Partners, volunteers integral to addressing maintenance backlog

GOLDEN, Colo., March 20, 2017 – The Rocky Mountain Region is inviting the public to help identify trails that will be part of a U.S. Forest Service effort with partners and volunteers to increase the pace of trail maintenance.
 
Nationwide, the Forest Service will select nine to 15 priority areas among its nine regions where a backlog in trail maintenance contributes to reduced access, potential harm to natural resources or trail users and/or has the potential for increased future deferred maintenance costs.
 
The Rocky Mountain Region manages more than 19,500 miles of trails enjoyed by millions of users each year.  In the Rocky Mountain Region, nearly 13,000 volunteers and partner groups contributed roughly 385,000 hours in maintenance and repair National Forest System trails last year. 
 
“Connecting and working with forest visitors, volunteers and partners is an integral part of forest and grassland stewardship,” said Rocky Mountain Regional Forester Brian Ferebee. “Public feedback will determine where volunteers, partners and other innovative programs could be used to accomplish focused trail work, increase trail access, and provide a safer and enjoyable trails experience.”
 
The Rocky Mountain Region has until April 15 to submit at least three regional proposals to National Headquarters. Those proposals will be weighed against proposal submitted by other Forest Service regions.
 
The trail maintenance effort is outlined in the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act of 2016 and aims to increase trail maintenance by volunteers and partners by 100% by the end of 2021.
 
The selected sites will be part of the initial focus that will include a mosaic of areas with known trail maintenance needs that include areas near urban and remote areas, such as wilderness, are of varying sizes and trail lengths, are motorized and non-motorized, and those that incorporate a varied combination of partner and volunteer approaches and solutions.
 
The Forest Service manages more than 158,000 miles of trail – the largest trail system in the nation – providing motorized and non-motorized trail access across 154 national forests and grasslands. These Forest Service trails are well-loved and highly used with more than 84 million trail visits annually, helping to support mostly rural economies.
 
The Forest Service receives widespread support from tens of thousands of volunteers and partners each year who, in 2015, contributed nearly 1.4 million hours – a value of about $31.6 million – in maintenance and repair of nearly 30,000 miles of trails.
 
However, limited funding compounded by the rising cost of wildfire operations, has resulted in less than 25 percent of Forest Service trails meeting all of the agency’s standards for safety, quality recreation and economic and environmental sustainability. The remaining trails meet standard to varying degrees.
 
To provide ideas and suggestions on potential priority areas and approaches for incorporating increased trail maintenance assistance from partners and volunteers, please visit http://tinyurl.com/mjhw3c6, or contact your local Forest Service office, or Regional Trail Program Manager Scott Haas by April 7, 2017. 
 
The mission of the U.S. Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency also has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.
 
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Monte Vista, Colo., March 13, 2017  - The San Luis Valley Interagency Fire Management Unit plans to conduct several prescribed burns this spring on the Rio Grande National Forest's Conejos Peak and Divide Ranger Districts. These beneficial burns include:

Alamaditas: This 500 acre burn area is located on the Conejos Peak Ranger District 15 miles southwest of La Jara and will take several days to complete. The purpose of the burn is to improve deer and elk winter range and reduce natural fuels buildup.

Conejos Canyon Unit 1: This 200 acre burn area is located on the Conejos Peak Ranger District one mile north of the Fox Creek subdivision. The prescribed burn is designed to reduce fuels buildup adjacent to the subdivision.

Bighorn/Stateline Units 5 & 6: These two units, totaling 1,225 acres, are located on the Conejos Peak Ranger District four miles southwest of Mogote and will take several days to complete. The purpose of the burn is to improve elk and deer winter range and reduce woody debris left from forest thinning projects.

English Valley: This 900 acre prescribed burn will take place on the Divide Ranger District approximately 5 miles north of Del Norte. The purpose of this burn is to rejuvenate grass and shrub cover to improve pronghorn habitat.

Natural features and roads will help manage the burns.

Residents and visitors will likely see smoke coming from these areas for several hours each day during burn operations. Burn area maps will be posted on the roads leading into the project areas and local residents will be contacted prior to initiation of the prescribed burns. 

Prescribed fire smoke may affect your health. For more information see https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/wood-smoke-and-health.

For more information, contact the Conejos Peak District Ranger Office at: 719-274-8971, or the Divide District Ranger Office at: 719-657-3321.

Centennial, Colo. – March 13, 2017 — Each year the Colorado Emergency Management Association (CEMA) and Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM) host a large conference for Colorado emergency managers and responders. This successful event provides a host of wonderful speakers, educational break-out sessions and networking opportunities.  More than 400 people attended the 2017 Annual Colorado Emergency Management Conference.  

