By David Taft
From the soaring amphitheater of Ouray, to the turquoise lakes of Silverton, to the red rock canyons of Mesa Verde, it was absolutely unmistakable that last year was unlike any before it. The overwhelmed parking lots, trash strewn trails, and overcapacity camping areas were impossible to miss. Everyone acknowledged that something needed to be done to manage the ballooning growth in visitors on Southwest Colorado’s public lands. If you ask a land manager what the best solution is to improving the situation, invariably they will respond “more boots on the ground”. We need more people to clean up the mess, educate visitors on how to reduce their impact, and ensure that the increased visitation doesn’t harm both the landscape and experience of other visitors. Thanks to our members’ support, an innovative grant from GOCO, collaboration with Mountain Studies Institute and our great agency partners, and a bit of creative thinking, we will be doing exactly that this summer at San Juan Mountains Association.
Starting in May, we will dispatch a crew Forest Ambassadors into the field each day to cover the busiest trails in our region. These Ambassadors will cover a huge swath of public land, ranging from the lofty heights of Lizard Head Pass, to the forested trails of Boggy Draw and Vallecito, to the wildly popular high country peaks around Silverton. The ambassadors will greet hikers at trailheads, alert visitors to fire restrictions, educate them about how to responsibly visit sensitive alpine environments, keep trails in top shape as they go on patrol, and monitor conditions so we can better manage these exceptional places. Furthermore, the ambassadors will team up with volunteers who will amplify the positive impact of this program. This program will provide a perfect opportunity for new volunteers to gain some experience with a land management professional in the field, or for a veteran volunteer to enjoy some quality time sharing their knowledge of a place they love. These volunteers will accompany ambassadors to patrol trails, track visitor numbers at trailheads, and help keep our favorite recreation spots beautiful.
This Forest Ambassador program will dramatically increase the presence of staff on the land in the San Juan National Forest, and establishes a model for private public partnership that agencies, nonprofits, volunteers, and local businesses can all get behind. We encourage you to get out with an ambassador this summer, see what they’re up to, and give them a hand in their daily mission to keep the San Juans beautiful. We all acknowledge the exceptional value of spending time in the outdoors, and want to encourage everyone to enjoy the health and emotional benefits of visiting public land. With this program, we will ensure that we can all enjoy the benefits of time spent outdoors without harming the place, wildlife, or future visitors’ experience.
By Adriana Stimax
Summer creeps, SJMA leaps
Imagine yourself as a kid again. It’s spring and you can hardly sit still in class as you gaze out the window and watch puffy clouds drift by on a warm breeze. The early flowers have poked their heads above ground and summer is so close you can feel it. You daydream about hot days that seem to stretch on and on forever. Everyone is buzzing with energy and ready to run out the door the second the bell rings.
As summer unfolds before us, everything shifts gears. Young and old alike are energized with the longer days. Everything is so busy and full of life. But, it may no longer feel like the endless days of sun and play that it once did when you were child. Now the responsibilities of adulthood weigh heavily on our shoulders, taking much of our time. Each precious summer feels shorter and shorter. If you blink, you might miss it. Although there may no longer be someone at home making dinner so you can stay out until dark, we still must find time to go outside and play.
Recent science has found that spending time outside is very beneficial for our mental and physical health. In Japan they call it forest bathing, and it’s even prescribed as a treatment by doctors. Although that may not come as a surprise to you, our culture treats outdoor time as a luxury not a necessity. It’s considered a recreational activity and not something fundamental for our health and happiness.
At San Juan Mountains Association, we are passionate about getting people of all ages outside and engaged with their public lands in a sustainable fashion. This summer we will be offering a variety of ways to get active outdoors. For adults, SJMA’s interpretive programming offers free community hikes to learn about edible plants, geology, archeology and more. You definitely don’t want to miss our springtime full moon hike through Sand Canyon while learning about the human history of the area.
For the younger generation, SJMA is offering summer camps available for rising first graders through 17 year olds. Our state child care licensed camps are led by fun, experienced outdoor educators, inspiring the next generation of conservationists. Our grade-school Junior Naturalist Field Camp is returning this summer to offer kids a space to learn, play, and make friends safely outside. We’re also excited to announce a new Adventure Camp for older kids aged 13-17 in both La Plata and Montezuma Counties. In addition to spending days packed full of exploration, students will have the opportunity to spend one night camping in the mountains.
