The Dirt Diaries Blog

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USDA Secretary Announces Infrastructure Improvements for Forest System Trails

WASHINGTON, FEB 16, 2018 – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced the selection of 15 priority areas to help address the more than $300 million trail maintenance backlog on national forests and grasslands.

Focused trail work in these areas, bolstered by partners and volunteers, is expected to help address needed infrastructure work so that trails managed by USDA Forest Service can be accessed and safely enjoyed by a wide variety of trails enthusiasts.  About 25 percent of agency trails fit those standards while the condition of other trails lag behind.

“Our nation’s trails are a vital part of the American landscape and rural economies, and these priority areas are a major first step in USDA’s on-the-ground responsibility to make trails better and safer,” Secretary Perdue said. “The trail maintenance backlog was years in the making with a combination of factors contributing to the problem, including an outdated funding mechanism that routinely borrows money from programs, such as trails, to combat ongoing wildfires.

“This borrowing from within the agency interferes with other vital work, including ensuring that our more than 158,000 miles of well-loved trails provide access to public lands, do not harm natural resources, and, most importantly, provide safe passage for our users.”

This year the nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of the National Trails Systems Act which established America’s system of national scenic, historic, and recreation trails. A year focused on trails presents a pivotal opportunity for the Forest Service and partners to lead a shift toward a system of sustainable trails that are maintained through even broader shared stewardship.

The priority areas focus on trails that meet the requirements of the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act of 2016, which calls for the designation of up to 15 high priority areas where a lack of maintenance has led to reduced access to public land; increased risk of harm to natural resources; public safety hazards; impassable trails; or increased future trail maintenance costs. The act also requires the Forest Service to “significantly increase the role of volunteers and partners in trail maintenance” and to aim to double trail maintenance accomplished by volunteers and partners.

Shared stewardship to achieve on-the-ground results has long been core to Forest Service’s approach to trail maintenance, as demonstrated by partner groups such as the Pacific Crest Trail Association and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

“Our communities, volunteers and partners know that trails play an important role in the health of local economies and of millions of people nationwide, which means the enormity of our trail maintenance backlog must be adequately addressed now,” said USDA Forest Service Chief Tony Tooke. “The agency has a commitment to be a good neighbor, recognizing that people and communities rely on these trails to connect with each other and with nature.”

Each year, more than 84 million people get outside to explore, exercise and play on trails across national forests and grasslands and visits to these places help to generate 143,000 jobs annually through the recreation economy and more than $9 million in visitor spending.

The 15 national trail maintenance priority areas encompass large areas of land and each have committed partners to help get the work accomplished. The areas are:

  1. Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and Adjacent Lands, Montana: The area includes the Bob Marshall, Scapegoat, and Great Bear Wilderness Areas and most of the Hungry Horse, Glacier View, and Swan Lake Ranger Districts on the Flathead National Forest in northwest Montana on both sides of the Continental Divide. There are more than 3,200 miles of trails within the area, including about 1,700 wilderness miles.
  2. Methow Valley Ranger District, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Washington: Methow Valley is a rural recreation-based community surrounded by more than 1.3 million acres of managed by the Forest Service. The area includes trails through the Pasayten and Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness Areas and more than 130 miles of National Pacific Crest and Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trails.
  3. Hells Canyon National Recreation Area and Eagle Cap Wilderness, Idaho and Oregon: This area includes more than 1,200 miles of trail and the deepest river canyon in North America as well as the remote alpine terrain of the Seven Devil’s mountain range. The area also has 350,000 acres in the Eagle Cap Wilderness, the largest in Oregon.
  4. Central Idaho Wilderness Complex, Idaho and Montana: The area includes about 9,600 miles of trails through the Frank Church River of No Return; Gospel Hump; most of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness areas; portions of the Payette, Salmon-Challis, Nez Perce and Clearwater national forests; and most of the surrounding lands. The trails inside and outside of wilderness form a network of routes that give access into some of the most remote country in the Lower 48.
  5. Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico: The trail’s 3,100 continuous miles follows the spine of the Rocky Mountains from Mexico to Canada, including more than 1,900 miles of trails across 20 national forests. The trail runs a diverse route with some sections in designated wilderness areas and others running through towns, providing those communities with the opportunity to boost the local economy with tourism dollars.
  6. Wyoming Forest Gateway Communities: Nearly 1,000 miles of trail stretch across the almost 10 million acres of agency-managed lands in Wyoming, which include six national forests and one national grassland. The contribution to the state’s outdoor recreation economy is therefore extremely important in the state.
  7. Northern California Wilderness, Marble Mountain and Trinity Alps: There are more than 700 miles of trails through these wilderness areas, which are characterized by very steep mountain terrain in fire-dependent ecosystems that are subject to heavy winter rainfall and/or snow. As such, they are subject to threat from flooding, washout, landslide and other erosion type events which, combined with wildfires, wash out trails and obstruct passage.
  8. Angeles National Forest, California: The area, which includes nearly 1,000 miles of trails, is immediately adjacent to the greater Los Angeles area where 15 million people live within 90 minutes and more than 3 million visit. Many of those visitors are young people from disadvantaged communities without local parks.
  9. Greater Prescott Trail System, Arizona: This 300-mile system of trails is a demonstration of work between the Forest Service and multiple partners. The system is integrated with all public lands at the federal, state and local level to generate a community-based trail system.
  10. Sedona Red Rock Ranger District Trail System, Coconino National Forest, Arizona: About 400 miles of trail provide a wide diversity of experiences with year-round trail opportunities, including world-class mountain biking in cooler months and streamside hiking in the heat of the summer.
  11. Colorado Fourteeners: Each year, hundreds of thousands of hikers trek along over 200 miles of trail to access Colorado’s mountains that are higher than 14,000 feet. The Forest Service manages 48 of the 54 fourteeners, as they are commonly called.
  12. Superior National Forest, Minnesota: The more than 2,300 miles of trail on this forest have faced many catastrophic events, including large fires and a major wind storm downed millions of trees in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in 1999. A similar storm in 2016 reached winds up to 85 mph and toppled trees on several thousand acres and made the western 13 miles of Kekekabic Trail impassible.
  13. White Mountain National Forest Partner Complex, Maine and New Hampshire: Approximately 600 miles of non-motorized trails are maintained by partners. Another 600 miles of motorized snowmobile trails are adopted and maintained by several clubs. Much of that work centers on providing safe public access to the mountain and valleys of New Hampshire and Maine.
  14. Southern Appalachians Capacity Enhancement Model, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia: The more than 6,300 miles of trails in this sub region include some of the most heavily used trails in the country yet only 28 percent meet or exceed agency standards. The work required to bring these trails to standard will require every tool available from partner and volunteer skills to contracts with professional trail builders.
  15. Iditarod National Historic Trail Southern Trek, Alaska: In southcentral Alaska, the Southern Trek is in close proximity to more than half the state’s population and connects with one of the most heavily traveled highways in the state. The Chugach National Forest and partners are restoring and developing more than 180 miles of the trail system, connecting the communities of Seward, Moose Pass, Whittier, and Girdwood.

