Meet Your Forest: You can be a forest steward with FDRD
Editor’s note: This is the second part of a two-part series about the history, mission and programs of Friends of the Dillon Ranger District. To read the first part, search “Meet Your Forest” at http://www.summitdaily.com.
The Friends of the Dillon Ranger District organization currently supports a number of projects and programs that enhance user experiences and benefit the ecosystem.
Projects decrease erosion from trails into nearby waterways, enhance wildlife habitat and reducing destruction of plant life, restore disturbed areas and removing nonnative and invasive plant species, reduce the fire hazard in the wild land-urban interface and maintain a safe, sustainable and enjoyable trail system.
FDRD projects have direct benefit for its volunteers by enabling volunteers to better understand the role they can play in caring for public lands, providing opportunities for social interaction and physical activity and providing professional development opportunities for individuals, particularly youth. FDRD volunteers become trained project leaders, ensuring that our programs continue to offer lasting, community-based solutions to issues facing our local forests.
Here are a few FDRD-sponsored programs in Summit County:
• The Volunteer Ranger Patroller Program provides valuable information on trail conditions throughout the district. Patrollers help monitor conditions of completed trail projects and note areas in need of maintenance or restoration.
• The Service Project Program allows community members and visitors to participate in one-day volunteer opportunities focused on community-based forestry efforts. Additionally, this program involves coordinating “on-demand” projects for local and visiting groups.
• The Forest Stewards Program enables community members to participate in ongoing volunteer programs primarily centered on pressing maintenance needs on system trails. Projects are accomplished by developing leadership capacity and technical competency within volunteer groups, which enables FDRD to maximize the efforts of its relatively small staff. This program includes Trail Crew Leaders and Adopt-A-Trail Groups, as well as ongoing monitoring of trail conditions, invasive weed populations and usage trends conducted by our volunteer Ranger Patrol program.
• The Forest Monitoring Program engages forest health volunteers who are trained as citizen scientists, collecting data that gives us insight into how our forest regenerates. These volunteers monitor forest plots about three times throughout the summer, collecting data about the percent of vegetation cover, number of trees and other information regarding forest characteristics. By monitoring plots in areas that have been thinned or cut, FDRD can gather information about how the forest regenerates over time and also use this as a reference with areas that have not been treated.
• The Ski With A Ranger Program allows community members to be involved in an ongoing winter program that educates ski-area guests about the cultural and natural history of Summit County.
The Youth Stewards Program engages youth in kindergarten through 12th grade in Summit County with service-learning opportunities on our local national forest lands centered on pressing maintenance needs on trails. It also encompasses annual forest restoration projects.
To help educate and increase environmental awareness and action, FDRD provides a continuum of experiences, ranging from first-time experiences with nature to working with Eagle Scouts in need of a service project they can help coordinate. For younger children, our primary emphasis is providing opportunities to learn more about our mountain ecosystem through activities, games, visual aids and interpretive hikes.
Service experiences are developed with different age ranges in mind, since our work often involves the use of tools and can be labor intensive, so youth might spend an hour helping plant trees or several hours maintaining a trail, depending on the audience. For teenagers, we also provide opportunities to help plan and implement projects and take on a leadership role.
Our program not only benefits Summit County youth ages 6 to 18, but their families, our community as a whole and the people who visit our national forest lands every year.
Many of our youth projects are coordinated in partnership with other local nonprofits and youth groups. These partnerships have enabled FDRD to offer stewardship opportunities for youth that might not otherwise have access to our programs or awareness of what our projects might offer. In turn, our partner organizations benefit from access to youth-oriented, service-learning projects that would be difficult for them to coordinate directly with the Forest Service.
Successful partnerships with individuals and organizations within Summit County are particularly critical for FDRD’s mission. Local, state, corporate and national partners, and hundreds of individual volunteers, participate with FDRD. Our volunteers and partners are involved in every step of our projects throughout the year. This enables the Forest Service to more effectively manage a resource that is in high demand with a highly cost-effective solution.
FDRD is a major Summit County organization that empowers the community to improve forest health. The majority of our volunteers are full- or part-time residents of Summit County, and our work provides additional benefits to our volunteers by fostering emotional wellbeing, encouraging exercise and creating a sense of community. We also provide an avenue for local businesses, clubs and organizations to take an active role in preserving what makes Summit County such a unique place for residents and visitors.
Jasmine Hupcey is the office and volunteer manager for Friends of the Dillon Ranger District. She can be reached at email@example.com. For more information on the organization and volunteer opportunities, visit http://www.fdrd.org.
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