t let anyone stand in the way of our personal growth and developing a personal relationship with our God. On the other hand, if you feel church isn’t giving you what you need, consider this: Go to church with the goal of making sure that someone else’s church needs are met while there. Say hello to someone new or to someone you don’t know. Share a story about how God has helped you. You might be surprised what happens to you when you focus on helping someone else at church.

The COVID pandemic has been so difficult in many ways. It would be hard to find any aspect of our lives that hasn’t been touched by it. Certainly church attendance has been affected by it. Many have fallen out of the habit of going to church in the past couple of years. I invite you back. Please, remember the good feelings and friends you have at church. Most importantly, remember that God loves you and wants you to come back.

Jeff Womble is a husband, father of 5 and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is a surgeon. He enjoys off-roading, shooting sports, the outdoors and his family.