For more information about the USDA Forest Service visit http://www.fs.fed.us/.

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USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer

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Outdoor Recreation Industry Accounts for 2% of Nation's Gross Domestic Product

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REPRINTED FROM OUTDOOR INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION:

For the first time ever, outdoor recreation’s contributions are being counted as a unique part of United States gross domestic product (GDP). The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released a preliminary look at United States GDP outputs from outdoor recreation. The analysis shows that growth in the outdoor industry continues to outpace growth of the economy as a whole and accounts for over 2 percent of the entire United States GDP.

The BEA prototype estimate finds that outdoor recreation contributed over $373 billion toward U.S. GDP or over $673 billion toward total U.S. gross output, which is the total value of domestic goods and services produced by an industry. This supports the $887 billion that consumers spend annually on outdoor recreation and confirms the national importance of investments in recreation funding and infrastructure. Importantly, this prototype estimate paints a clear picture that recreation is an important sector of the U.S. economy and that Americans’ desire to recreate outside is growing.

“While this is just the prototype estimate, and there will likely be changes here and there, we are extremely excited that outdoor recreation is now counted as an official U.S. industry and a major contributor to the U.S. economy — this further validates our broad and growing economic impact,” said Amy Roberts, executive director of Outdoor Industry Association. “We look forward to working with the Bureau of Economic Analysis over the next several months to include key criteria that will capture all the various ways outdoor recreation is an economic generator — whether one recreates close to home or travels across the country.”

To continue reading, please click here

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The Outdoor Industry Is About to Become a Serious Political Force

REPRINTED FROM OUTSIDE ONLINE MAGAZINE: 

Outdoor recreation is an economic colossus: its reach is massive, its wealth enormous, and its influence continues to grow as more boots hit the ground. You can see it in Joshua Tree’s crowded campgrounds or in Mount Tam’s trailhead parking lots; in the Appalachian Trail’s thru-hiking numbers or in REI’s record sales. Americans are heading outdoors in huge numbers and paying handsomely for the privilege. But how much, precisely? For years the industry’s contribution to the nation’s economy was as much guesswork as fact.

In 2005, the Outdoor Industry Foundation commissioned the first of the economic studies to measure the industry’s heft. The initial report returned impressive statistics, but it was the follow-up study six years later that stirred the giant from its slumber: the outdoor recreation economy, all $646 billion of it, was nearly as much as Americans paid for pharmaceuticals and motor vehicle sales and parts, combined. Most of the industry’s stakeholders happily accepted the number at face value, and few inquired about how the numbers were derived (primarily through surveys).

Now, thanks to the passage of a bipartisan bill that sailed through both the House and Senate last month, and was signed into law by President Obama on December 8, the outdoor industry is primed for a gargantuan reveal. The Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act of 2016, or REC Act, authorizes the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis to assess outdoor recreation’s contribution to the nation’s gross domestic product, or GDP.

“It’s one of the most significant policy decisions in support of our industry in the last ten years,” says Amy Roberts, executive director of the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA).

Here’s why.

To continue reading, please click here

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Diversity in the Outdoors

One of RMFI's core values, stated in our strategic plan, is inclusiveness in partnerships. RMFI encourages strong and diverse partnerships through broad stakeholder and public participation. We encourage the engagement of a diverse population to get involved in our projects and programs. 

When you go outside, you're probably not thinking about who is outside with you. You go to enjoy the wilderness and all it has to offer. After all, who doesn't like to explore the Colorado mountains by going on hikes and climbs? But if you look around, the majority of people venturing outdoors with you may look similar. These people are disproportionately able-bodied, affluent, straight, and white. A study investigating diversity in non-profit organizations even found that their members and volunteers were also majority male.

So why is diversity outdoors so scarce? There is no clear-cut answer, but there are many possible explanations as to why it's more difficult to find diverse groups of people in outdoor recreation. A survey conducted in 2016 reported that 74% of Americans who participated in outdoor recreational activities were Caucasian. Furthermore, when it comes to the people being represented in outdoors media, retail and entertainment seem to cater to almost exclusively white demographics. Some of the most notable outdoor television shows use mainly white or white-passing personalities. Flipping through the Discovery Channel, Outdoors Channel, or even browsing Netflix for documentaries, there is an overwhelmingly uniform group of outdoorsmen. The same applies to outdoor retailers, who use mostly white models to market their products. Unfortunately, it's hard for people of color in particular to see themselves participating in outdoor recreation when media doesn't make the outdoors itself seem as inviting as it really is.

Being a minority in Colorado Springs, I can personally attest to the demographic most enthused about being in nature. At Colorado College particularly, hiking, skiing, camping, and even running seem to be dominated by the typical white, affluent student. Of course, there is nothing wrong with the groups who are currently invested in outdoor recreation, but other minority students are not as enticed by the idea of spending a couple nights in the wilderness. Many minorities don't even see it as an option, which is in part due to accessibility. Unfortunately, being a dedicated outdoorsman can be expensive, and the reality is that many minorities cannot afford to hike, ski, or camp. Therefore, being outdoors seems like an intangible impossibility, and public lands are also discounted in the process, despite being open to all people.

As a non-profit dedicated to engaging the entire public in participating in the conservation and stewardship of public lands but that also sees a mostly homogenous set of people participating, RMFI recognizes this issue and puts forth efforts to make the great outdoors feel open for all kinds of people. RMFI has for many years partnered with volunteer groups from schools and organizations serving underserved youth populations, including those of diverse ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds, and has recently begun partnering with volunteer groups from organizations serving persons with disabilities, both physical and developmental. In 2018, RMFI will embark on a collaborative Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Inspire Initiative, aiming to connect underserved youth and their families with the outdoors statewide. After nearly 18 months of planning, coordination, and collaboration, GOCO announced that Colorado Springs was one of 9 cities awarded with their Inspire Grant. RMFI will be leading the outdoor stewardship components of the local grant and looks forward to partnering with so many other wonderful organizations lending their expertise in our collective effort to increase access and participation in the outdoors to disadvantaged community members. We welcome all people to experience the outdoors through stewardship with us, whether you have explored that world previously or not. The outdoors is a place where everyone should feel welcome, and we are excited to promote diversity in our base of volunteers and staff!

