At Summit County’s Forest Health Task Force meeting, volunteers prepare for spring |

At Summit County’s Forest Health Task Force meeting, volunteers prepare for spring

The Gore Range Trail in the Eagles Nest Wilderness near Silverthorne. Trails like this one are among the many maintained and protected by local volunteer groups.
Hugh Carey /

The Mt. Royal Room at the County Commons was packed for the bimonthly Forest Health Task Force meeting on Wednesday, where volunteers dedicated to sustaining and monitoring the health of Summit County offered reports on the state of forest conservation and were offered a presentation about local geology titled “Why don’t we look like Kansas?” by local geologist Joe Newhart.

Summit County Community Development director Jim Curnutte kicked the meeting off with an update about the county’s recent efforts to mitigate wildfires this summer. Thus far, the county and its towns had pooled resources together to raise $130,000 toward a wildfire education campaign, a seasonal patrol of four Forest Service workers, as well as to pay overtime for the Summit County Sheriff’s Office to do its own wildfire mitigation efforts within county boundaries.

Also vital to wildfire mitigation efforts, Curnutte mentioned the return of the county’s wood chipping operation, which is in its fifth year. Curnutte said that the program’s popularity has increased every year, and expects this year to be no exception when the program starts back up in June.

“We want to make sure people are aware of the program,” Curnutte said. “Residents can bring material down to the road and we’ll chip it and haul it away for free. It also really helps people know the importance of creating a defensible space at home.”

Howard Hallman, president of the task force, noted that wildfire mitigation efforts are especially critical this season because of the moisture-poor winter.

“This is the third driest winter recorded,” Hallman said. “And that will have a potential big impact on wildfires everywhere, particularly in our county. If we can keep people from inadvertently starting fires because they don’t know the rules, that’s the reason for the seasonal workers to go out and engage people in the forest and educate them about best practices.”


Doozie Martin of the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District noted that the Forest Service’s seasonal workers will also be given law enforcement training, giving them the authority to issue citations for forest safety violations.

Along with specialized training, the FDRD is kicking off this season’s programming on Wednesday, April 25, with a presentation titled “Skiing Off to War” by Col. Tim Duhs USMC (retired) about the history of the 10th Mountain Division and Camp Hale, where the 10th was originally trained for high-altitude and mountainous warfare.

Following that up, on May 15, FDRD will host “An Evening with the Experts – A Magnified Look at Outdoor Recreation in Colorado,” featuring four outdoor recreation experts who will give presentations about the many opportunities available in Colorado.


Kent Abernathy of the Sierra Club Headwaters Group informed the task force about a presentation the organization was sponsoring called “Buzz on Bees,” taking place on June 10 at CMC Breckenridge. Abernathy said that the presentation would be about honeybees and their benefits to the environment, with a particular focus on how to help their work as nature’s gardeners.

“We’ll talk about what to do when you’re starting to make planting decisions,” Abernathy said. “What products to use on your garden, what not to use, as well as pollinator friendly plants and flowers.”

The focus of the task force meeting then shifted to a presentation by local geologist and FDRD volunteer Newhart about Summit County’s interesting geological history. Newhart charted the formation of the Rocky Mountains, which were born with a shallow tectonic subduction which caused a lot of upheaval at the surface over tens of millions of years. During that time, the the massive geologic and volcanic activity caused injections of magma into areas like Breckenridge and Montezuma, forming the deposits of gold and silver that had miners scrambling to Summit County and Colorado in the 19th century. The same random geological processes injected molybdenum into the area now known as Climax Mine. The Ice Age glaciers then created the valleys and canyons most Summit residents live in, cutting through the rock and revealing millions of years of geological history across craggy formations and landscapes, such as those visible at Green Mountain Reservoir. The result is the rugged Rocky Mountains and green forested valleys that make Summit County look very different from Kansas or any lowland plains.

Newhart said he offered much of this information through geology tours he conducts over the summer with FDRD. The tours are open to public and makes five stops at points of interest throughout the central portion of the county, with extensive discussion of the area’s geological history. Geology tours will take place on June 18, July 23 and Aug. 10, with a FDRD members-only tour on Aug. 17. Sign up for the tours will be available at along with information on upcoming events.

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