A Day in the Life of a Forest Steward | SummitDaily.com

A Day in the Life of a Forest Steward

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We are members of Friends of the Dillon Ranger District and participate in FDRD’s forest-stewards program. We volunteer as family stewards ” we hike the local trails, providing forest information to trail users and collecting trail data, such as trail conditions and number and type of trail users and presence of invasive plants.

“Take a hike!!” What a terrific new job description for our family! After many years in the workforce, we now have the opportunity to “give back” to our community and have an amazing time exploring Summit County together, as a family.

After nearly two years full time in the community and looking for the right volunteer opportunity, we decided FDRD was an organization that offered it all!

Still in our first year as forest stewards, the experience has provided training, knowledge, new friendships and so much more.

As family stewards, in return for only four days out on the trail together, we have learned about wildflowers, noxious weeds (or “obnoxious weeds,” as Bob likes to say), GPS tools and Leave No Trace principles.

FDRD updated our first-aid training and CPR certification (a great resource for anyone whether you are out on the trail or not). And our new workplace wardrobe has us sporting hiking boots and Forest Service green instead of the traditional 9-to-5 garb.

Best of all, each day on the trail allows us the opportunity to explore new trails, beautiful vistas and the healthy lifestyle we both desired!

A typical day on the trail has yet to become “typical!” Equipped with our new training and backpacks that include the “10 Essentials,” we head out for a day of exploration, teaching and learning.

Although we have both hiked, camped and backpacked for years, the forest-stewards program has added an exciting new dimension to our outdoor experience.

The ability to set your own schedule is appealing both in terms of location and day. We also set out with no particular distance or end destination in mind, allowing ourselves to not be rushed.

Instead, we are excited to see who we meet on the trail, what flora or fauna we observe, and what new forest principles we can take from the classroom to the woods.

Take, for example, dogs and leashes. We have always had a furry companion with us on the trail but have not always fully appreciated the rationale and reasoning for dog regulations posted at each trailhead.

The Forest Service recognizes the importance of the dog culture for many of us on the trail and the need for balancing Fido’s experience with respect for wildlife, personal safety and those hikers who may not be part of the Summit County dog culture phenomenon.

Common sense prevails first and foremost. Wilderness areas are designated for the privilege of enjoying peace, solitude and a true wildlife experience ” thus, in the wilderness areas, dogs are required to be on a leash.

Dogs off-leash in these areas present several concerns, including stressing fragile wildlife, disrupting the peace and quiet of others, as well as posing personal-safety concerns (such as when Fido races back to his owner with an agitated moose hot on Fido’s trail).

Similarly, a dog off-leash on a trail outside the wilderness area (which is OK) but not in voice command (which is NOT OK) can be an upsetting or even frightening experience for a little one (and his parents).

Our heavily traveled trails will be protected only through our prudent use of common sense and courtesy.

As family forest stewards, our day is filled with greeting, teaching and learning. Our time together in this environment as a couple has enriched the experience tenfold.

At day’s end, we have always learned something new, met terrific people, and communed about a cause for which we are both passionate ” the out-of-doors, especially our treasured local National Forest lands!

We are already planning for next year’s sign-up with FDRD and will encourage every one of you that we meet on the trail to take advantage of this amazing opportunity!

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