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Study: Being around trees and other greenery may help teens stave off depression

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REPOSTED FROM WASHINTGTON POST

By Mary Gillis - 

Exposure to trees and other greenery has been shown to stave off depression in adults, and a new study finds the same may be true for teenagers.

Researchers looked at more than 9,000 children 12 to 18 and found those who lived in areas with a lot of natural vegetation were less likely to display high levels of depression symptoms. The effect was strongest among middle schoolers, the study team reports in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

“Prior research has shown that lower exposure to nature is associated with more negative emotional and behavioral outcomes,” lead author Carla Bezold of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston said.

To see if this is true during teen years, the researchers analyzed data on 9,385 adolescents who began participating in 1999 in a large study of health factors affecting U.S. youth. Participants had mental health assessments and also provided information about substance abuse, environmental safety issues and race in an annual questionnaire.

Bezold’s team used geo-coding to identify where the participants lived and satellite data to examine the areas around their homes to assess building density and proximity to green spaces as well as bodies of water. Researchers also measured the amount and quality: large and lush or small and sparse.

To read the full article, please click here

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New Fourteener Campaign Improves Trail Conditions Through Collaboration and Innovation

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NEW FOURTEENER CAMPAIGN IMPROVES TRAIL CONDITIONS THROUGH COLLABORATION AND INNOVATION

Colorado outdoor organizations work together to address mounting trail needs on Fourteeners

Denver, Colorado —January 2018— In 2017, the National Forest Foundation (NFF) invested nearly $500,000 on three Colorado 14,000-foot-peaks (“Fourteeners”) in desperate need of sustainable trails – Mount Elbert, Pikes Peak and Quandary Peak.

The investments are part of a new campaign, Find Your Fourteener, which launched earlier this year to improve sustainable recreation by fixing the damage from eroded, gullied, and braided trails, improving and restoring fragile alpine habitat, and creating trail systems to enhance outdoor experiences for hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts. In 2018, the campaign will continue to improve sustainable recreation opportunities on Colorado’s Fourteeners through the development of new partnerships and capacity in order to increase the pace and scale of on-the-ground trail improvement projects.

In 2015, the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative (CFI) released peak report cards for Fourteeners based on extensive foot-by-foot trail surveys. Mount Elbert’s East Slopes route received an overall “F” grade and was among the three worst routes in the state. Based on the documented trail damage, surging visitation and opportunities to address needs through creative trail building approaches, the NFF, U.S. Forest Service and partners chose Mount Elbert as one of three initial statewide priorities for the Find Your Fourteener campaign. Quandary Peak’s East Ridge trail and the Devil’s Playground trail to Pikes Peak received similar low grades – yet visitation continues to increase.

Groups, including the CFI, the Rocky Mountain Field Institute, Colorado-based youth corps, and many other conservation and volunteer organizations, are collaborating in new ways to leverage organizational strengths and more strategically address the needs of Fourteeners across Colorado.

This collaborative partnership between the NFF, Forest Service, and Colorado outdoor organizations is a new model that will do more to keep Colorado’s beloved Fourteeners healthy and accessible as year-round popularity and use continues to increase dramatically.

“The newly established ‘Find Your Fourteener’ campaign demonstrates our shared values to protect and preserve Colorado’s iconic 14,000-foot mountains. The ongoing partnership will allow us to enhance visitors’ access by creating sustainable trails that are well-suited for the fragile alpine environment,” said Forest Service Fourteener Program Manager Loretta McEllhiney.

“The first year of the Find Your Fourteener campaign injected needed funding, fostered new approaches and generated considerable enthusiasm that allowed Colorado Fourteeners Initiative to significantly boost project work on two of Colorado’s highest-use 14ers—Mount Elbert and Quandary Peak,” said Executive Director Lloyd Athearn. “CFI and youth corps crews cut more than two miles of trail on Elbert and opened the first of three bypasses on the route. That allowed volunteers to begin the long, but necessary process of closing, stabilizing and restoring a particularly steep section of the old, user-trampled trail. The Quandary Peak trail benefitted from extensive work from trailhead to summit. And, new ways of engaging long-time partners and the enhanced enthusiasm about the project boosted CFI statewide volunteer trail stewardship days by 25 percent—much of which occurred on Elbert and Quandary—from what had been a previous all-time-record for the organization.”

Jennifer Peterson, Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Field Institute, noted, “Colorado’s 14,000 foot peaks continue to see increased use from visitors across the globe desperate to stand atop the summits of these iconic mountains. With this increased use comes increased degradation to the surrounding natural resources. Balancing outdoor recreation and resource protection is critical in these fragile areas, and can be achieved through the construction of sustainable summit routes that avoid sensitive areas and effectively define the usage corridor. Support from the NFF through the Find Your Fourteener campaign has not only increased the pace and scale of Fourteener work being done across the state, but has also provided the platform to support increased collaboration among several outdoor stewardship groups working together toward common goals.”

Rebecca Davidson, Director, Southern Rockies Field Program, shared the National Forest Foundation’s enthusiasm: “We are inspired by the collaborative and innovative ways that our partners have come together to increase accomplishments on Colorado’s Fourteeners. The Find Your Fourteener campaign is testing a new stewardship approach, where the outcome is added miles of sustainable trail maintained or constructed, increased capacity to restore degraded fragile alpine habitats, and getting more boots on the ground through volunteerism and collaborative efforts. The National Forest Foundation is proud to be a part of this monumental effort, and excited about the 2018 field season.”

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About the National Forest Foundation

The National Forest Foundation promotes the enhancement and public enjoyment of the 193-million-acre National Forest System. By directly engaging Americans and leveraging private and public funding, the National Forest Foundation improves forest health and Americans’ outdoor experiences. The National Forest Foundation’s programs inform millions of Americans about the importance of these treasured landscapes. Each year, the National Forest Foundation restores fish and wildlife habitat, plants trees in areas affected by fires, insects and disease, improves recreational opportunities, and enables communities to steward their National Forests and Grasslands. Learn more at www.nationalforests.org.

More information specifically about the Find Your Fourteener campaign is available at www.nationalforests.org/fourteener.

About the U.S. Forest Service Colorado Fourteeners Program
The Colorado Fourteeners Program is a partnership program between the Forest Service, numerous nonprofit organizations and youth corps throughout Colorado. Forty-nine of the fifty-four Fourteeners in Colorado are located on or accessed from National Forest System lands. Our goal is to create sustainable trails that protect the natural integrity of the mountains so that nature-loving enthusiasts have an enjoyable hiking experience on their public lands for generations to come.

