The four-person Forest Service seasonal patrol wrapped up its first season keeping the wilderness wild | SummitDaily.com

The four-person Forest Service seasonal patrol wrapped up its first season keeping the wilderness wild

The U.S.F.S. patrol crew working in Dillon Ranger District this summer. Left to right: Brett Karnitz, Trent Kenreigh, Katie Caulfield and Ashli Gonzales-Griffin.

Thanks to the hard work of four young members of the U.S. Forest Service this summer, the Dillon Ranger District is cleaner and quite a bit safer. The dispersed recreation and campfire patrol crew, paid in part with county funds through a unique partnership with the USFS, made thousands of contacts with campers this summer, educating people about rules for camping and safety while also putting out campfires and breaking down illegal campsites. The crew also spent the summer patroling popular dispersed camp areas to check for illegal campfires.

The USFS gave a final report of the group's activities to the board of county commissioners on Tuesday after the patrol wrapped up activities last month. District ranger Bill Jackson said the crew — consisting of patrollers Katie Caulfield, Ashli Gonzales-Griffin, Brett Karnitz and Trent Kenreigh — managed to get a lot done this summer, and lauded the partnership that paid for it.

"This was a collaborative effort between many different entities and we appreciate them putting all that together," Jackson told the commissioners. "Everyone recognized that there is a big need for a crew like this. In the past we had to piecemeal it together, but having a dedicated crew just for campfires and campsites is certainly a big help."

The county, towns and fire districts provided $86,000 for the crew, while the Forest Service provided $53,500 in in-kind funding.

Among the duties for the squad were making contact with members of the public in the frontcountry, patrolling and preventing forest fires by extinguishing active campfires or removing illegal campfire rings, enforcing bans on residential camping and squatting on forest land, dispersed camping management in non-developed areas, making an inventory of dispersed camping sites, trash clean-up and general wildland fire duties.

Forest Service wilderness and trails manager Cindy Ebbert gave a rundown of the stats the crew piled up in their two-person patrols: The crew spotted and broke down 14 abandoned camps, built and installed 138 buck rail fences to block access to areas off-limits to camping, installed 269 signs, dismantled 91 illegal campfire rings, extinguished 10 abandoned campfires and seven unattended campfires, closed or rehabbed 84 camp sites, cleared 15 squatter camps and cleaned up 157 bags of trash.

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As far as interactions with the public, the team made contact with the public 3,105 times, including 97 squatters, while removing nine structures, issuing 30 warnings and 10 citations.

The data the four compiled will also be very useful to the forest service by, for example, using tablets to plot the locations of dispersed camping sites. That in turn gives the forest service a better idea of where to patrol as well as where to consider excluding popular, safe sites from camping bans.

"I think this experiment went very well, and I think it's what is needed moving forward," Jackson said.

The forest service provided the county with an estimated budget for another crew next year. The county will review the budget request and decide on whether the program should continue next summer.

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