The Summit Fund creates donation options for visitors to help national forest projects
With increased visitor use, declining forest health and tighter federal budgets, the National Forest Foundation has created the Summit Fund, a program to help support projects that enhance wildlife habitat, improve streams, restore native plants and repair trails, all in the Dillon Ranger District.
Marcus Selig, the National Forest Foundation’s Colorado program director, said the Foundation was set up by Congress in the early 1990s to do work just like this.
“Our sole mission is to help build partnerships to enhance national forest system lands,” he said.
The Summit Fund works by asking local businesses to help collect small, voluntary donations from visitors to support these projects. Visitors could contribute $1 per night at participating hotels and resorts, for example, or donate $1 per meal at local restaurants.
For the first year at least, Selig said, the fund will work with local lodges, hotels and resorts that want to participate, offering a $1 per night donation option on a guest’s bill at check-in. In the future, he said, once the fund is more established, they will expand and accept other donations, allowing anyone to contribute.
“We are collecting donations to put back on the land,” he said. “The need for it is pretty clear for most residents, there’s this incredible resource, a big reason Summit County gets millions of visitors every year.”
One of the most popular National Forest Fund programs currently is the Ski Conservation Fund, which works much in the same way. Copper Mountain Ski Resort has already invested nearly $250,000 in customer donations. The Summit Chamber has endorsed the new Summit Fund program.
Funds collected in Summit County would be distributed to numerous nonprofit conservation stewardship groups, such as Friends of the Dillon Ranger District, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, Wildlands Restoration Volunteers, Colorado Mountain Club and more. The groups will use the funds to accomplish measurable, on-the-ground results.
“If we waited for the federal budgets to do things like clean up the water shed, it wouldn’t happen, at least not for a long time,” Selig said. “This way visitors and businesses can help out, with things like maintaining trails and forest restoration.”
This year, a priority for the fund is the Upper Swan River Watershed Landscape Restoration project, Selig said. The project will address water-quality issues, reestablishment of native cutthroat trout populations, improvement of trail systems, increasing recreation opportunities and creating a more resilient forest.
“Summit County is a place where this stands the best place of success,” Selig said. “The community is reliant on the national forest, and we are hopeful it will get a lot of participation.”
For more information on the Summit Fund, contact Marcus Selig at (720) 437-0290 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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