Public lands have been in the news a lot lately. From the appointment of a new Secretary of the Interior (and the horse he rode in on) to local conversation about a ballot initiative that would have proposed raising funds for our city parks and open spaces, our nation’s greatest assets are a big topic of conversation.
Here at RMFI, we steer clear of political advocacy and focus on environmental stewardship—the protection of our public lands through shovels in the dirt and community involvement. But decisions made through governance can have a big effect on the work RMFI does. For example, the recent presidential designation of the Bears Ears National Monument in southern Utah is a political hot potato. RMFI’s longest running project site—Indian Creek—is located within the boundaries of the Monument. Should the designation be overturned and the monument fall under the jurisdiction of the state of Utah, as some state legislators are proposing, there is no telling how the sandstone cliffs and associated recreation activities may be managed. RMFI is visiting Indian Creek in mid-March for a spring break desert adventure program with Texas Tech University, Montrose High School, and others.
Other examples of public lands management decisions affecting RMFI abound. A federal hiring freeze, while since thawed, has impacted RMFI field staff hiring. Cuts to federal budgets and appropriations have increased competition for funding to support projects on National Forests. Acquisition of new city parkland can influence RMFI’s scope of projects and need for additional volunteer labor. And approaches to managing public lands for seasonal variations and issues such as insect infestations can have an impact on natural disasters like flooding and fire.
For context we thought we would provide an overview of RMFI project sites and the respective land management agencies with whom we interface.
City of Colorado Springs
Garden of the Gods: Community Stewardship Project
High Chaparral Open Space: TOPS Stewardship Project
Palmer Park: Trail Improvement Project
Red Rock Canyon Open Space: TOPS Stewardship Project
Stratton Open Space: TOPS Stewardship Project
Ute Valley Open Space: TOPS Stewardship Project
City of Manitou Springs
Wildcat Gulch: Flood Recovery Project
El Paso County
Black Forest Regional Park: Fire Restoration Project
Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Cheyenne Mountain State Park: Dixon Trail Construction Project
Bureau of Land Management
Indian Creek Trail Improvement Project
United States Forest Service
Pike National Forest: Barr Trail Improvement Project, Bear Creek Restoration Project, Devil’s Playground Trail Improvement Project, Pikes Peak Restoration Project, Waldo Canyon Fire Restoration Project
Rio Grande National Forest: Kit Carson—Challenger Ridge Trail Improvement Project
This list is not exhaustive, but gives a good idea of the number of land management agencies RMFI interacts with on a daily basis. What happens on a federal, state, or municipal level has impacts on the present and future of RMFI.