Notes from the Field

The Dirt Diaries Blog

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

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


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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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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The Beginning of the End: The Bonner Fellow's First Year

Just like that, my first year as a college undergraduate is coming to a close. As a Bonner Fellow at Rocky Mountain Field institute and as a Colorado College student, I have gone through unmeasurable personal and professional growth during this academic year. This article is a reflective post about the impact the experience of being a fellow with RMFI has had on me.

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Stories from the Trail - A Tale of Two Users

A few weeks ago, I set out on a long run, starting first up the Incline and then continuing another 6 miles up Barr Trail to the A-frame shelter, located approximately 3 miles below the summit of Pikes Peak. Along the way, I encountered a number of folks out enjoying the beautiful weather and fresh air. Two users, in particular, really stood out to me as each represented two diametrically opposed types of trail users with regard to stewardship ethic and responsible use of our natural assets.

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Volunteering Game Changer: Millennials

A new study released by State Farm® reveals key insights into what motivates people to volunteer. While the survey included all generations, the most surprising results came from Millennials (ages 18-34).

A deep dive into this generation finds two distinct groups: those who are starting out (younger Millennials) and those who are married, have kids, or own a home (older Millennials). According to the study, only 23 percent of younger Millennials currently volunteer, compared to 46 percent of older Millennials.

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Congressional-Level Outdoor Recreation Economy Reports Released by OIA

Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) has released congressional-level Outdoor Recreation Economy reports for all 435 congressional districts. These reports are the first of their kind that captures the power of a vast multi-billion dollar economic engine in our local communities and across the nation.

Use the tool here to find your congressional district report and download the PDF.

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Report: Locals spend $2.14 billion every year on trail, open spaces and water activity


Long considered a nice backdrop, the area’s outdoors is now bringing in the green.

During its second annual State of the Outdoors event, the Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance revealed that locals spend $2.14 billion every year on their activities on trails, open spaces and waters. That’s according to the Outdoor Industry Association report that will be released in its entirety next month, showing spending across the nation’s congressional districts.

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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.

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


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.

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