Forest Service eyes expanding overnight permits to cover Snowmass Lake, Capitol Lake, Four Pass Loop | PostIndependent.com

Forest Service eyes expanding overnight permits to cover Snowmass Lake, Capitol Lake, Four Pass Loop

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Two hikers beat feet on a trail in the heart of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness in summer 2017. The Forest Service will limit overnight camping at Snowmass Lake, Capitol Lake and the Four Pass Loop to ease damage to the environment.
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times

ENVIRONMENT FOUNDATION GRANTS

Following are the organizations and projects that received grants this cycle from the Aspen Skiing Co. employees’ Environment Foundation.

•Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, $10,000 for children’s environmental science education programs.

•White River National Forest, $10,000 for overnight use permit system expansion (see related story).

•Citizens for a Healthy Community and Western Environmental Law Center, $10,000 for North Fork Valley oil and gas defense campaign.

•Glenwood Springs Elementary School, $10,000 for a serenity garden.

•Western Resource Advocates, $6,000 for developing collaborative water solutions for the upper Roaring Fork Valley.

•Roaring Fork Conservancy, $5,000 for the Lake Christine Fire revegetation fund.

•Conservation Colorado Fund, $5,000 for program to make Colorado a leader in fighting climate change.

•The Farm Collaborative, $5,000 for its heritage orchard.

•The Buddy Program, $5,000 for its LEAD Outdoor Leadership program in Carbondale.

•Wilderness Workshop, $5,000 for its oil and gas defense fund.

•Colorado Water Trust, $5,000 to help restore flows to the Crystal River.

•Community Office for Resource Efficiency, $4,020 for its Imagine Climate art festival.

•Roaring Fork Conservancy, $3,000 for citizen science training.

•Basalt Middle School, $3,000 for recycling and compost education program.

•Blue Star Recyclers, $2,500 for its Roaring Fork Valley e-waste recycling program.

•Independence Pass Foundation, $2,000 for its Young Stewards program.

•EcoFlight, $2,000 for its student airplane flights to examine environmental issues.

The White River National Forest is working on plans to expand an overnight camping permit system to what it calls the core of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

Permits were required for the first time last summer in Conundrum Valley to ease pressure and ecological damage around the popular hot springs. Now, the White River National Forest is planning an expansion for backpacker overnight use at Capitol Lake, Snowmass Lake and the Four Pass Loop.

The permits for camping in the core of the wilderness area likely will be implemented in summer 2020, said Shelly Grail, recreation manager for the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District. There will be extensive work performed in the field in summer 2019 to prepare for the expansion.

“The second phase is definitely a more complex phase,” Grail said Tuesday.

Conundrum is relatively confined and easy to monitor for compliance. Capitol Lake and Snowmass Lake have multiple access routes. The Four Pass Loop is just shy of 27 miles and has numerous places where backpackers can connect.

Backpackers will be required to make a reservation for a designated campsite. There will be a limited number of sites available, so the system limits use to what is deemed an acceptable level.

Grail said a wilderness ranger will be hired in summer 2019 to inventory and designate legal camping sites that can be used at the lakes and backpacking loop. Wilderness-friendly signs will be erected to make it clear where camping is and isn’t allowed. The wilderness ranger will use a pair of llamas to transport tools and materials into wilderness, where mechanized and motorized uses are prohibited.

The White River National Forest received a $10,000 grant from the Aspen Skiing Co. employees’ Environment Foundation to help fund a ranger position summer 2019. That grant, awarded Dec. 12, was vital for the preparation work, Grail said.

In its grant application, the White River staff stated that visitation to the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness has increased fourfold, or about 285 percent, in the past 10 years. The overnight-use management plan is necessary to restore and preserve natural conditions.

“The public has shown overwhelming support for the plan, including support to limit use at the high-visitation destinations that are getting ‘loved to death,’” the grant application said.

“In the big picture, this proposal supports Forest Service efforts to honor its commitment to the Roaring Fork Valley community that was made in November of 2017 to balance the preservation of natural conditions in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness while continuing to provide outstanding opportunities for recreation,” the application continued.

The Skico employees’ Environment Foundation also provided a grant to help implement the first phase of the overnight-use management at Conundrum.

Matt Hamilton, Skico’s sustainability director, said the use of popular areas in the White River National Forest is soaring: “They aren’t getting any less popular.”

The foundation’s board of directors recognizes the need for overnight use management “to ensure the wilderness experience,” Hamilton said.

Therefore, the board is enthusiastically providing funding for the Forest Service’s permit system.

The Environment Foundation raises money for grants through employee contribution and matching funds from Aspen Skiing Co.’s Family Funds and Aspen Community Foundation. Lavazza Coffee, a Skico supplier, also contributes.

For the fall cycle, $92,520 in grants was awarded to 17 environmental organizations and projects.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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