Wilderness rangers are Aspen’s eco-ambassadors
According to a report by the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District, wilderness rangers in 2015 performed the following duties:
•Hauled out 515 pounds of garbage, including 231 from Conundrum
•Dismantled 258 illegal fire rings
•Logged 325 downed trees
•Performed 351 ‘sanitation burials’
Aspen has a lot of individuals and organizations dedicated to the benefit of wildlife and wildlands, but the U.S. Forest Service’s wilderness rangers are truly on the front lines.
The team’s primary duty is to patrol the trails within the 283 square miles of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, the busiest of the wilderness areas surrounding Aspen. They also dabble in the Hunter-Fryingpan, Collegiate Peaks, Holy Cross and Raggeds wilderness areas, parts of which are in the Aspen-Snowmass Ranger District.
To do all that, the district has a team of two paid, seasonal wilderness rangers, four interns and a supervisor.
Eric Tierney is one of the paid, seasonal wilderness rangers. He worked as an intern two summers ago, splitting duties in the wilderness program and staffing at Maroon Bells. He was hired as a seasonal wilderness ranger last summer and returned this summer after graduating from Colorado State University with a degree in communications.
The job starts in mid-May and goes into late September or early October. Tierney typically is teamed with an intern and heads out for intense backpacking trips that start on Fridays and end on Mondays. They patrol the most popular and pressured areas (see related story on A1).
In addition to a 40-pound pack containing food, water, clothing, bedding and tools, Tierney hauls a four-foot, one-person handsaw as well as a Pulaski. On the trail, he’s got two speeds — fast and stopped to perform a duty. While on patrol, the rangers typically stop to saw downed timber, demolish illegal fire rings, bury human waste, make sure directional signs are in good condition and check campers for compliance with forest regulations.
Tierney, 24, puts his communication skills to good use. He is as adept at interacting with forest users as he is swinging the Pulaski. He said 99 percent of people he encounters are pleasant to deal with, which is one of the reasons he loves the job. He wants to remain with the Forest Service and in the outdoors. At this point, he said, he can’t bear the thought of a desk job.
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Vail broke the $200 lift ticket barrier during the holidays last winter. Aspen hasn’t topped the $200 mark yet, but both resorts are raising their peak prices this season.