A day in the life of a forest steward | SummitDaily.com

A day in the life of a forest steward

special to the daily
Summit County, CO Colorado

I am a member of Friends of the Dillon Ranger District (FDRD) and I participate as a ranger patrol in FDRD’s Forest Stewards Program.

We are volunteers who hike the local trails providing forest-related information to trail users and collecting trail-related data such as trail conditions, number and type of trail users and invasive plant species.

Recently I decided to entertain my four house guests by taking them to Lower Cataract Lake Trail to see the flowers.

Since they were from the East Coast I selected a shorter hike with a lower elevation gain.

And since I love to multi-task, I combined this “house-guest” hike with one of my four FDRD ranger patrol hikes this summer.

During my day at Cataract, I contacted 207 people, including 17 anglers, four backpackers, five folks in canoes/kayaks and 19 dogs.

Many people asked about the beautiful state flower, the blue columbine, which is so abundant at Cataract.

One family had heard that there was a sighting of the somewhat-rare fairy slipper or calypso orchid. I led them to the other side of the falls and we found four of them! They were thrilled and I was happy to have “made their day.”

Part of the Cataract lake area is in the Eagles Nest Wilderness. In the picture you will notice that I am talking to a hiker with his dog ” I met him along the trail inside the Wilderness boundary.

He had his dog on a leash, complying with Wilderness regulations. I only encountered one dog that was off-leash inside the Wilderness boundary during my visit.

I gently educated him on the principles upon which nature operates and politely asked him to put the dog on a leash ” he happily complied, with this new-found knowledge that his change in behavior was protecting our forest.

As volunteers, our role is to educate forest users; we do not issue citations. I have been doing ranger patrols for two years and have had only pleasant experiences.

The only thing I’ve had to adjust to is when I put on my uniform my friends refer to me as “Ranger” Harriett.

I know I look very serious in this picture; it is because I am collecting data. This data is used by the Forest Service and FDRD to help sustainably manage the trail system, and we identify trail sections that require maintenance, downed trees over the trails that require clearing, and noxious weeds that require pulling or spraying. We record the number of folks on the trails and their mode of recreation.

Our trails in Summit County are heavily used and therefore need funds for maintenance work such as new bridges, water diversion structures and narrowing/revegetating the tread. The data we collect supports this huge need for these requested funds. 

If you are interested in hiking, being outside and meeting new people; then being an FDRD ranger patrol is for you! We really do have fun as we learn about flowers, trees, mushrooms and animals.

You don’t have to be an expert. A little knowledge goes a long way!

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