Last year we saw a huge increase in visitors to public lands and open spaces, driven by the need to get out of the house and away from the endless screen time. For the first time, many people are realizing the value of our wild spaces. There is an opportunity to shift our culture to one that not only values time spent outside as an important part of daily health, but understands why it’s important to do so in a responsible manner.
For more information about summer programming visit sjma.org/learn or contact Education Director Adriana Stimax at email@example.com.
By Mike Bienkowski
With snow and subzero temperatures and feet of snow one week, then warm sun followed by rain and thunderstorms and t-shirt weather the next, it seems like the weather is very confused about what season it is. Regardless of the wild weather, the days will grow longer, the sun stronger, the bears will start to stir and the birds will break into song.
Spring is a magical time to spend long afternoons rambling in the outdoors, reconnecting with the rhythms of nature and delighting in the almost daily changes as flowers pop, birds return, and animals big and small come out of dormancy. Anyone who has ever spent time with young children outdoors knows that they are perfectly equipped to find joy in the small details of a landscape returning to life. Hiking with kids, you stop a lot, and inevitably notice things you never would have otherwise. Kids adventure outdoors much the way they live–occupied with the present moment and fully enraptured by their immediate surroundings.
While many Durangatangs associate SJMA with dreamy alpine Instagram photos, our information booth at the Ice Lakes trail, or encountering Forest Ambassadors in the Weminuche, you may not know that we are also a state-licensed childcare provider perfectly equipped to help children explore the way they do best–up close with the landscape and immersed the the plethora of beauty at eye and ground level. Come April, SJMA will once again be offering after-school enrichment for elementary students. These programs, called the San Juan Science Ramblers, take science education into the forest, where students learn about nature and ecology by getting their hands–and hiking shoes–dirty.
With experienced educators as guides, kids explore topics specific to place and season, in ways that can only be done on the land. From wildflowers to edible plants, winter survival to predator-prey adaptations, actual experience in the field makes for memorable learning while developing observation and critical thinking skills, all in a context of fresh air, healthy movement, and much-needed safe social interaction. Thanks to a partnership with the San Juan National Forest, all of these programs take place on local public lands, accessible within fifteen minutes of town.
As a kick-off to after-school enrichment, SJMA is also offering a weeklong Spring Break Camp the week of March 15th – 19th. From exploring desert ecology and archaeology at Sand Canyon, to learning about indigenous culture at the Southern Ute Cultural Center, investigating snow science and winter ecology and building snow caves at Molas Pass, and taking on some of the most rewarding hikes right in our backyard, this camp will incorporate hands-on learning into the ultimate Durango stay-cation for youths aged 6 – 11.
It is SJMA’s mission to empower people to explore, learn, and protect the amazing public lands in our backyard. We believe that in connecting the youngest generations to the natural world and helping them fall in love with it, ethics of conservation and stewardship will inevitably be woven into our future. For more information on camps or to register, visit sjma.org/learn or contact Education Director Adriana Stimax at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mike Bienkowski is a former secondary science teacher and educator with Durango Nature Studies who now works for San Juan Mountains Association as the curriculum coordinator for education programs.
By David Taft, Conservation Director
It needs no saying that 2020 was a radical departure from normal, and it’s becoming quite clear that it left its mark on our nation’s most iconic public lands. Countless trails and recreation areas saw visitation increases in the 100-300% range, putting an average Tuesday in 2020 on par with the 4th of July week in previous years. Due to this influx, issues including habitat degradation, social trail creation, and massive increases in human waste challenged our public lands and the people who manage them. As we turn the page into a new year it is time to rethink how we tackle challenges to public lands and channel our energy into protecting the places that need it most.
Traditional hot spots were figuratively (and in some cases literally) burned to the ground last summer., San Juan Mountains Association has plans to turn that around by doubling down on our efforts at Ice Lake, Chicago Basin, the Colorado Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail. All of these areas are in desperate need of public outreach presence, trail rehabilitation, erosion management, and a laundry list of other issues. We will do this by expanding our volunteer activities, offering public trainings such as crosscut sawing and outreach, increasing our seasonal staff presence, and growing our partnerships with other organizations.
