UP — We support the efforts of Linda Shannon, a local Veterans Affairs official, and others to create a special diversion court for military veterans charged with criminal offenses. The concept has been successfully implemented for people with drug and mental health problems. The idea is that, instead of simply locking a person up, there are support services that will help the person come to grips with their personal demons so they don't become repeat offenders requiring constant, long-term taxpayer support. Vets have not always gotten the best treatment when trying to make claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs. And in more cases than some care to admit, the military ethic of just toughing it out fails miserably. So some veterans end up on the streets self-medicating with alcohol and other drugs, or engaged in crime. In too many cases, their ailments are related to invisible wounds that include post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. Shannon, a veterans justice outreach specialist, says the program would help veterans by providing access to jobs, housing and mental health treatment. When we send our military to war, there is an implicit promise that we will help them if they are injured. We think this is one way to make good on that promise.


DOWN — The future isn't very bright for natural gas exploration and production, according to ConocoPhillips senior economist Helen Curie. Curie told state lawmakers and others gathered at a meeting of the Legislative Finance Committee held in Farmington this week that she did not expect natural gas prices to rise above $5 per mmbtu, or million metric British thermal units, through 2030. Some with knowledge of the industry say the price must rise above the $5 mark to make natural gas production profitable. In the late 1990s, at the peak of San Juan County's natural gas boom, the price went as high as $13 per mmbtu. In 2009, it dropped to $3 per mmbtu and industry-related companies in the area shed jobs. Jason Sandel, Aztec Well vice president, said his company lost about half its workforce. Last week, the price was at an anemic $4.39 per mmbtu. All was not bad news at the meeting, however. Companies producing oil from the Mancos Shale formation still appear optimistic about untapped potential there and the rig count continues to rise. Unfortunately, our local economy will take another hit as power plant jobs are lost with the closure of units at the San Juan Generating Station. Plans to create a manufacturing hub, which will rely on the rail connection, should proceed posthaste.


UP — More traces of the people who lived on this land nearly a thousand years ago were turned up by workers on a road construction crew at Salmon Ruins. As they cut out part of a dirt bank in front of the ruins' parking lot Hector Beyale noticed something red and black reflecting in the sun. On closer inspection there was more. The worker found pieces of pottery, charcoal, burned corn fragments, and fragments of a grinding stone. Salmon Ruins Executive Director Larry Baker says the find likely is a trash deposit called a "midden." We are glad that Mr. Beyale was alert to the possibilities and that we live in a place where such a discovery is always possible.