Summit County partners with National Forest Foundation to help improve local forests
Summit County will be partnering with the National Forest Foundation to help complete projects that benefit the White River National Forest.
At a Summit Board of County Commissioners work session on Tuesday, March 2, representatives of the foundation presented their plans to create roundtable committees in Eagle and Summit counties that will help inform future projects to restore the forest.
The foundation, which is a nonprofit that works with the U.S. Forest Service, has operated the White River National Forest Ski Conservation Fund for about 15 years. The foundation partners with local ski resorts to generate funding for forest projects, most of which is collected through lift ticket, ski pass and lodging sales at the four local ski areas.
In the past, the foundation has been the steward of that fund, passing along grants to nonprofits and other forest health groups to help complete projects.
Now, the foundation is looking to transform that fund to be more community-focused and locally driven, said Marcus Selig, vice president of field programs at the foundation.
The foundation has appointed Jamie Werner as the stewardship coordinator of the fund. Werner said the major goal is to create committees and work with local government to have a more strategic plan for forest projects.
“We are looking to expand our role, beyond facilitation and funds distribution, to include project management, contracting and fundraising as well to help implement these projects,” she said.
At the meeting, the commissioners gave suggestions on which groups should be included in the roundtable discussion. Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence suggested that the nonprofit look to local lodging leaders.
“I really think we’ve got to continue to tap into those lodging partners, as they’re really on the front lines with our visitors,” Lawrence said. “They’re just such a good distribution point for information and how we can get people involved.”
She also suggested that the foundation reach out to nonprofit leaders, such as the Summit Foundation and Friends of the Dillon Ranger District, to be on the committee, as well as county committees like the Forest Health Taskforce.
Commissioner Tamara Pogue suggested that the foundation reach out to the county’s Latino Outdoor Advisory Committee to be a part of the discussions.
Once the roundtable discussions are created, the foundation will recommend projects to help improve the White River forest, Werner said. Those committees will review projects and recommend investments that will come from the ski conservation fund.
Then the foundation will work with the forest to administer funds for implementation of the projects. Finally, the results of the projects will be reported back to community partners.
“We really want to shift this fund to a community driven investment approach,” Werner said. “So we can really be making a larger difference.”
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