SJMA also plans to reboot all our educational activities to further enhance and deepen our community’s relationship with the mountains and valleys we call home. Our expert staff and volunteers will lead interpretive sessions because we believe understanding these places is the best way to inspire visitors to become good stewards of the land.. We encourage everyone to take a day or two out of their summer to learn about the wildlife, flora, and geology of our mountains.
At SJMA, we are encouraged that so many Americans used the great outdoors as a coping mechanism for the hardships of 2020, because the outdoors should be open to all. But along with this trend we must have a corresponding increase in voluntarism and public support for these places. So take a stand this year by giving back to the places you love. Sign up for one of SJMA’s volunteer days, take a training to learn about trail maintenance, volunteer to lead or join a naturalist hike for visitors to the area, or simply pick up trash and be a resource to those needing direction. There is little indication that user numbers will drop back to pre-pandemic levels, so we will all need to contribute in our own ways to ensure the San Juans remain healthy and vibrant.
December 13, 2020 by Brent Schoradt
This year, getting outside became a lifeline for Americans of all stripes, and our public lands became more popular than ever.
For me, a long hike anywhere on our public lands is the one activity that brings a sense of normalcy to my daily and weekly routines. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve all been reminded how important our forests and public lands are to our personal well-being, both physically and spiritually. Here in Southwest Colorado, we’re lucky to enjoy relatively easy access to millions of acres of public lands.
Unfortunately, a recent surge in visitors to our public lands has come at a cost. Many forest visitors are not aware of best practices and aren’t accustomed to visiting areas without bathrooms or trash facilities. As a result, human waste, toilet paper, trash and graffiti have become an increasingly common site at some of our most beloved local places. That’s why San Juan Mountains Association has stepped up its efforts to care for our local public lands.
Since its founding in 1988, SJMA has been committed to cleaning up and caring for our most treasured public lands, such as the Weminuche Wilderness and Ice Lakes Basin. This summer, SJMA volunteers made an immense difference by posting up at our Ice Lakes Educational Basecamp to educate hikers about how to responsibly visit the area.
All told, these local volunteers contributed 475 hours to contact 9,200 hikers and remove hundreds of pounds of trash while providing “wag bags” and dog poop bags to encourage folks to pack out their own waste. During one encounter in August, SJMA volunteers found an abandoned campfire that was quickly extinguished, potentially avoiding a peak season wildfire in Ice Lakes Basin.
After all these efforts, we were devastated to see the Ice Fire occur in late October, just a few weeks after SJMA’s Educational Basecamp was taken down for the year, when the area has normally received at least some initial snowfall. We know our efforts make a difference for the landscape, and we are eager to help facilitate the area’s recovery from the fire and this unprecedented busy season.
Because of local donations to SJMA’s newly formed Weminuche Wilderness Stewardship Fund, SJMA was able to improve conditions on the ground in 2020 and achieve these outcomes in the Weminuche:
Partnered with Southwest Conservation Corps and the Colorado Trail Foundation to remove avalanche debris from the Colorado Trail at Elk Creek, improving access to one of Colorado’s iconic through-hikes.Naturalized 298 illegal campsites.Installed eight designated campsites at Rainbow Hot Springs, while naturalizing unsustainable sites.Removed more than 70 downed trees from the Needle Creek Trail to improve access to Chicago Basin.Packed out more than 260 pounds of trash from the wilderness.In these times of great uncertainty, SJMA recognizes that one thing is for sure: Our public lands face growing threats, from persistent drought, catastrophic wildfire, climate change and surging numbers of visitors.
In response to these mounting threats, SJMA is doubling down on its efforts to stand up for public lands by educating visitors, empowering volunteers and instilling a land conservation ethic that will stand the test of time.
We know that caring for the land and protecting our forests and watersheds are core values of Southwest Colorado, and we are committed to digging deeper and standing taller in the face of growing challenges. After 32 years, SJMA’s work is just beginning.
November 14, 2020 by Ruth E. Lambert
During the dark days of the Depression, the residents of La Plata County struggled to survive and, in the rural areas, families helped to sustain themselves as they made the most of their farm produce and livestock. In the Allison area in the Southeast corner of the county, local families developed an innovative enterprise to help them get through those difficult economic times.
