Work in 2015 continued previous years’ efforts at two ongoing restoration sites—Severy Creek wetland and Mile 17 retention pond. A small amount of work was also completed on the W’s switchbacks. RMFI utilized youth corps crews and community volunteers to complete 14 workdays on 2015 project and stewardship objectives.
Work in 2014 continued previous years’ work at two ongoing wetland restoration sites; Severy Creek wetland and Tin Barn wetland. A small amount of touch-up work was also completed at Glen Cove Creek and within the Ski Creek drainage near the Glen Cove Inn. RMFI utilized youth corps crews and community volunteers to complete 2014 project and stewardship objectives.
Adequately addressing gullies created by stormwater runoff originating from high mountain roads and the resultant sedimentation of connected streams and wetlands has been a challenge for land managers across Colorado due to the impacted areas often being located in difficult to reach terrain. Remote streams and wetlands on Pikes Peak can be included among those most affected.
This study found that Severy Creek Basin has been impacted over the last 10,000 years by multiple landslide and fire events, however the most immediate impact on the basin's biological diversity is from the erosion and transport of sediments that have occurred in the basin due to anthropogenic activities since the early 20th century.
Garden of the Gods
RMFI’s 2015 Garden of the Gods work objectives centered on three main sites in the South Garden: Valley Reservoir Number One, Valley Reservoir Number Two, and the New Era and Snake Pit climbing access trails. Objectives in these areas included the closure and restoration of social trails and erosion gullies, installation of check-dams and other erosion control structures, and construction of trail stabilizing and enhancement structures. The goal of this work was to improve and stabilize designated trails, which suffered damage due to weathering and high levels of user impact, while erasing access to unauthorized social trails that degrade both wildlife habitat and the park’s scenic qualities.
RMFI’s 2014 work in the Garden of the Gods focused on three distinct sites: 1) Jaycee Plaza, 2) North Gateway, and 3) Camp Creek. Objectives in these areas included the closure and restoration of social trails and erosion gullies, installation of check dams and other erosion control structures, and construction of trail stabilizing and enhancement structures. All three of these areas were sections of the park that RMFI had not previously addressed. Project objectives were agreed upon during site visits with park staff in early 2013 and were driven by action items found in the Park Master Plan.
This Implementation Guide has been prepared to serve as a resource for the City of Colorado Springs Parks and Recreation Department for implementing strategies and prescriptions for restoration proposed in the Garden of the Gods Restoration Report. The guide provides recommendations for restoration standards, illustrated examples and cost estimates
The information and recommendations presented in the Garden of the Gods Restoration Report are based on a scientific inventory and analysis of the Park’s trails, vegetation, soils, and other Park resources, as well as the views and insights of the people who were contacted. The Report will help citizens, their elected officials, and the City's park management staff make the decisions and take the actions that will lead to the preservation, restoration, and stewardship of the Garden of the Gods.
A summary of the findings from the Garden of the Gods Restoration Report.
Sangre de Cristo Wilderness Area
The Rocky Mountain Field Institute completed year 2 of the 3-year Kit Carson-Challenger Ridge Trail Project in the summer months of 2015. The project is designed to manage the high-use impacts of Willow Lake Basin in the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range in Southern Colorado.
The Rocky Mountain Field Institute began Phase 1 of a multi-phase, multi-year project managing the high-use impacts of Willow Lake Basin in the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range during the summer of 2014. RMFI hosted 9 college students from RMFI’s Earth Corps Program, a highly successful for-credit field studies class, for two weeks in the Basin. The United States Forest Service and the Rocky Mountain Field Institute have long identified the Willow Lake Basin as a high priority area for sustainable trail design and construction and high alpine restoration. Creative fundraising by both the USFS and RMFI made it possible to begin work in the Basin in 2014, ahead of the start date for a State Trails Grant that will fund the majority of Phase 1 during 2015 and 2016.
Mount Humboldt Climbing Route Improvement and Restoration Project: A Case Study in Addressing Recreational Impacts on Colorado's Wilderness PeaksAugust 1, 2000
During the period 1997- 1998, the Rocky Mountain Field Institute completed an extensive erosion control and restoration project on Mount Humboldt (14,064 ft.) in the heart of the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness. The project involved the stabilization and revegetation of a climber created erosion gully between 12,000- 13,000 ft., and the construction of a new summit trail. The paper summaries why the project was developed, the methodology that the project is based upon, and the accomplishments to date.
Indian Creek Canyon-Utah
This report covers the Rocky Mountain Field Institute’s 18th year of involvement in the stewardship of Indian Creek, Utah. Since 1989, RMFI has partnered with the Dugout Ranch and Bureau of Land Management to mitigate impacts from recreation within the Indian Creek corridor. RMFI has worked to promote the conservation of the area and act as a facilitator between private landowners, public land management agencies, and representatives of the climbing community in Indian Creek. The majority of RMFI’s work has focused on the construction of climbing access trails to popular sites and the restoration of roadbeds in the major side canyons, e.g. Hog Canyon, Donnelly Canyon, Fringe of Death Canyon, and Fringe of Life Canyon. This work has taken place on private and public land, with a focus on popular climbing areas. Trails accessing Blue Grama, Bridger Jack, 4x4, Donnelly Canyon, and Super Crack Buttress, among others, have been improved by RMFI throughout the years. To date, the program has mobilized over 1,500 volunteers who have contributed over 23,000 hours reconstructing trails and restoring damaged areas throughout the Canyon.
