By MK Gunn
’Tis the season where most of us take time for year-end reflection and are getting excited about the upcoming year.
For me, this exercise reminds me of how grateful I am for this community and how we all work together to care for our public lands. Even though I have been known to disappear for days with no one else but me, I understand the importance of community and having so many people working toward the same conservation goals as me. Even the most introverted of introverts can’t get much accomplished without occasionally enlisting help from other people.
Think about it: What would you be able to accomplish without your community members? If you live on a farm, maybe you can produce your own food, but where did you get that tractor? You can claim self-sufficiency and commute everywhere by bike swearing that you don’t need the local gas stations, but you still need bike tires, chain lube and brake pads. You can collect all the firewood you need to heat your house, but what’s fueling your water heater? And what if you just need someone to listen and give you a hug? I’m sure every one of you has an arsenal of local supporters that help make your life easier and more enjoyable.
Our local public lands also have a huge family of support. In 2019, the San Juan Mountains Association collaborated with a number of local partners. Some have been with us since the beginning (like the San Juan National Forest), and others are new (Durango Outdoor Exchange), but every one brings something important to the table as we work toward a common goal – empowering the public to explore, learn about and protect our local wilderness areas and public lands.
I wish I could list all of our community partners, but then this article would take up pages. Our supporters at The Durango Herald and Cortez Journal graciously offer us a column each month, not pages. Here are just a few highlights of SJMA’s collaborations with local partners in 2019:
- Encouraged more than 4,000 trail users to “Leave No Trace” at the Ice Lakes trailhead thanks to the Outdoor Research Tiny Home, Backcountry Experience and our tireless volunteers
- Co-hosted the seventh annual Forests to Faucets teacher workshop with Mountain Studies Institute, Water Information Program and the Fort Lewis College teacher education department. Sponsors also included the Southwest Water Conservation District, Colorado Water Conservation Board, Durango Education Foundation, Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education and Trout Unlimited 5 Rivers Chapter
- Co-hosted the Hermosa Resilience Project with Trails 2000, Durango Nature Studies, MSI and the San Juan National Forest
- Educated more than 300 locals and tourists about the flora, fauna and geology of the San Juan National Forest thanks to Purgatory Resort
- Raised money for the Weminuche Wilderness and conservation education at our Christmas tree lot thanks to Alpine Bank, San Juan National Forest, Southwest Ag and a long list of individual volunteers. Special thanks to Alpine Bank for its longstanding support of SJMA programming and for being our 2019-2020 corporate partner
- Assisted locals and tourists with selecting a wild Christmas tree as part of the Christmas tree train – a collaboration with Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, Wildfire Adapted Partnership and San Juan National Forest
- Provided hunter information to more than 100 hunters at our hunting booth at the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Durango office
- Hosted a “Share the Trails” poker run with stellar assistance from the BLM Tres Rios Field Office, Creeper Jeepers, Mesa Verde Backcountry Horsemen, Mancos Trails Group and Hoofbeats 4H
- Raised money for the Weminuche Wilderness with a 10k trail run and a chili cook-off thanks to Backcountry Experience, Ska Brewing, Durango Running Club, the city of Durango and a variety of local chili cooks from local nonprofit and for-profit businesses
- Provided visitor information to thousands of locals and tourists at our 14 bookstore locations thanks to support from district and supervisors’ offices throughout the San Juan National Forest and Rio Grande National Forest as well as the Mancos and Silverton visitor centers
- Created a greater awareness of recreation and conservation opportunities on public lands by connecting with young people in Montezuma County thanks to the Montezuma Inspire Coalition and Great Outdoors Colorado
- Raised a glass to wilderness and supporting local businesses on Noel Night at Pine Needle Mountaineering
To find a more complete list and contact information for these wonderful supporters, visit shorturl.at/btvGU.
Last but certainly not least is the community of individuals and families who support public land stewardship through memberships, donations and copious volunteer hours! Thousands of people from all over the country devote their time to caring for the public lands of Southwest Colorado. Best wishes to all of you this holiday season and on through 2020. What an amazing community we have.
MK Gunn is volunteer and education specialist for San Juan Mountains Association. She will be joyously celebrating the season thanks to her favorite community members. Contact her at MK@sjma.org.