About the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative
Colorado Fourteeners Initiative has been working since 1994 to protect and preserve the natural integrity of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks through active stewardship and public education. To date CFI has constructed 31 sustainable routes on 28 peaks, engaged more than 15,000 days of volunteer trail stewardship, and educated almost 200,000 Fourteener hikers through on-mountain contacts and via CFI’s YouTube channel.

About the Rocky Mountain Field Institute
The Rocky Mountain Field Institute is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, dedicated to the conservation and stewardship of public lands in Southern Colorado. RMFI is committed to protecting and enhancing the ecological health of Southern Colorado’s land and water resources by completing projects focused on watershed restoration, forest health, and creating sustainable outdoor recreation opportunities. By prioritizing the involvement of community volunteers and youth, RMFI envisions a world where our work fosters vibrant and healthy natural systems that are respected and cared for by the public. RMFI actively educates and engages thousands of community volunteers every year through the completion of hands-on trail and restoration projects that help to protect and conserve Southern Colorado’s iconic and treasured public natural landscapes. RMFI works in a diversity of public land settings including urban parks and open spaces to Colorado’s 14,000 foot peaks in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

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Colorado snowpack worst in more than 30 years in some areas leaving water suppliers on high alert

DENVER - Colorado mountain snowpack shrunk to record-low levels this week, raising concerns about water supply, and some federal authorities calculated even big late snow — if it falls — may not make up for the lag.

Survey crews have measured snow depths in southwestern Colorado at 22 percent of normal, the upper Colorado River Basin at 65 percent of normal and the Arkansas River Basin at 49 percent of normal. National Weather Service meteorologists forecast limited snow through mid-January, though they also see a possibility that ocean-driven atmospheric patterns will shift by March and bring snow.

Water suppliers have intensified their monitoring, weighing how to leave as much H2O as possible stored in reservoirs without risking dam safety if high flows do come.

Colorado natural resources officials plan to review “emerging drought conditions” next week. While most of Colorado currently is classified as abnormally dry, areas of the Western Slope are officially in drought.

To read the complete article from the Denver Post, please click here

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GOCO AWARDS $20 MILLION IN GRANTS TO GET KIDS OUTSIDE, CONSERVE LAND, AND CREATE JOBS FOR YOUNG ADULTS

DENVER - The Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Board awarded $20 million in grants to projects across Colorado on Friday.

In total, this round of grants will:

  • Invest in 40 projects in 28 counties
  • Impact more than 43,000 youth
  • Create approximately 1,000 jobs
  • Plant more than 3,600 trees, shrubs, and flowering plants
  • Conserve 31,186 acres of land and 140 miles of rivers
  • The majority of the funding just awarded, totaling $14.1 million, is dedicated to GOCO’s Inspire Initiative to get kids outside.

Nine community-based coalitions were awarded funding for places, programs, and pathways that will make the outdoors more accessible for all Colorado families. Coalitions spent the last 18 months empowering local youth to lead community engagement, research, and planning efforts to address their community’s specific barriers keeping local kids from getting outside.

Click here to read the full press release from GOCO. 

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2017 YEAR IN REVIEW!

WHAT. A. YEAR!

Thanks to you, we had a hugely successful field season, accomplishing a tremendous amount of on-the-ground work that resulted in significant impacts for our public lands in Southern Colorado and the Pikes Peak Region. 

Total Volunteer/Worker Statistics:

  • Total Volunteers: 2,117
  • Total Workdays: 476
  • Volunteer Hours: 16,427
  • Volunteer Value: $426,602
  • RMFI Crew Hours: 13,918
  • Youth Engaged (8-24): 1,025
  • Conservation Corps Members: 127
  • Community Groups and Schools: 93
  • Veterans/Active Military: 101
  • Project Sites: 22
  • Total On-the-Ground Work Hours: 39,524

Total Work Statistics:

  • Social Trails Closed/Restored: 24,248 linear feet (4.59 miles)
  • Total Trail Improvement: 25,479 linear feet (4.83 miles)
  • New Trail Constructed: 9.917 linear feet (1.9 miles)
  • Rock Steps Constructed: 297
  • Length of Retaining Wall Built: 1,967 linear feet (0.37 miles)
  • Native Transplants Used in Restoration: 5,847
  • Erosion Control Structures Built: 683

2017 Volunteer and Partner Appreciation Award Recipients:

  • Robert Weggel Outstanding Funder Award: Colorado Water Conservation Board
  • Mark Hesse Outstanding Stewardship Partner Award: Friends of Cheyenne Mountain State Park
  • Land Management Partner Award: Colorado Parks and Wildlife
  • Outstanding Volunteer Group: FedEx
  • Volunteer of the Year: Stephen Toledo
  • Youth Volunteer of the Year: Taylor Metzger 

We put together this short video to highlight all of our work in 2017. Take a look, and make sure to stay tuned for exciting new projects, events, and initiatives in 2018! 

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!

RMFI 2017 WRAP UP VIDEO!

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The Bonner Fellow Begins

Ace installs erosion control matting with RMFI staff and volunteers in Garden of the Gods.

There’s not a much better way to spend time than finding what you’re passionate about and using that passion to improve the world around you. You’ll even start to see yourself in a new light – as a leader, a catalyst to change, a champion. In my case, passion comes in the form of helping people, animals, and the environment, and, as a Bonner Fellow with Rocky Mountain Field Institute, I feel like I can do exactly that.

The Bonner Fellowship, launched by Colorado College’s Community for Collaborative Engagement (CCE), is a nationwide internship program dedicated to fostering students’ passions for community engagement and ensuring their personal and professional growth through the help of Bonner partners, such as RMFI. It does this by choosing students based off merit and understanding of community engagement to partner with local not-for-profit organizations to participate in meaningful work that is mutually beneficial for the fellow, the organization, and the community.

As the Bonner Fellow with Rocky Mountain Field Institute, I began my Colorado Springs adventure into the outdoors by first making sure that there is an outdoors to begin with! I moved to Colorado Springs from Miami, Florida to attend Colorado College, where I hope to study Organismal Biology and Ecology. Living in South Florida, I was able to volunteer with the National Park Service, where I first discovered my passion for conserving and preserving public lands. You can imagine that I wanted to do something similar in Colorado, especially since we have some of the best natural resources in the country (in my opinion). Being partnered with an organization built on the commitment to community is exciting for me, because I get to work with people who are equally as passionate as I am, if not more, about protecting public lands so that they can be accessible for everyone.

