Forest Service outlines potential projects near Aspen |

Forest Service outlines potential projects near Aspen

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart Aspen Times file

ASPEN – The U.S. Forest Service is seeking community support for a host of projects in the White River National Forest surrounding Aspen and the upper Roaring Fork Valley as part of a newly collaborative effort. Improvements to habitat and riparian areas, and for recreation, are the goal.

Scott Fitzwilliams, forest supervisor, and Scott Snelson, newly appointed ranger in the Aspen-Sopris District, outlined on Wednesday their desire to map out a strategy to tackle a list of projects, including some that could commence as soon as this summer. Others would require multiple years of labor and significant funding. Community buy-in and collaboration is considered key to securing federal funding for the efforts, the Forest Service officials explained.

Representatives from roughly a dozen mostly conservation-oriented groups gathered at The Aspen Institute to offer their input on the proposed projects. It was the second meeting for the group, after an initial session in March. Attendees ranged from officials with government open space and trails programs to representatives of such organizations as the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association, Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers, Wilderness Workshop, the Independence Pass Foundation and the Aspen Skiing Co.

The plan that evolves will guide the Forest Service in how it allocates its resources locally, Fitzwilliams said, but it’s not just about lining up projects for funding.

“It’s what we want to do with our landscape,” he said.

The projects are mostly within three watersheds – the upper Roaring Fork, from the top of Independence Pass to Aspen; the Castle Creek Valley south of Aspen; and the upper Fryingpan, above Ruedi Reservoir, east of Basalt. A few proposed projects don’t stay within those boundaries, but they were “too good to pass up,” Snelson told the group.

“We wanted to focus on the watersheds where we thought we could bring improvements most rapidly and where we had projects already in the queue,” he said.

All of the projects fit within the parameters of the existing management plan for the White River, and some can be done without time-consuming environmental review, Fitzwilliams said.

The proposals range from specific trail and campground work to fence removal, mining site restoration and efforts of much broader scope, such as habitat improvement through prescribed burns and mechanical removal of vegetation in various locales within the forest. Volunteer labor is possible for some of the work.

Fitzwilliams said he wants to have a project timeline mapped out by the end of the summer, if not sooner.

Eventually, he hopes to see every district within the White River National Forest undertake a similar process. The Vail area is likely to be next, as there is already interest there in developing what Fitzwilliams calls “community-based restoration strategies.”

The list reviewed Wednesday included projects with estimated price tags in the thousands to, potentially, millions of dollars.

• Travel management: Trails and roads in all three watersheds will need signs, maintenance or be returned to a natural state, depending on pending Travel Management Plan decision. $50,000

• Campsite work: dispersed campsites to be inventoried and/or removed in upper Fryingpan, Castle Creek and upper Roaring Fork watersheds, plus some in Snowmass Creek and Coal Creek areas. $200 per day

• Crooked Creek wetland work: wetland restoration in upper Fryingpan, east of Lime Park. $15,100

• Tree Farm restoration: includes riparian and trail work near El Jebel. $8,000

• Roaring Fork River habitat improvement: improving fish habitat on river’s upper reaches, on Independence Pass. $9,500

• Road closures: new measures to close decommissioned logging roads in upper Roaring Fork and Fryingpan valleys. $2,500 per day for constructing 2-3 barricades to $30,000 per mile to totally obliterate roads.

• Habitat improvement: revitalizing elk and deer habitat though burning and mechanical clearing. $3 million for entire project area

• Fence removal: take down old wire fencing from meadows in Hunter Creek and Castle Creek valleys. $7,500 to $12,500

• Prescribed burns: on Basalt Mountain and Potato Bill Creek area on north slope of Mount Sopris, to reduce fuels and improve habitat. $130,100

• Abandoned mine restoration: Ruby Mine tailings work in Lincoln Creek drainage, $115,000; and Hope Mine in Castle Creek drainage, $125,000

• Ashcroft Historic Townsite: trail and sign restoration. Up to $21,000

• Ashcroft fence project: Remove barbed wire fence, build wooden fence between townsite and Pine Creek Cookhouse. $10,000

• Cathedral Lake trailhead improvement: improve road to trailhead. $80,000-$150,000

• Congo Trail work: reconstruction and restoration on overgrown hiking/biking trail accessing Aspen Highlands ski area. $10,000

• Difficult Campground: multiphase improvements to campground and roads. $1 million to $3 million

• Independence National Historic Townsite: trails and signage project. $15,000 to start

• Little Mattie Camground: road restoration. $40,000-$60,000

• Campsite restoration: at Conundrum Creek, Cathedral Lake and American Lake in Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area. Close and restore backcountry campsites. $8,500

• Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness noxious week inventory and treatment: multiyear project. $12,000 for one year of inventory and planning; $4,000 per year for treatment in years 2 through 5.

• Lost Man Trail maintenance: repair trail near top of Independence Pass, between Linkins Lake trail and Independence Lake. $7,500

• Noxious weed inventory and treatment: eradicate noxious weeds on 460 acres in Fryingpan, upper Roaring Fork, Castle Creek and Hunter Creek valleys. $73,500 in first year.

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