Roaring Fork Valley-based nonprofit protects a resource for the future
CARBONDALE, Colorado During a hike in July, two backpackers along Snowmass Lake trail near Aspen found a box of 40-year-old dynamite. They contacted a member of the Forest Conservancy, a volunteer group formed in 2001 to help protect the White River National Forest for future generations. That volunteer later found what the backpacker had discovered and passed the information on to the U.S. Forest Service, which later detonated the active dynamite.We are a visible presence out there on the trail, said Marcia Johnson, executive director of the Forest Conservancy. If a hiker comes across something odd, or may have questions, we are there readily available to assist. That is what happened to the box of dynamite.The Roaring Fork Valley-based Forest Conservancy works in tandem with the Forest Service to help protect the White River National Forest by training volunteers to educate residents about the wilderness area, to inform visitors about its trails and to provide safety along those paths, according to the group. Those volunteers also collect forest health data and conduct minor trail maintenance.The group is the only organization in the Roaring Fork Valley that has volunteers patrolling the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District of the White River National Forest and trails like Grizzly Creek and Hanging Lake along Interstate 70. The group also assists visitors at the Maroon Bells Scenic Area near Aspen, Johnson said. As of late October, about 100 volunteers with the Forest Conservancy have put in 4,633 hours to help protect lands within the White River National Forest, according to the group. In seven years, it has distributed more than 500,000 pieces of informational literature to the public and has contributed more than 54,000 service hours. That is an in-kind donation of more than $1 million, the group said.
The volunteers with the Forest Conservancy receive intensive training in orientation, along with certification in CPR, basic first aid and wilderness first aid.The group has several big goals for next year. The first is to increase its volunteer corps by 20 percent, Johnson said. She said the group interacted with about 18,000 people along trails in the White River National Forest last year. The goal for 2009 is to interact with 20,000 people.We need a larger volunteer corps to do that, she said.Johnson said the group is also looking to add features to its information center on the Internet. That database is created from reports volunteers make after each of their hikes. Those reports document what trail conditions were like and even include information like what flowers are in bloom along the trail. That database is available at http://forestconservancy.com/trails.htm.The Forest Conservancy also just received national accreditation from the Alliance for Natural Resource Outreach & Service Programs, which allows the group to offer a 40-hour course to train and field master naturalists. That program also requires an additional 20 hours of environmental stewardship work, Johnson said.For more information, go to the groups website at http://www.forestconservancy.com.
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A coalition of northwest Colorado local governments want more say-so in the plan to reintroduce wolves in the state, especially as it relates to the Western Slope.