In the few months I have been a Bonner Fellow, I have learned a lot about greater Southern Colorado’s natural resources and how to serve them. However, there are still oodles of things I’m excited to learn! One of my most notable new experiences is when I attended a tool maintenance workshop toward the end of the 2017 field season. I had almost no idea what I was doing, because I had never used tools like the McCloud or the cheerleader before my job at RMFI. So, I tried to follow along with what the field instructors were doing, and you know what? I’m pretty sure I failed. But that’s okay! Because, by the end of the day, I learned how to sharpen a pick-mattock!

All in all, being the new addition to the RMFI team has been nothing but rewarding. From the amazing staff and dedicated volunteers to the work, whether at a desk inputting data or at Garden of the Gods putting down EC (erosion control) matting, I have thoroughly enjoyed the time spent with RMFI, and I look forward to all the new experiences still to be had! And I’ll be sure to keep them documented all the way through!

The Bonner Fellow,
Ace

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How Western States Stack Up As Public Lands Defenders

SHARED FROM OUTSIDE ONLINE - November 13, 2017:

Last month, the Center for Western Priorities, a Denver, Colorado–based nonprofit, published a comprehensive report that compared state public lands policy across the Mountain West. Eight states—Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico—were scored. The results were also discussed on the organization’s podcast, Go West, Young Podcast.

The Trump administration’s hostility to public lands was part of the impetus for the report, the authors told Outside. Wary of focusing its mission solely on federal accountability, Western Priorities also wanted to examine what states could do on their own. But understanding state policy when it comes public lands is challenging; unlike federal law, tracking state-level regulation gets messy.

“We try to be a data-driven organization,” says Aaron Weiss, media director at Western Priorities, “and that tends to be fairly easy on the national level, because, at least up until now, DOI and Forest Service were good about collecting and disseminating data.” If you couldn’t figure something out, “you could usually call up someone at the Park Service or at BLM and figure out how to get that data. It’s much harder to do at the state level.”

That’s because the way states regulate their local public lands varies widely. “What counts as a spill in one state doesn’t count in another,” Weiss says. In that light, Western Priorities set out to research and compare state policies “apples to apples.” The project, led by Western Priorities’ Sara Rose Tannenbaum, took about eight months to research and involved somewhere between 80 and 100 interviews with policymakers and related experts. Western Priorities chose to score states in three categories: lands and access, outdoor recreation, and responsible energy use. Montana and Colorado received the highest overall grades, but there was still a good deal of divergence within each category.

The results look at what states are doing well when it comes to public lands protections, as well as how they can improve and adopt best practices from one another. (Charted above are the states’ total scores from all three categories, with the highest possible score being 33.)

“This can be a useful tool to people as they’re trying to aid their state in improving, or branching out, or being innovative,” Tannenbaum says. “States really have a lot to learn from one another. It’s important to celebrate what’s worth celebrating in your state and also identify moments for improvement.”

We broke down how the states did in each category and why.

To read the complete article, please click here

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Colorado ranks first in Western states scorecard on outdoor recreation, responsible drilling, public-lands access

colorado, outdoor recreation, wilderness, trails, stewardship, public lands, public access, western states, conservation, restoration, protection.

SHARED FROM THE DENVER POST:

Colorado ranks first among eight Western states for access to public lands, responsible energy development and outdoor recreation in a scorecard released Tuesday by the Center for Western Priorities.

The Denver-based nonprofit conservation and advocacy group’s Conservation Scorecard ranks Colorado at the top among Intermountain West states when it comes to protecting and enhancing public lands.

Scored in 14 benchmarks, Colorado tops Montana, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona and Idaho according to the center’s grading rubrics for policies governing outdoor recreation, energy development and access to public lands.

Jennifer Rokala, the center’s executive director, said state policies surrounding conservation are “a different story” than the national narrative, where the Trump administration is promoting more aggressive energy development on public lands and is mulling a resizing some national monuments.

“Westerners understand that public lands are at the heart and soul of what makes living in the Western states so special,” Rokala said, noting her group’s hope that the scorecard “provides a roadmap” for lawmakers seeking to promote conservation in the West.

Colorado scored highest in both outdoor recreation and energy development. The state’s prioritization of outdoor recreation ranks it alone at the top of the scorecard, with dedicated funding for conservation and recreation infrastructure through the lottery-funded Great Outdoors Colorado, establishment of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office and funding for outdoor education focused on getting kids outdoors. Utah was the first in the nation with an outdoor recreation office, and Montana this fall established an office to promote the state’s outdoor recreation economy.

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.denverpost.com/2017/10/17/colorado-ranks-first-outdoor-recrea...

Molly's picture

Colorado College Bonner Fellow Joins RMFI

For the 2017-2018 shool year, RMFI is partnering with the Colorado College Collaborative for Community Engagement on that organization's pilot Bonner Fellowship program. RMFI's Bonner Fellow is Asa Hussain, a freshman hailing from Miami, Florida where he has participated in marine habitat restoration projects among other extracurricular endeavors of note. In his first few weeks in this position, Asa has begun working closely with RMFI staff on both office and field work projects and establishing himself as a member of our team for the year and hopefully years to come throughout his college career. Read on for more information about this exiciting program and partnership.  

The following is a reprint of a blog created by the Colorado College Collaborative for Community Engagement.

This year, five students have been selected to participate in the CCE’s pilot of the Bonner Fellowship. This program aligns with the well-established nationally organized network of schools that have a Bonner program at their institution. These Bonner Fellows will engage in a yearlong paid internship with a community partner, in addition to working on community building and social justice education, as well as skill building to effectively create social change. The holistic nature of this program is designed to give students the education, preparation, and dialogue that empower them to be intentional in their community work. Launching this program at CC gives fellows access to a network of partner organizations, community engagement offices, other fellows, and alumni.

“Bringing the Bonner Fellowship to CC addresses issues that the CCE wants to prioritize: providing paid opportunities for community engagement for students who have to work while in school,” says Dr. Jordan Radke, CCE director. It also adds to the programs offered by the CCE, including BreakOut, the Community Engaged Scholars program, and the Community Engaged Leadership Certificate program. The Bonner Fellowship offers a program that is high-commitment and high-impact, which fills a niche in the CCE continuum of opportunities. The fellowship is intended to open engagement to students who need to work through college and do not have the same access to leisure time as other CC students – this includes underrepresented, first generation, and low income background students. This year’s five students were selected “based on their merit and passions and understanding of community engagement,” stated Dr. Radke.

This year the CCE office recruited a variety of organizations in the community. According to Dr. Radke, “we were intentional in selecting partners who suited several criteria – they needed to cover a range of issues, be located nearby for easy transportation for interns, and offer internships. These internships needed to provide our students with meaningful work, and the opportunity to scale up their responsibilities over time, because ideally this is a 4-year program.” The CCE sent student finalists to interview at the community partner organizations, and matched the students and partners to each other. This year, the partners are the Rocky Mountain Field Institute, Colorado Springs School District 11, Meadows Park Community Center, Southern Colorado Health Network, and the City of Colorado Springs (Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services).

