Hunter Creek Valley restoration advances to next stage
Experts have spotted clues that wildlife has already benefitted from a prescribed burn undertaken in Hunter Creek Valley this spring and now a coalition of groups is going to make sure the targeted area continues to flourish.
A community weed pull will be held in Hunter Creek Valley Saturday. Volunteers will be teamed with crew leaders to pull plumeless thistle and hound’s tongue to prevent the invasive weeds from spreading into the exposed ground within the 900 acres that were burned. The event is family-friendly, so volunteers are welcome to bring their kids.
Jamie Werner, forest programs director for Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, said she visited the burn area numerous times in recent weeks to track the recovery. Gambel oak and serviceberry brush has re-sprouted extensively, she said.
One of her visits was with White River National Forest biologist Phil Nyland, who spotted telltale signs that deer, elk or both had been browsing on the new growth.
“From a wildlife habitat perspective it’s been fantastic,” Werner said.
The area of the burn encompasses the Hummingbird Trail, a heavily used route from the valley floor to the gateway of Four Corners and Van Horn Park. The wet spring has spurred new growth in the area and reduced the feel of a fresh burn. Werner noted that the smell of the fire is still present in places at times.
The fire didn’t torch all the vegetation within the 900 acres. It created a mosaic pattern where vegetation in some spots was more thoroughly burned then in others.
“The whole goal of the project is to diversify the landscape,” Werner said.
Another goal was to keep the landscape healthy. ACES is teaming with Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers, Wilderness Workshop, the U.S. Forest Service, Pitkin County and the city of Aspen to organize the weed pulling. Volunteers will meet at 8:30 a.m. Saturday just past the national forest boundary on the north side of Hunter Creek Valley, near the senior and handicapped parking lot. It is accessed off Red Mountain Road. There will be a light breakfast, then trail crews will direct volunteers to the work area. Tools will be provided. Volunteers need gloves and appropriate clothing.
The weeds will be pulled from the lands adjacent to the prescribed burn area to prevent them from spreading. The work will be at the toe of the slope.
The volunteers will work until about 3:30 p.m., then get treated to a beer and pizza party.
The U.S. Forest Service, Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers, Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, Wilderness Workshop, Pitkin County and city of Aspen are teaming on the project. The fire and weed pulling is part of the Hunter-Smuggler Cooperative Plan, a 20-year collaborative stewardship plan that outlines improvements to forest health, wildlife habitat, recreation, and education opportunities for 4,861 acres of federal land adjacent to Aspen.
RSVPs are “appreciated” but not required for volunteers. To respond, visit rfov.org, wildernessworkshop.org or aspennature.org.
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