Notes from the Field

The Dirt Diaries Blog

Musings from RMFI staff about all things related to public lands and environmental stewardship.

RMFI RESPONSE, MARCH 25: COVID-19

Since our last update on March 13, RMFI has continued to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and associated public health concerns. As such, we have made shifts to our organization and operational plans. 

Beginning Monday, March 16, employees were encouraged to work from home and we have continued that practice this week. Those who need to come to the office for any reason are required to practice safe social distancing and regular hand-washing and hygiene.

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RMFI Response, March 13: COVID-19

As public health concerns related to COVID-19 (coronavirus) heighten across Colorado and the rest of the world, we are continuing to actively monitor the situation, stay in close communication with our partners, and create contingency plans as they relate to our operations and upcoming programs and volunteer stewardship projects. 

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THIS INITIATIVE IS HELPING TO OFFSET OVERUSE ON COLORADO’S HIGHEST PEAKS

According to the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, approximately 334,000 people hike to the top of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks each year. This is the story of how one initiative is using letter grades to help protect and conserve the summit routes.Like many Coloradans, Ben Hanus was on a mission to bag some fourteeners. Unlike many Coloradans, his incentive to summit the 14,000-foot peaks wasn’t personal; it was about preservation.

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RMFI Cowbell

A few quick programmatic updates here at RMFI...

First, we are thrilled to announce that Patagonia is supporting RMFI's work in the Bear Creek Watershed next year, to the tune of $25,000! Receiving this kind of support from one of the foremost leaders in the environmental movement is a huge vote of confidence for the work RMFI and others have been doing to protect the last wild, viable population of the greenback cutthroat trout. Thank you, Patagonia!

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The RMFI Cowbell

Two new RMFI projects are helping to usher in autumn. Keep reading to learn more about what is in store for this month. 

RMFI started trail improvement work at Mueller State Park in late September. This gem of a park is situated on the west side of Pikes Peak and is known for its rolling trails, abundant wildlife, and aspen groves. The RMFI Stewardship Crew is improving the Rock Canyon Trail (aka Trail #15) by constructing timber riser steps. We are spending 12 days on the project this month and there is an opportunity to volunteer on Saturday, October 5th. 

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The RMFI Cowbell

"Earth Corps was hands-down one of the best experiences of my life."

"Thank you to RMFI and my new friends for making Earth Corps wonderful and life changing."

"I feel so lucky to have been introduced to such amazing leaders and lecturers in this field."

"I will make sure to use this experience to promote the conversation of conservation."

"Earth Corps was a great experience and I see a difference in my daily routine. I'm so excited to pay it forward in my education."

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Return to Legacy Site Shelf Road Recreation Area

Shelf Road Recreation Area, located approximately 11 miles north of Cañon City, Colorado, and managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), is best known for its world-class sport climbing. People travel from all over the world to test their crimping skills on Shelf's stellar limestone crags. In addition to climbing, the area offers hiking, mountain biking, fishing, hunting, and horseback riding. RMFI began working with the BLM in 1991 to address recreation impacts in the area.

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The RMFI Cowbell

Summer rolls on at RMFI! Although snow continues to linger in the highest reaches of our worksite on the Kit Carson-Challenger Ridge Trail Realignment project, July finally provided the conditions needed to get to work up there in the Sangres. RMFI staff in partnership with a crew from Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC) kicked off our work in the Sangres on July 2 and have since logged a whopping 18 workdays over the course of two 9-day backcountry hitches on the project.

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The RMFI Cowbell

July is here and that means it is peak season at RMFI. We have 99 project days scheduled for the month! How does RMFI fit 99 project days into a month with only 31 days? With eager volunteers, a knack for logistics, and a passion for the work that we do. 

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The RMFI Cowbell

We are starting a new feature in the e-news -- the RMFI Cowbell. We have a tradition at the RMFI office where we celebrate our successes by ringing a cowbell. This monthly blurb will provide an update of project and program successes. 

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State of Growth: Pressure on Trails and Open Space

COLORADO SPRINGS – The state of growth in Colorado is impacting one of the main reasons so many people want to come here and stay. “We are known as Ultra-users,” said Colorado Springs Parks, Director, Karen Palus. Heavy use is putting pressure on the sustainability of public lands, trails and open space.

“If we don’t step in and step in, in a more formal way, it will get out of control,” said Rocky Mountain Field Institute, Executive Director Jennifer Peterson.

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Sesame Canyon Trail FAQ

In recent weeks, there has been increasing interest in the Sesame Canyon Trail (herein referred to as the Sesame Canyon Social Trail since it has never been an authorized designated trail) as well as questions regarding plans to formally close, decommission, and actively restore the trail as part of ongoing efforts to protect the habitat of the threatened greenback cutthroat trout, which resides in neighboring Bear Creek. We wanted to be proactive in making sure the public has the correct information regarding the project.

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On Public Lands, Visitors Surge While Federal Management Funds Decline

REPRINTED FROM KRCC 91.5

Colorado Springs (March 31, 2019):

It's the boom times in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., which is wrapping up a winter of record snowfall. Eager to take advantage of it, Donovan Sliman and his two young daughters are lumbering up a snowy trail on the outskirts of town, where the condos give way to National Forest.

