Volunteers needed to clear barbed wire for benefit of elk | PostIndependent.com

Volunteers needed to clear barbed wire for benefit of elk

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
The Aspen-Sopris Ranger District identified this fence perpendicular to Government Trail as one that could be removed. The fence is on national forest and no longer needed for a grazing lease.
U.S. Forest Service/courtesy photo |

Deer, elk and other critters roaming the woods between West Buttermilk and Snowmass Ski Area will have some obstacles removed for them thanks to Wilderness Workshop.

The conservation group is enlisting volunteers Sunday to remove as much as 2 miles of barbed wire perpendicular to Government Trail, roughly 2.5 miles from West Buttermilk.

The project is part of the Restoration Program started by Wilderness Workshop a few years go. The organization works on a myriad of policy issues. The restoration projects are a change of pace — a chance to get boots on the ground for the environment.

Will Roush, conservation director for Wilderness Workshop, said the barbed-wire removal is a partnership with the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service. Rangers identify where barbed wire — the ubiquitous symbol of settlement of the American West — is no longer necessary. In many cases it is on grazing leases that expired years ago.

Wilderness Workshop harnessed volunteers to remove about 6 miles of barbed wire over the prior three years from the Ashcroft area in Castle Creek Valley. Now that the job is complete at Ashcroft, it’s time to move on to the Government Trail area.

“When animals attempt to jump fences, they can easily catch a leg and become ensnared in the deadly strands of wire,” Roush wrote in an email to Wilderness Workshop members. “These fences can become death traps for wildlife, particularly where they block migration corridors, access to food and water, or obstruct calving areas.”

That is what makes the Government Trail project so important. The area is an important elk calving area. Young animals can particularly have a tough time jumping over barbed-wire strands, Roush said.

Wire strands also can force animals to go around the obstacle, potentially cutting off some habitat.

Wilderness Workshop had little trouble enlisting volunteers for prior barbed-wire collection.

“It sounds kind of nasty,” Roush said.

In reality, it’s not all that bad, he said. It involves removing staples from fence posts and rolling up the wire. The Forest Service will supply pack animals to haul the wire out.

Many workers find the work rewarding, in part because they are freeing the wild landscape of a hazard. Roush noted, “At the end of the day, it’s just gone.”

Volunteers for the project will meet at 8:30 a.m. Sunday at the base of West Buttermilk, a portion of the Buttermilk ski area. Coffee and muffins will be waiting.

The crew will work until 4 p.m., and then enjoy dinner provided by Wilderness Workshop. Volunteers can hike or bike into the site.

To volunteer, register by going to http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/5857/p/salsa/event/common/public/?event_KEY=83438.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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