The small community of Allison was originally founded in 1881 as the first Denver and Rio Grande Railroad westbound siding and stop in La Plata County. Originally named Vallejos, the siding consisted of several facilities including a warehouse, section house, bunkhouse, and later a small passenger and freight depot. In the early 1900s, the town was renamed Allison and sported a post office in Young’s Store, a school, a community church, gas station, a grange hall, and a Catholic church. During the 1930s, the railroad warehouse was acquired by the Turkey Packers Co-op. The Co-op was an agricultural cooperative venture that was directed by local officers and involved many area farmers and ranchers. It was founded to provide income for farm families during the Depression. This operation included the transport of turkeys grown on local farms and ranches to the Co-op where they were packed for shipment to the East on the railroad. One early resident remembers turkey-filled farm wagons lined up outside the warehouse. Other residents recall plucking turkey pin feathers to prepare the birds for sale. As operations grew, the warehouse was expanded to include shed additions with wire window screens where turkeys were held for shipment. The Co-op was most active during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays when as many as 13 railroad carloads of turkeys were shipped out during the holidays. The turkey operations continued during the Depression and throughout World War II. After that, the price of turkeys dropped, health standards changed, and the turkey business was discontinued.
Today, many of the historic buildings still exist in the town. The 1 ½ story Turkey Packers Co-op tin building is visible on the west side of Allison along CR 329 next to the old railroad grade. Tin sheets flap in the wind and the wire screens on the windows are torn. The loading dock along the abandoned railroad line is empty and the double tin doors are locked. Although the building may go unnoticed, it stands as a reminder of the enterprise and hard work of rural county residents. Many of the turkeys that graced the festive holiday tables of Eastern families had their origins in the Allison area.
October 9, 2020 by David Taft
During summer 2019, our community was deeply concerned about the state of the Weminuche Wilderness.
Visitation was exploding (as it still is), avalanches the previous winter left many trails blocked or obliterated, human waste continued to be a major issue in heavy-use areas and challenges seemed to be ramping up with no end in sight.
In response to this sentiment and public outcry, San Juan Mountains Association stepped up with our Weminuche Wilderness Stewardship Fund.
Through last October’s San Juan Mountain Jam Fundraiser and countless local donors, we raised more than $40,000 toward stewardship projects in the Weminuche. We then used these community contributions as matching funds to pull in funding from the National Forest Foundation and VF Corporation, parent company of Smartwool, The North Face and Altra Running.
We are incredibly proud to report the results of the work that was accomplished thanks to your support. Despite early concerns because of COVID-19 that we would not be able to run our San Juan Wilderness Stewardship Crew, the crew of four began its season in early June and came out of the gate charging.
After a brief week of crosscut and wilderness monitoring training, the crew headed up to Chicago Basin to clear the trail and naturalize illegal campsites and campfire rings. Over the course of three days, the crew hiked 36 miles, cut 70-plus trees using 6-foot-long crosscut saws and naturalized numerous large campsites with illegal campfire rings.
This was a good warm up for the crew, which over the next 12 weeks would proceed to haul more than 250 pounds of trash from deep in the wilderness, log out the Vestal Creek Trail, naturalize almost 200 illegal campsites, saw through 90 more downed trees and spend almost 200 hours speaking with the public about wilderness regulations, Leave No Trace principles and how to visit this spectacular place with respect.
To wrap up the season, the crew headed up to Rainbow Hot Springs to clear avalanche debris and designate eight campsites to prevent hikers from camping too close to the West Fork of the San Juan River. We will maintain a reduced crew to continue with trail cleanup and hunter outreach throughout the fall.
In addition to our San Juan Stewardship Crew, with the money from National Forest Foundation we enlisted the help of a Southwest Conservation Corps crew to clear the first two avalanche debris piles blocking the Elk Creek portion of the Colorado Trail.
This was a massive undertaking, as there were about 500 trees thrown onto the trail. With additional effort from Kristina Schenck, U.S. Forest Service wilderness ranger, and Colorado Trail Foundation trail adopter Connie Wian, the first two piles have been cleared and trail usability greatly improved.
Going forward, we have some big plans to keep the momentum rolling. We will continue working with Schenck to clear the additional log piles on the Colorado Trail next year. The crew will also spend a month working on trails in the Divide area of the Weminuche, most likely the Continental Divide Trail. We also look forward to ramping up our Wilderness Volunteer Program, as we now better understand how to conduct activities despite the ongoing pandemic. As always, we encourage you to reach out if you are interested in volunteering with SJMA.