"I like to get away from everybody else," says Donovan. "I like to hear the sound of the wind and the snow through the trees." "We're also going to go sledding," adds Grace, one of his daughters.

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Push on Public Lands Fund

The federal Land and Water Conservation Fund isn't necessarily about acquiring more public lands. It's also about supporting local programs that get people onto them, particularly the next generation, members of the Colorado Canyons Association told U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner on Tuesday.

The group's staff and board met with Colorado's junior senator in Grand Junction to tell him his support is needed to get lawmakers in Washington, D.C., to reauthorize and fully fund the LWCF, which Congress allowed to lapse last year.

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New COTREX Mapping Tool Available

The Colorado Trail Explorer (COTREX) endeavors to map every trail in the state of Colorado in support of the Colorado the Beautiful Initiative. COTREX connects people, trails, and technology by coordinating the efforts of federal, state, county, and local agencies to create a comprehensive and authoritative repository of recreational trails for public use.

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Thank You, Crew Leaders!

Last week, RMFI and our partners in the Pikes Peak Regional Crew Leader Training (PPRCLT) program hosted a season-ending party in celebration of our volunteer Crew Leader base and the great work they have accomplished in 2018.

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RMFI & Partners Celebrate 15 Years of Pikes Peak Stewardship

On September 8th, RMFI coordinated a tour of Pikes Peak restoration project sites for 38 interested members of the community including business, non-profit, and political leaders. The tour-group made stops at Elk Park Knoll, Devil's Playground, and Glen Cove - three success stories of the 15-year project - where project managers provided background and answered questions about the critical ecosystem restoration projects on America's Mountain.

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Would You Pay to Hike?

Reprinted from the Adventure Journal:

As Wyoming considers first-of-its-kind fee for hiking, we wonder: Would you mind paying to maintain trails?

Wyoming state lawmakers are considering a first-of-its-kind fundraising measure: Charge hikers, bikers, horseback riders, and others for using trails. At least one prominent outdoor recreation user group is on board.

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2018 - Year of the Bear

With diverse projects throughout the Pikes Peak Region, many RMFI work sites require extensive time in the backcountry where encounters with wildlife are common place.  Although coming across wildlife is often a beautiful experience, this year has proved challenging in dealing with one critter in particular; the black bear.  

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OUTDOOR RECREATION A LARGE AND GROWING PERCENTAGE OF U.S. ECONOMY

BOULDER, Colo. – September 20, 2018 – Outdoor recreation accounts for 2.2 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), according to the final report by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) on the outputs from outdoor recreation. The final report also found that outdoor recreation contributes over $734 billion to total U.S. gross output, which is the total value of domestic goods and service produced by an industry.

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Time series of high-resolution images enhances efforts to monitor post-fire condition and recovery, Waldo Canyon fire, Colorado, USA

Abstract. Interpretations of post-fire condition and rates of vegetation recovery can influence management priorities, actions and perception of latent risks from landslides and floods. In this study, we used the Waldo Canyon fire (2012, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA) as a case study to explore how a time series (2011–2016) of high-resolution images can be used to delineate burn extent and severity, as well as quantify post-fire vegetation recovery.

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In Their Own Words

RMFI wrapped up the 17th annual Earth Corps program earlier this month. Earth Corps is a flagship program for the organization, as close to 200 college students have been transformed through the immersive, experiential, for-credit college course since its inception. This year we thought we would share a new perspective of the program and let you hear directly from the students what the program meant to them.

These blogs were written in the field, after the final exam, on day 20 of living at 11,500 feet.

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Colorado Introduces Outdoor Rx

The Colorado Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry is pleased to announce the release of the "Colorado OutdoorRx" report! Through a year-long journey of looking at connections between health and the outdoors, the ORec / Outdoor Health Collaborative has created this report to examine and provide suggestions for improving health outcomes through outdoor experiences. We hope you will read it, share with it your networks, and discover ways to implement pilot programs in your communities. After all, it's our belief that every person's health should #startoutside.

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VF Foundation, Patagonia and Thule Kick Off Multi-Million Dollar Funding Effort to the Outdoor Foundation to Get More Kids and Families Outside

DENVER, July 24, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- In an unprecedented act of generosity and commitment to the outdoors, VF Foundation pledged $1 million to the Outdoor Foundation's core goal to invest in communities to help kids and families get outside – and do so more often. VF is joined by Patagonia and Thule, which have made significant multi-year pledges. In addition, REI has committed to a future investment.

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100 Years (Almost) of Barr Trail

It seems that the Barr Trail has been an almost daily topic of conversation around our RMFI office in 2018, and for various reasons. We discovered in the early part of the year that our maintenance funding from the City of Manitou Springs’ Barr Trail parking lot fees, RMFI’s largest source of funding for our work on Barr, was cut by approximately 60% due to increased funding needs for other Barr Trail and Incline support infrastructure, most notably the now year-round free shuttle service that takes users to the trail heads.

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