The future of the program is contingent on funding for next year, provided that this year’s pilot program is successful. Dr. Radke hopes that the program will develop to support up to 10 students, and that the CCE “can leverage the expertise of both community partners and faculty. The program’s small group meetings are collaborative, and we want to create a learning community around the program.” If the program continues, Dr. Radke would also like to see the program become integrated into the admissions process as a scholarship to support committed students, and function as a recruiting tool. Currently, the Bonner Fellows meet three weeks out of every block to check in, and they also attend additional programming outside the blockly requirements for their internships. Their most recent workshop was on reciprocity in community engagement, said Dr. Radke. “We discussed how to go into a community humbly – you have something to offer and also something to learn.”

To learn more about the CCE’s Bonner Fellowship, visit https://www.coloradocollege.edu/offices/cce/students/bonnerfellowship.html.

Jennifer's picture

Waldo Canyon Reopens on October 4, 2017

waldo canyon, public access, burn restoration, stabilization, reopening, forest management, forest service, waldo canyon trail, rmfi, rocky mountain field institute, hiking, trails, conservation, stewardship, volunteers, willows, wildfire

The Pike National Forest has revised the closure order for Waldo Canyon to allow public access. The Order (PSICC-2017-22) rescinds parts of the previous closure that prohibited entry into Waldo Canyon. The many years of work by federal, state, local, and non-profit organizations has allowed for recovery of the land making public use of this part of El Paso County on the Pikes Peak Ranger District possible again.

While the public will be allowed to access Waldo, the Waldo Canyon Trail (NFST 640) and Waldo Canyon Trailhead on Highway 24 will remained closed for public safety. There are no other legally designated Forest Service system trails in Waldo Canyon. Public accessing the area should use caution and be prepared for cross-country hiking over rough terrain and debris from the 2012 wildfire. The potential for flash flooding still exists. In addition, there are many dead hazard trees that can fall down. Anyone entering the area should be aware of these hazards and take any necessary safety precautions by using extreme caution.

This opening is the beginning of the next chapter in Waldo recovery. "We are proud of the massive recovery effort the Forest Service, partners, and the community has poured into Waldo and happy that we are finally able to open the area as hunting season gets going," said Oscar Martinez, District Ranger. The Forest Service is working with partners on a sustainable path forward for recreation in the area. Redesigning and implementing a safe sustainable recreation plan in the Waldo burn scar is complex and will take time.

The newly revised Order maintains prohibitions of camping and campfires in the area and keeps several roads closed. However, parking will now be allowed in non-designated parking areas. To read the new order and see the map, visit www.fs.usda.gov/psicc and look under "Alerts & Warnings."

The map below shows how to access the once-closed forest from Woodland Park on Rampart Range Road (see purple line). 

 

Jennifer's picture

North Cheyenne Cañon Master Plan

North Cheyenne Cañon Park, Colorado Springs, Parks, Open Space, Master Plan, Community Input, Public Process, Community, Management Plan, Get Involved, Public Meeting, stewardship, trails, conservation, RMFI

The City's historic mountain park is set to get lots of attention over the next eight months as the City's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department teams up with community residents to develop an updated Master and Management Plan for the popular North Cheyenne Cañon Park.

The Master and Management Plan will focus on a little over 1,855 acres of land, including the core of the park property as well as the adjacent Cresta and Stratton Forest Open Spaces. Additionally, the plan will encompass the property added to the park from the recent land exchange with the Broadmoor. The plan will also focus on trail connections between the park and the adjacent open space properties, including Stratton and Stratton Preserve Open Spaces. (see map)

The existing North Cheyenne Cañon Park master plan was developed in 1999. Since that time, park use has significantly increased and recreational needs have expanded and changed, creating impacts on the natural resources of the park.

WHAT IS A MASTER AND MANAGEMENT PLAN?

The Master and Management Plan will guide use and management of the park for the next 10 to 15 years. It will create a shared community view of what the park is and should be by identifying current and future needs. The plan will provide a framework to accommodate a variety of recreational uses while also taking care of the land, its history, and its natural environment.

The City has retained Tapis Associates to lead the team of consultants who will work with the community to develop the Master and Management Plan.

IT'S EASY FOR YOU TO GET INVOLVED
The process offers lots of opportunities for you to have your say about the future of this wonderful park.

At the meetings, participants will get valuable information about the park and provide equally valuable insights back to the City and consultant team about the park's needs and what should be done to meet them. People who attend the meetings will help guide master plan decisions.

MASTER PLAN TIMELINE
The process offers lots of opportunities for you to have your say about the future of this wonderful park. All community meetings indicated below will take place at 6 p.m. at Cheyenne Mountain High School (1200 Cresta Road):

  1. Identify issues, concerns and guiding principals (July 2017-September 2017)
  2. Interviews, ice cream socials, on-site, social media and web online surveys
  3. Community workshop #1 on September 19
  4. Identify opportunities, problem situations and master plan preferences (October 2017)
  5. Community workshop #2 on October 17
  6. Review preliminary draft plan approaches (December 2017)
  7. Community workshop #3 on December 13
  8. Review draft master and management plan (January 2018)
  9. Community open house on January 25
  10. Present recommended master and management plan (February 2018)
  11. TOPS Working Committee - Park Advisory Board
  12. Approve final master and management plan (March 2018)
  13. Park Advisory Board

Jennifer's picture

Are We Loving Colorado’s Wild Places to Death?

trails, stewardship, colorado, conservation, restoration, overuse, national forest, wilderness, trash, cleanup, outdoor recreation, fourteeners, hiking, camping, land management, forest service, backcountry, leave no trace, adaptive management, colorado fourteener initiative, rocky mountain field institute, colorado outdoor recreation industry office

SHARED FROM 5280 MAGAZINE: 

Trampled wildflowers. Eroded trails. Trash littering the forest floor. Piles of (not just dog) poop. These are not the images one conjures when thinking of Colorado’s postcard-perfect landscapes. But according to stewardship organizations and land managers across the state, these unfortunate scenarios are occurring with increasing frequency as our population and tourism numbers rise and as social-media-stoked enthusiasm for the outdoors sends more people traipsing through the Centennial State’s hallowed grounds.