This Recreation Inventory and Report was prepared by the Rocky Mountain Field Institute to aide the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in developing a revised recreation management plan for the area. The purpose of the report is to provide the Bureau of Land Management with a description of recreational rock climbing and related activities, baseline information on levels of impacts related to these uses, and recommendations for mitigating these impacts.
This effectiveness monitoring project was executed with the overall goal of implementing restorative treatments that increased total ground cover, prevented the spread of invasive plants, and reduced sediment erosion within the post-fire Hayman burn area. Work was collaborative, with all projects completed over the 2010-2012 timeframe. Specific work included trail and road decommissioning to increase total cover to ≥ 50% (Type 1 projects), vegetation treatments to increase cover and reduce spread of invasive plant species (Type 2 projects), ephemeral stream channel stabilization (Type 3 projects), and sediment capture basins and in-stream restoration (Type 4 projects).
The National Forest Foundation (NFF), Vail Resorts and the U.S.D.A. Forest Service (USFS) are collaborating to complete on-the-ground restoration work in the Upper South Platte watershed as part of the NFF’s Upper South Platte/Hayman Conservation Campaign. An effectiveness monitoring plan was designed by RMFI in conjunction with personnel from the Pike National Forest and the Rocky Mountain Research Station that will assess the success of selected project sites in regards to reduced sediment transport and increased vegetation cover for a period of three years following the project’s completion.
The National Forest Foundation, Vail Resorts and the USDA Forest Service are collaborating to complete on-the-ground restoration work in the Upper South Platte watershed as part of the NFF’s Upper South Platte/Hayman Conservation Campaign. The project area covers over 115,000 acres, with the majority of work completed in a 45,000 acre area burned by the Hayman Fire. The goal of the restoration effort is to reduce sediment output and increase aquatic habitat and stream channel stability in a number of critical sub-basins within the burn area.
On an annual basis, RMFI engages an average of 2,200 volunteers through its Community Volunteer Stewardship Program, which empowers local volunteers to complete technical trail construction and restoration work through the expertise of RMFI's professional field staff. The program has a dual environmental and social focus. It is through physical labor that valuable personal relationships and experiences are formed; and through the dedication of individual volunteers and community groups that environmental preservation is completed. Volunteer workdays not only accomplish impressive on-the-ground work, but promote the importance of public lands stewardship by fostering an ethic of environmental responsibility and action.
This field guide was created after extensive fire restoration implementation and monitoring throughout the state of Colorado. The techniques described have been tested and found successful in burn scars including those resulting from the 2002 Hayman Fire and the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire. This handbook is not intended to be an exhaustive guide to fire restoration techniques, but rather a resource for implementing the most common techniques. This handbook is a collaboration of the Coalition for the Upper South Platte, Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, and the Rocky Mountain Field Institute.
At the 2006 Wilderness Managers Winter Meeting, Director Steve Sherwood and Ralph Swain met with key non-government partners and friends groups to begin a discussion on how to mitigate the impacts of high recreation use in “magnet” Colorado Wilderness destinations. The objective of this meeting was to establish a partnership between non governmental organizations, Friends Groups and the USFS with the common goal of developing recommendations to protect wilderness character in magnet areas.
Waldo Canyon Fire
RMFI ran 28 of its 30 Waldo Canyon Burn Scar restoration workdays in Waldo Canyon in 2015. These workdays were spent with a combination of conservation crews and community volunteers. Access to this area was moderately challenging, involving an approximately 1.5 mile hike in, with the last half-mile off-trail and over steep side-slopes. Work there focused on re-establishing native vegetation and stabilizing bare hillslopes, treating head-cuts, and arresting movement of sediment fans further down-drainage.
In the spring of 2014, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) partnered with the Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI) to measure the effectiveness of USFS-led BAER efforts in three sub-watersheds of the Waldo Canyon burn scar: 1) Williams Canyon (Fountain Creek Watershed), 2) Wellington Gulch (Fountain Creek Watershed), and 3) Camp Creek (Camp Creek Watershed).
In the summer of 2012, the Waldo Canyon Fire broke out just west of Colorado Springs, burning a total of 18,247 acres in four major sub-watersheds within the greater Fountain Creek Watershed. The loss of nearly 350 homes made it the second-most destructive wildfire in the state’s history. In May 2014, the US Forest Service contracted RMFI to complete a trail assessment for the Waldo Canyon Trail (Waldo Canyon Trail Assessment – 2014). The findings from this assessment guided all work completed by RMFI along the Waldo Canyon Trail corridor during the 2014 field season.