We ask everyone to join us in celebrating Weminuche Month this October. In lieu of an in-person fundraiser this year, SJMA will be selling Wild for the Weminuche hats and stickers at local retailers (see our website or social media for a full list).
Furthermore, Alpine Bank has generously offered to donate $100 for every new Environment Loyalty debit account opened during the month of October. This is a great and easy way to support Colorado’s largest wilderness.
By Mike Bienkowski
It is early June, and we are five minutes into our first day of San Juan Mountains Association’s “San Juan Ramblers” nature camp.
Twenty kids have gathered in a small field near the upper Junction Creek Trailhead. They play games, search the high grass for insects and make nature journals from a box of craft supplies. A typical enough scene for a Monday morning, but my colleague and I exchange apprehensive glances. We are already exhausted. This is the most human contact any of us have had in months, and undoubtedly everyone, counselors and kids alike, is already thinking, “And we have how many more hours of this?”
We begin to walk, and within minutes everyone has dropped back into the wonder of the present moment. Blooming flowers, verdant green, the golden filtered light and the popping colors of butterflies quickly erase any anxiety or apprehension.
After a day spent filling basins with nymphs collected from the stream, sketching wildflowers, building forts and lizard homes, and catching up with friends amid the safety of open air, the kids are all smiles as they return to the trailhead and their waiting parents, the colorful face-coverings the only indication that anything is different in the world.
I am amazed each day at how naturally learning happens in the outdoors. Young children are very much in their “explorer” phase of life. They are wired to connect to the world around them, which is still so new.
Their excitement shows up in many ways – from one child exuberantly declaring, “Lookit! We got a biggie big BIG big!” in reference to the giant stonefly nymph he just pulled from the stream to the enraptured silence of an entire group, as a harrier emerges from the ponderosas and circles us noiselessly before sweeping off toward a new clearing.
Learning in our programs tends to follow the same model – a memorable experience involving direct contact with something wild serves as an anchor point for learning. Once captured by the experience of the harrier circling, suddenly questions about flight adaptations, hunting strategies and predator-prey interactions become far more relevant and real.
While the benefits of outdoor learning are real and easily observable, the impacts go far beyond content and standards. These days, we live our lives amid a constellation of stimuli that pull our attention in multiple directions at once. We get caught up in stories about how things are different than we remembered them, or in anxieties about planning for an uncertain future. Mix this with the increased access to information afforded by technology, and we have a recipe for very unsettled energy indeed.
Children are not impervious to this energy – they absorb it, carry it and feel the weight of it, just like adults do. Nature offers a symphony of sights, sounds, smells, textures and sensations, which capture children’s attention, stimulate their senses and imaginations, and immerse them fully in the present moment so they can focus on what they are wired to do – explore, connect and learn to love.
SJMA continues to offer nature education year-round. Fall programming includes after-school hiking and outdoor science camps, school-based nature enrichment and teacher education workshops. For more information about our programming or to enroll your child, visit our After-School Program page.
By Harry Bellow
Oftentimes, our work leads us off trail, bushwhacking to high alpine lakes in the shadows of towering peaks. Odds are you have stumbled across our work at some point during your trips into the wilderness. Our work is often invisible unless you know what to look for: clear trails, litter-free campsites and the disappearance of illegal campsites. The life of a wilderness steward is not easy, but the rewarding nature of the work draws one into a vast array of uncomfortable situations.
Funded with donations to San Juan Mountains Association’s Weminuche Wilderness Stewardship Fund, the task of the Wilderness Stewardship Team is to preserve, protect, monitor and educate people about wilderness principles. Our office is the wilderness areas around Durango, some of the most extreme terrain in the Lower 48.
On a typical week, we arrive at the Public Lands Center at 7 a.m. with backpacks filled with four days’ worth of supplies. We gather tools and team equipment, such as radios, crosscut saws, Pulaskis and shovels. Our drive out to the wilderness can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a whopping five hours. Sometimes, it is impossible to get all the way to a trailhead as the roads can be extreme in the rugged country. Upon arrival, the team suits up and begins work.
As we enter the wilderness area, we mark down the time and begin to count people we see. The data we collect about usage goes to classify the area in terms of impact. Pristine areas are relatively untouched by humans while semi-pristine areas are impacted by constant visitor use.