In outdoor-industry parlance, this degradation is commonly referred to as the “loving-it-to-death phenomenon”: too many people in the same area at the same time, sometimes doing things they’re not supposed to be doing. It’s not a new problem—the Appalachian Trail has been witness to an excess of footfalls for years; Yosemite National Park began limiting visitors in 2014; and the U.S. Forest Service implemented a permit system to battle crowds on California’s 14,505-foot Mt. Whitney way back in 1971—but it is a relatively recent development in Colorado. Certainly there are areas of our state that have long endured millions of annual visitors. But Forest Service rangers, national park personnel, and state park operators say that in the past four or five years they have discerned not only an uptick in visitation but also a dramatic surge of disappointing behaviors that are detrimental to our outdoor spaces.

To continue reading the article, please click here

Joe's picture

Student Reflections: Earth Corps 2017

trails, stewardship, colorado, conservation, restoration, national forest, wilderness, outdoor recreation, fourteeners, hiking, camping, outdoor education, life changing, rmfi, earth corps, alpine living, academic, kit carson, challenger point

In mid-August, RMFI concluded the 16th annual Earth Corps field studies program. Ten college students from across the nation (and Canada) and a small team of RMFI staff spent a month living, working, and learning in the Colorado backcountry. Early mornings that started with a hike to 13,000 feet gave way to long days working in the alpine to establish a new sustainable summit trail to Challenger Point (14,081') and Kit Carson Peak (14,170'). The focus in the afternoon shifted to academics -- reading scholarly articles on Colorado water law or climate change, or hearing from a visiting expert in botany or public lands management, among many other topics. Evenings were spent exploring the nooks and crannies of Willow Lake Basin before re-fueling on dinners high in carbs, finally preparing to do it all again the next day.

The following is a summary of the experience as told by three students, written on the final morning of the program.

"If I had to sum up my Earth Corps experience in one word, I would have to choose the word growth. One month ago I never could have imagined the different ways that I've grown over these past 30 days up in the Willow Creek Basin. I've seen growth physically, growth mentally, and growth socially that can't be attained in my everyday life.

My physical growth became apparent about a week and a half into the program. On the first day when we hike 5 miles to base camp, I didn't think I was cut out for the program. I barely made it to the base camp and was exhausted once I made it. I stuck with it though and after a week working on the trail, I felt like a completely different person. I felt stronger, faster, and more energetic than I have in my whole life.

My mental growth became apparent almost immediately once I reached camp. I had no idea that I was strong enough to push myself to make it to camp. The alpine environment was the perfect place to distance myself from everyday stresses and focus. I learned more about the environment and conservation than I did in any other class. The isolation from society helped me to also focus on the things that truly make me happy."
--Jack Clark

"It is hard to find words to describe my time at Earth Corps. I feel as if nothing I say can fully do justice the experiences I had and relationships I made.

One thing I can say for sure is that I will never forget it. The trail work was tough, but rewarding, the academic side was interesting and memorable. The views were spectacular and the people unforgettable.

I'd like to thank everyone who contributed to possibly the coolest month of my life, students and staff alike."
--William Weeks

"Beginning the ascent in to Willow Lake Basin, I had no idea what to expect. I heard the first mile or so was all switchbacks, and if you could get through that, you could make it through the rest. I was doing well through that and for another couple of miles until the talus field headwall. There, my pack seemed to weigh 200 pounds and my legs seemed to stop moving. I had so many thoughts running through my head; I literally considered unpacking my pack and carrying individual items up. Soon, however, I become more life-like and finished the hike feeling good. The arrival at camp was magnificent; I felt truly elated at both the site and at having completed such a hike. The Basin is surrounded by large talus fields from which I could see several Bighorn sheep travel to forage. I then walked up to the lake and saw the waterfall loud and cascading over the large rock formations into a serene and still pond of freezing water. From this moment, I knew this was going to be an experience like nothing I have ever done or even imagined before.

The trail construction was challenging, yet incredibly rewarding. For me, pushing myself to move large rocks and crush rocks 50 times for one single break was certainly going to make me stronger. Additionally, the idea of working, getting to know, and laughing with each of my fellow students is something that cannot be accurately described. We shared countless tough jobs, inside jokes, and unique ideas. At the site, the day seemed to fly by; soon it was about 2 PM and I could feel the storm clouds gathering. After we hiked down, the rest of the day brought either a fascinating and knowledgeable lecturer, a lively group discussion, an exploration up to a talus field, or a quick jump in the freezing lake, just to name a few. It was during this time that I spent some of my most memorable moments with others and engaged in profound thinking and self-reflection. After the free time in the afternoon, we all gathered for a delectable and quite creative dinner. This was always a great time to bond AND enjoy really, really good food that is typically not associated with backcountry living.

As I conclude my experience on Earth Corps, I mull over the many different skills I learned and think about how fortunate I am to have had this experience. This is a one-of-a-kind program that cannot be boiled down to a few words; it has to be experienced in its fullest."
--Mary Lundin

Alyssa's picture

Dirt Camp 2017 Wrap-Up

trails, stewardship, colorado, conservation, restoration, wilderness, outdoor recreation, hiking, outdoor education, rmfi, environmental education, catamount, youth, dirt camp, garden of the gods, national natural landmark

In just a few short years, Dirt Camp students have tripled in numbers. It’s not surprising given the set up of this weeklong course of field work and hands-on learning.

Rocky Mountain Field Institute teaches youth aged 10-12 about our mission of preserving and protecting Southern Colorado’s public landscapes. RMFI takes great pride in stewardship and education and spent the week sharing that pride with the campers in as many ways as possible.

RMFI has partnered with Catamount Institute in offering Dirt Camp since 2014 (one of several summer youth camp programs offered by Catamount). The first year of camp was actually a fire restoration camp in Black Forest, and the 2015-2017 Dirt Camps have all been at Garden of the Gods.

Each day, campers participated in environmental education lessons with Catamount Institute staff focused on soil, erosion, flora and fauna, and vermiculture. Campers then participated in hands-on trail and restoration projects led by RMFI staff. The students also enjoyed a trip to Cave of the Winds and the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center to round out their week.

Bright and early, these 21 campers were getting their hands dirty. In just one week, they completed 700 feet of social trail closure and restoration, but not before learning the science of and behind it. Together, they replaced native soil and transplanted over 100 larger bits of grass and sage into non-designated footpaths.

This year is already predicted to be a record setting year, with City counters already logging over 2 million visitors to the Garden of the Gods! With these astounding numbers, it’s clear that RMFI's work is necessary to help maintain our beloved park, which has been a National Natural Landmark since 1971. It was blissful to help complete critical stewardship work, and to teach the importance of caring for our public lands to these interested mountaineers-to-be. We were fortunate enough to have a Garden of the Gods park ranger come out to speak about what he does on a day-to-day basis. Together, we all learned that this position isn’t all sunshine and happy tourists, but a great deal of trash clean up and general park maintenance.

