Funding for Restroom Facility at Rio Grande Campground

RWEACT has received a $16,000 grant (we will match with $9,500 in Mineral County and Running Rivers and Trout Unlimited funds) .... for a restroom facility at Rio Grande Campground (this is one of three projects we requested funds for -- we have tentative approval under Colorado's Water Plan grant for the other two).

While we had requested funds for a two-seater facility, we are very excited to be able to install a one-seater.  This popular site for fisherman has had no restroom facilities for several seasons. 

Yay!! These funds are thanks to the San Luis Valley Conservation Connection Initiative which implements awesome projects for our region.

Thank you to Hinsdale County, our Chamber of Commerce, and our regional partnership for working towards improved tourism along the Silver Thread.

RGNF puts dead trees to use as spruce beetle activity declines locally

MONTE VISTA, Colo. – Spruce beetle activity continues to decline on the Rio Grande National Forest according to 2017 aerial survey data. The tiny bark beetles spread into 7,000 acres of uninfested forest last year, as compared to infesting 22,000 acres in 2016. They were still active on 47,000 acres, down from 93,000 acres the previous year. A total of 617,000 acres of high and mid elevation forests have been infested by spruce beetles since 2002.

Spruce beetles mostly infest Engelmann spruce in Colorado, but will also attack some blue spruce. The beetles are native to North America and have been killing most of the Engelmann spruce trees in infested areas that are larger than five inches in diameter.            

“There aren’t many more areas for the beetles to spread into,” said Rio Grande National Forest Vegetation Program Manger Kirby Self. “While there was nothing we could do to stop this epidemic, we have been able to increase the amount of dead trees salvaged from the Forest while the timber still has commercial value.”

The amount of timber harvested per year from the Rio Grande National Forest has tripled since 2002.  Twenty-four of the 25 timber sales currently under contract are salvaging beetle-killed trees. All of the timber sales are located in areas that allow for commercial timber harvest in the 1996 forest plan.

“Only about nine percent of the beetle-killed spruce on the Forest is accessible to salvage,” continued Self. “We primarily use existing roads with some construction of temporary roads that are closed and rehabilitated following harvest.”

Beetle-killed spruce trees generally lose their value for use as sawtimber after about 10 years due to rot or deep cracks that form in the trunk as they dry out. Those trees that don’t rot can still be used for house logs, firewood and biomass. Using trees for biomass generally involves turning the dead wood into pellets to produce heat in pellet stoves or shredding it for use in landscaping or livestock bedding.

The Rio Grande National Forest is currently exploring the potential for using beetle-killed trees for biomass. A local contractor recently purchased a timber sale in which small diameter trees and parts of trees will be used for alternative market opportunities such as livestock bedding. The project will help determine the economic feasibility of using the beetle-killed trees for biomass products.

Following salvage operations, foresters conduct surveys to determine if there is adequate natural regeneration to grow the next forest. Engelmann spruce seedlings are then planted in areas with poor natural regeneration. The seedlings come from nurseries in Nebraska and Idaho where the tiny spruce trees are grown using seeds collected from trees on the Rio Grande National Forest from as long ago as the 1970s. Using locally collected seeds to grow seedlings ensures they are genetically adapted to local conditions.

“One of the original purposes for the establishment of national forests was to provide a sustainable flow of timber for wood products,” said Self. “Whereas the spruce beetle epidemic will cause us to have to reduce our timber output in about 10 years, we are currently setting ourselves up to have a healthy, productive forest in the future.”


USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. 

Wishbone domestic sheep allotments approved for RGNF

CREEDE, Colo., March 26, 2018 – Divide District Ranger Martha Williamson recently signed a decision notice approving the creation of the Wishbone domestic sheep allotment and vacating the existing Snow Mesa allotments. The decision was informed by the Snow Mesa – Wishbone Sheep and Goat Allotments Environmental Assessment. 

“My decision to approve the creation of the Wishbone domestic sheep allotments will reduce the risk of disease transmission between domestic and bighorn sheep while continuing the multiple use mission of the Rio Grande National Forest,” said Williamson.

The Snow Mesa domestic sheep allotments are 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. Moving the domestic sheep to the Wishbone allotment will decrease the chance of interaction between domestic and bighorn sheep while continuing to provide the opportunity for domestic sheep grazing.

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 provides for the same number of livestock and grazing season length as currently permitted.

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 are native to Colorado and are on the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Region sensitive species list.

For more information, visit the Snow Mesa Allotments Analysis webpage at  or contact the Divide Ranger District at 719-657-3321. 


USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. 

Two prescribed burns planned on the RGNF

MONTE VISTA, Colo., March 16, 2018 – The San Luis Valley Interagency Fire Management Unit plans to conduct two prescribed burns this spring on the Rio Grande National Forest.

The first prescribed burn is scheduled to take place in March in English Valley on the Divide Ranger District five miles north of Del Norte. The purpose of this 2,000 acre treatment is to rejuvenate grass and shrub cover to improve pronghorn habitat.

The second prescribed burn is planned for April in the Bighorn-Stateline area on the Conejos Peak Ranger District seven miles southwest of Mogote. The purpose of this 1000 acre burn is to remove woody debris from thinning operations in ponderosa pine forest and improve forage for deer and elk.

Residents and visitors will likely see smoke coming from these area 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

For more information concerning the planned prescribed burns, contact the Rio Grande National Forest Supervisor’s Office at 719-852-5941.


USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. 

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