Conservancy there to help | AspenTimes.com

Conservancy there to help

Dear Editor:

The Aspen Times story by Scott Condon on Friday, Oct. 2, (“Forest Service hit hard by chronic staff turnover”) reported on the difficulties faced by the U.S. Forest Service due to staff turnover, staff vacancies and a shortage of affordable housing for rangers throughout the White River National Forest and especially here in the Roaring Fork Valley. And cutbacks in funding for the Forest Service over a sustained period have left it with little more than a skeleton professional staff reinforced by seasonal help when funds can be found.

There is help for this beleaguered agency, however, because of the existence of the Forest Conservancy, a nonprofit partner of the Forest Service in the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District. The Conservancy recruits, trains, mentors and equips local residents to serve as volunteer wilderness rangers, who patrol forest trails, and forest ambassadors, who greet and educate visitors at the Maroon Bells Recreation Area.

Reports by these volunteers are supplied within 48 hours to the Forest Service, giving the agency up-to-date information on trail conditions, forest usage and issues of concern. There is stability in this corps because it consists of people who already live in this valley and who choose to serve the White River National Forest because of their love of the land and their commitment to preserve it. The Conservancy currently fields 108 volunteers. During this era of professional staff shortages, they are the face of the Forest Service, its eyes and its ears, and its boots on the ground.

To learn more about the Forest Conservancy and its mission, go to http://www.forestconservancy.com or contact Marcia Johnson, executive director, at 970-963-8071.

Ruth Frey

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