Watching the boys and girls find enjoyment through maintaining heavily-traveled stairs on Old Colorado City trail is something I won’t soon forget. The avid learners now understand the benefits of check dams and were able to see different stages of gullies. We broke out into groups to make 3 check dams to help catch sediment, allow water flow, and prevent future erosion. Thankfully it rained multiple days that week enabling everyone to see the check dams doing what they’re supposed to do, in action. Additionally, campers cleaned out 5 drains to help prevent erosion even further paired with educational activities.

Each student left each morning tired but fulfilled and ready to enjoy a lunch and learn more in the afternoons. They worked hard with overall positive attitudes; at the end of the week each camper had the opportunity to show their stewardship accomplishments to their parents and siblings.

Catamount campers impressed RMFI greatly, not only in the work that was accomplished, but in their knowledge of what they did and why it needed to be done. They spoke with pride and certainty as they explained each site that was improved to the people that showed up for them. If I were a parent I’d be so proud of my kiddo; as a field instructor, I sure was. They learned about tools and adopted the techniques to use them most efficiently. Little siblings looked up to their brothers or sisters on that day and admired their pride and responsibility taken for their work. Everyone was happy to be romping around the Garden of the Gods learning about one another, environmental stewardship, and the beautiful public space we share.

We can’t thank Catamount Institute enough and the students they brought along for the amazing week of education and work. RMFI invites you all back to volunteer with us!

Liz's picture

Eclipse Fever

eclipse, pikes peak observatory, totality

Do you have it yet?  The fever? There can be a total eclipse of the sun somewhere in the world about once every 18 months, but this is the first time we have had a total eclipse cross the US from Pacific to Atlantic since 1918. Colorado Springs was just outside the path of totality for that one, but was a major player in the 1878 eclipse with scientists travelling here from back east to observe from the Pikes Peak observatory. Scientists relied on eclipses to be able to observe the sun’s atmosphere; and Colorado Springs was anxious to make its mark in the scientific community, which was dominated by easterners. The next total eclipse over the Springs will be in 2045, but if you’re willing to head east you can catch one in the Midwest in 2024.

In Colorado Springs the August 21 eclipse will be at 11:47 am, and will be about 90% complete. We have to go to Wyoming or Nebraska to catch a total eclipse (Click for an interactive map). So what’s all the fuss? 90% sounds pretty darn good and you can see that from your own back yard. But if you catch the fever, that may not be good enough.  Those two minutes of being in the moon shadow are supposedly quite special. So much so that the experts say don’t even think of trying to photograph it. Just be there and watch.

As the moon begins to pass in front of the sun, taking a bite out of it, as many ancient myths recount, the sky will get progressively dusky, but this may not even be noticeable if you’re not paying attention. It is important to only look at the sun through special eclipse glasses. Or project its image onto the ground or a piece of paper with a pinhole. The small spots of light shining through tree leaves will show miniature eclipses on the ground. You can make a wonderful projection through a kitchen colander.

About a minute before totality there may be shadow bands, moving wavy lines of light and dark on the ground. These are the result of the last rays of light refracting through earth’s atmosphere. The totality of this eclipse will last about two minutes. As the moon shadow sweeps over and the moon covers the sun, the sky will get dark, the stars and planets will be visible, with just a rim of “sunset” all around our horizon. And it may get cold. I’m told, don’t run for a sweater, just wait it out and experience the power of the sun returning, bringing its light and heat back to the earth.

While the moon covers the sun you do not need special glasses to look at it. With the intensity of the sun hidden, you can see the corona, the charged particles of the sun’s atmosphere. Streaks in it are the magnetic fields carrying plasma out into space (and creating the solar wind).  The chromosphere is a lower level of the sun’s atmosphere, which appears for a few seconds as a red glow right around the moon. During the “diamond ring” phase, at the beginning and end of totality, just a spot of intense light is visible. Sometimes there are more than one bead, “Bailey’s beads”, which is the sun shining between the mountains of the moon. One of the great unsolved problems in physics is why the temperature of the corona is millions of Kelvins higher than the sun’s surface.

Because planets’ and moons’ orbits are elliptical rather than round, eclipses vary depending on how close the moon is to the earth. When the moon is farther away, there is more of a bright ring around the moon, called an annular eclipse. Interestingly, the moon is slowly getting farther away from the earth. In the age of the dinosaurs it was closer, and eclipses lasted longer and covered more of the sun. It is really just a fluke of our timing in the universe that the moon fits pretty perfectly over the sun for us. The sun’s diameter is 400 times that of the moon but 93 million miles away. Both orbs appear the same size to us here on earth.

There is a wealth of information online about the eclipse. Here are a couple great websites:
NASA eclipse website: https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/eclipse-101
Great American Eclipse: https://www.greatamericaneclipse.com/

So get yourself a pair of eclipse glasses and catch the fever.

Donnie Ferns's picture

DIRT CAMP: The Importance of Environmental Education

trails, stewardship, colorado, conservation, restoration, wilderness, outdoor recreation, hiking, outdoor education, rmfi, environmental education, catamount, youth, dirt camp, garden of the gods, national natural landmark, teaching, environment

With RMFI’s third annual partnership with the Catamount Institute’s “Dirt Camp” this month, we felt the need to discuss the importance of introducing environmental concepts at a young age. Dirt Camp is a weeklong summer camp sponsored by the Catamount Institute. It allows children the opportunity to get their hands dirty by helping RMFI complete various conservation/restoration work projects in the Garden of the Gods. These kids learn a variety of conservation techniques and how the structures we install help to improve the natural areas we work in. The trails we build are placed to not only provide access to the public, but also to protect the non-designated areas from erosion, habitat fragmentation, and other impacts. These are lifelong lessons and skills that we hope stay with these kids as they grow older. With increasing demand and visitation, it’s important to educate the kids about trail etiquette, such as staying on the designated trails and avoiding areas not intended for human traffic. Teaching children about trail maintenance and showing them all the hard work that’s put into them will hopefully instill a sense of respect for nature. 

Exposing and educating young children about the environment at a young age can play an important role in shaping lifelong attitudes, values, and patterns of behavior toward natural environments. The earlier youth become accustomed to the outdoors, the more of a connection they will feel. Positive interactions with the environment such as Dirt Camp help enforce this level of connection.

Beyond the outdoor experience, parents and educators can help influence young children’s behavior toward nature and the planet. Valuable lessons can be taught at school and at home including:

• Recycling
• Gardening
• Healthy eating habits
• Water conservation
• Replacements for plastic products
• Electricity and fossil fuel reduction

Remember, children are the future to a clean and green planet !

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