Notes from the Field
The Dirt Diaries Blog
Musings from RMFI staff about all things related to public lands and environmental stewardship.
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.
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.
Colorado ranks first in Western states scorecard on outdoor recreation, responsible drilling, public-lands access
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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').
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.
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.
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.
A political resurgence among lawmakers to transfer federal public lands to individual states is gaining momentum. This revival is reminiscent of the Sagebrush Rebellion and subsequent legislation considered by many western states during the late 1970s and 1980s. The rhetoric of the Sagebrush Rebellion is similar to current initiatives arguing for greater state government control or outright ownership of federal public lands. This movement is concentrated in western states because much of the eastern U.S.
In April 2017, the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) released the third edition of the Outdoor Recreation Economy report. The report is the largest and most comprehensive report of its kind, and the numbers are simply staggering. The national outdoor recreation industry economy generates $887 billion in annual consumer spending, 7.6 million U.S. jobs, $65.3 billion in federal tax revenue, and another $59.2 billion in state and local tax revenue.
For the last 23 years, federal land management agencies, conservationists, volunteers, and outdoor enthusiasts have come together on the last Saturday of September to celebrate National Public Lands Day (NPLD). The annual holiday is characteristically observed with nationwide volunteer trail and restoration workdays, organized recreational opportunities, and free admission into all of the National Parks.
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.
The 2016 field season was the biggest in the organization’s history in terms of staffing and project load. In all, we estimate to have grown by about 120% with the addition of 8 new project sites and the doubling of our seasonal field staff. We led a total of 444 workdays (many happening on the same weekend days) with a combined total of on-the-ground work exceeding 33,000 hours (16+ years worth of work).
While the RMFI staff is out with volunteers working to maintain trails, restore impacted areas, and build buff physiques (in other words doing what we do best), trail-users often stop to chat and see what we’re doing. Here are a few of the questions we are often asked.
1. Q: Why are you closing this trail?! I’ve walked my dog on this trail for years!
Long ago, when Colorado was covered with an inland sea, the parents of mankind prayed to the great spirits to remove the water. The spirits sent “Thirst”, a great Lizard Dragon, who drank all the water. His form remains as Colorado Springs’ own Cheyenne Mountain. Later the Cheyenne and Apaches came to the mountain for teepee poles, and the Utes retreated up the mountain’s ravines with their stolen horses, sometimes setting fires to block their pursuers.
This latest blog post comes to you from a 2016 Earth Corps program participant, Tracy Jacobs, who recently spent 30 days in the backcountry of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, helping to reconstruct the summit trail to Kit Carson Peak and Challenger Point. Her blog is a personal account of her experience. Read on for some inspiration!
RMFI’s current office is located in an historic school building on Colorado Springs' eclectic Westside. The Second Midland School, or the Old Midland School as it’s lovingly referred to, is steeped in rich history that is too good to not share in a blog post.
As our season in the high country kicks into full gear, we thought we'd focus this week's blog on the history and legacy of RMFI's work in the Sangre de Cristos (Spanish for "Blood of Christ'). The Sangres are located in southern Colorado and extend into northern New Mexico; they are the southernmost subrange of the Rocky Mountains. There are 9 peaks over 14,000 feet in the range.
Rogue or “social” trails are unofficial, undesignated, user-created trails. These trails are often formed as shortcuts, or lead to an area not accessed by a designated trail. They form over time by visitors who are often unaware they are violating park policy.
Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region are home to more than 2,000 nonprofit organizations, each working to make our community a better, healthier, and more vibrant place to live. With so many nonprofits, we often get asked how we differ from other like-minded organizations focused on environmental stewardship and conservation. The truth is, while all of us have different missions, values, and objectives, we are all ultimately working toward the same broad goal of protecting our region’s treasured natural landscapes.
My great great great grandfather, Dennis Holmes, had a farm and mill in Holmesville, New York in the mid 19th century. I have his son John’s handwritten account of life on the farm. “We used oxen in most of our farm work. The mowing in early days was done by hand with cythes. I have spread out grass many and many a day after I had turned the cows to pasture.”
In January 2016, RMFI began a new pilot project in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to investigate the role that mature rooted willows can play in helping to restore critical riparian areas within the Waldo Canyon burn scar. In the summer of 2012, the Waldo Canyon Fire burned over 18,000 acres west of Colorado Springs, impacting four major watersheds within the region.
With each passing year here at RMFI, we accomplish another 'banner year' in the scope of our reach in environmental stewardship. Here is a re-cap of just a few of our achievements from the 2015 field season:
Mount Muscoco Trail: RMFI spent more than 2 weeks working with the Friends of Cheyenne Canon to construct the new Mount Muscoco Trail. The re-route of what was a user-created trail is now easier to follow and less damaging to the mixed-conifer landscape. Topping out at 8,020 feet, the summit of Muscoco is the highest point on City of Colorado Springs property.
Thursday, December 17, 2015 began as any other day in the RMFI office. We were all buckling down to finalize and submit the last of our final project reports, and excitedly anticipating the holiday break, time with friends and family, too much food, and some well-deserved rest and relaxation. What began as a normal day became anything but by mid-afternoon when an inconspicuous FedEx package was delivered to our office. Inside the FedEx box was a green and red gift box with a perfectly wrapped bow around it. Inside the gift box was a stack of envelopes.
My name is Katherine Guerrero, acting media intern at RMFI for 2015-2016 and junior at Colorado College. Colorado College functions on the block plan, allocating 3 ½ weeks for one topic, an opportunity for students to fully immerse themselves into respective class topics.
Building the “New” Incline Connector Trail in October 2014 was a great project for many, including volunteers hosted by the City of Colorado Springs, Friends of the Peak, Incline Friends, and RMFI. Over the past year many thousands of Manitou Incline hikers have had their chance to wind their way down the connector and have probably noticed recent trail updates as RMFI volunteers and partners, including Mile High Youth Corps and Incline Friends, completed 4 weeks of work in the vicinity this fall.
This month, on October 8th through 10th, the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) will celebrate its 50th Anniversary with an alumni reunion full of events and merry-making. The celebration will take place in Lander, Wyoming, the school’s home base. In attendance will be Liz Nichol, RMFI’s Office Manager, who completed her first NOLS course as a student in 1967 and went on to work as an instructor with both NOLS and Outward Bound in the 1960s and '70s.