The highlight of the conference is the annual awards ceremony recognizing the efforts of emergency managers and first responders from across the state.  The awards include: Emergency Manager of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Mike Gelski Award for Outstanding Service and a Public/Private Partnership Award. The San Luis Valley (SLV) Region's efforts were well represented with four of the statewide awards.

Richard Wetzler from Costilla County received both the Volunteer of the Year Award and Mike Gelski Award for Outstanding Service.  Wetzler is an active member of the Alpine First Response Team at Forbes Trinchera.  He is a committed member of the SLV Citizen Corps almost since inception.  Wetzler is a gentle, kind and humble gentlemen who represents a wonderful volunteer spirit.  

Terry Wetherill received the Emergency Manager of the Year Award.  Wetherill is the Mineral County Emergency Manager at the Mineral County Sheriff's Office.  Wetherill is part of the Search and Rescue Team, Mineral County Fire Department and Mineral County EMS.  He is a retired Veteran after 29 years of Service in the Armed Forces.  Wetherill works with the Town of Creede and Mineral County to improve emergency preparedness and response.  

Francis Song received the 2016 Rookie of the Year Award.  Song is the Alamosa County Emergency Manager and also works as a Victims Advocate for the Alamosa County Sheriff's Office.  Song is also a Veteran who served as an Officer in the United States Air Force.  He has set the bar very high for Emergency Management taking on many projects and initiatives in his short time with Alamosa County.  Song began his career with Alamosa County in August of 2015 and is constantly absorbed in various activities.  

DHSEM congratulations each of the award recipients and thanks them for representing this special region.

CREEDE, Colo., March 8, 2017 – Divide District Ranger Martha Williamson signed the decision notice to approve the North Pool Spruce Beetle Salvage Project. The project will salvage dead and dying spruce trees on approximately 1000 acres north of Hanson's Mill located 11 miles east of Creede.

An estimated six to nine million board feet of timber will be harvested from the North Pool area. Approximately, fourteen miles of public forest roads will be maintained during the project and up to nine miles of temporary roads will be re-opened or constructed.

 The temporary roads will be closed, stabilized and seeded with a native grass mix following the harvest.

 Spruce beetles have infested more than 600,000 acres of spruce-fir forest on the Rio Grande National Forest. The Forest salvages dead and dying spruce trees for human benefit in areas designated for timber management as long as the trees are useable for commercial purposes. Funds generated by the timber sales help cover the costs for replanting seedlings in harvested areas with inadequate regeneration to help provide a "jump-start" for the next forest.

For more information concerning the North Pool Spruce Beetle Salvage Project, visit the project webpage at http://www.fs.usda.gov/projects/riogrande/landmanagement/projects or call the Divide Ranger District office at 719-657-3321.

CREEDE, Colo., March 7, 2017 – The Rio Grande National Forest's Divide Ranger District is seeking comment on  a new proposed action for the environmental analysis of the Snow Mesa and Wishbone sheep allotments. The Forest is proposing to create a new domestic sheep grazing allotment in Mineral County Colorado, called Wishbone, and vacate the Snow Mesa allotments.

An environmental assessment for comment was released August 11, 2015 for the Snow Mesa Sheep Allotments, located on the Divide Ranger District in Mineral and Hinsdale Counties. Due to overlap between domestic and bighorn sheep on the allotments, the potential risk of contact between species was high, as was the potential for disease transmission. Review of comments prompted further analysis and a new proposed action. 

 The Wishbone allotment is composed of seven pastures near Highway 149 from Coller State Wildlife Area to 6 Mile Flats; in the South River area from Marshal Park Campground to Ivy Creek Campground; and the Shallow Creek and Crystal Lake areas. The allotment would provide for the same number of livestock and grazing season length as currently permitted. This new proposed action has been developed to lower risk of contact between domestic and bighorn sheep while continuing to provide the opportunity for domestic sheep grazing. 

  Forage on public lands contributes to the economic viability of individual ranching operations. Livestock-based agriculture is historically and culturally important in the San Luis Valley. Bighorn sheep also provide social and economic value to local communities.

 Written comments are most useful if received within 30 days of the publication of the legal notice in the Valley Courier (expected on March 8) and may be mailed to Divide Ranger District, 13308 West Highway 160, Del Norte, CO  81132.  Comments may also be submitted electronically to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 For more information, visit the Snow Mesa Allotments Analysis webpage at http://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=42886  or contact the Divide Ranger District at 719-657-3321.

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