While we collect this data, we are monitoring campsites as well. Led by Asia Pfiefer, wilderness monitoring lead of the San Juan National Forest, the team is given GPS coordinates of existing campsites in the area. We find all of these campsites, survey them, pick up any litter and destroy them if they are illegal or have not been used for many seasons.
Commonly, we find aluminum foil in the fire rings, toilet paper in the bushes and forgotten frying pans. Most often, campsites are found along the trails and near a water source. Camping too close to a water source, less than 100 feet, dissuades wildlife from using it.
As we wander through the wilderness, we also complete trail work and make visitor contacts. Our mission is to protect the wilderness character. By clearing trails, we funnel the impact of visitors into a narrow area leaving most of the wilderness in its pristine state. We inform visitors about ways to minimize their impact so the wilderness character can be preserved for generations to come. All the while, mountains and the sounds of wind, birds and insects surround us.
As the sun sets, our work is finished. We often cook dinner, jump into lakes and sleep like the rocks surrounding us. I prefer to get in a nature run before the light fades. I am rewarded with the sights of deer and elk bounding away from me, and I am reminded of my visitor status. The sights I am privileged to see and the clean mountain air remind me of why I do what I do.
Harry Bellow works with San Juan Mountains Association as a wilderness steward.
by MK Gunn
Deep in the Weminuche Wilderness there is a trail that dead ends at the head of a verdant valley crowned by majestic mountains. My two dogs and I wandered up there in August of 2016. After seven miles on a major trail, we turned onto a faint trail. We tromped up a sunny meadow to the edge of the woods. The forest was thick there. Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir tangled amongst the occasional southwestern white pine. These skyscrapers formed the canopy. Down below, deciduous bushes mingled with tall summer wildflowers. Larkspur, monkshood, and cow parsnip were over my head. Ragwort, columbine, and bittercress filled in below. There is a reason why this area was so laden with wildflowers. Almost all the towering spruce trees were dead.
These trees were eaten from the inside out, suffocated and dehydrated by tiny spruce beetles, and had been dead for ten years. The dead trees had begun to fall, opening up the canopy to allow more sunlight and awaken the long dormant wildflower seeds.
The fallen trees complicated travel. After the meadow, the trail was hard to see among the fresh deadfall. I danced under, over, and around three fallen trees within the first ten feet. They rested at varying heights and their mischievous branches grabbed at me. My overnight pack made the choreography harder. My dogs wondered why I was always so slow.
One large tree had fallen higher than my head but its branches insisted that I continue my awkward dance while tiptoeing on stepping stones in a small stream. Other places offered no view of my footing. I stepped blindly as I parted wildflowers. Some might wish for a machete but I was mesmerized by the density of the foliage. No humans had been up that way in weeks or maybe even longer.
Not only had the beetle-killed trees assisted the proliferation of pretty petals, but the first two miles of difficult trail hemmed in another six miles of vast valley meadows intermingled with flowing streams. This prime and protected habitat supports a myriad of wildlife. In one meadow, I encountered a massive herd of cow elk with their spotted calves and startled a young mountain lion that was stalking them. The dead trees created an island where wild creatures carried on their lives as nature intended.
Spruce beetles and other tree-eating bugs are part of nature. In an ecosystem with fewer beetles and healthier trees, trees can actually push the beetles out with sap – known as “pitching out”. But nature is out of sync right now and the current beetle infestations in the western US are exasperated by drought and warmer temperatures. Longer summers allow local spruce beetles to complete two reproductive cycles each year instead of just one and winter temperatures haven’t been cold enough to kill the beetles. On top of that, drought provides less water to the trees so they can’t pitch out the beetles.
Perhaps you are wondering what you can do to help. We can all start by being patient. The COVID-19 pandemic has reduced the number of trail crews and delayed start dates. This means that some of your favorite trails might not be cleared this year making it difficult to recreate. Some trails may be impassable to stock. Fortunately, in a collaboration with the San Juan National Forest, San Juan Mountains Association will help manage a new backcountry ranger crew made possible by generous donations from the local community. (See the April 2020 “Stewards of the Land Column”.)
Another way that you can help is simply by spreading the word. The space beetles aren’t going away. They are munching their way west through the San Juan National Forest. Yes, it can be depressing to see these huge trees die and drastically change some of our favorite places. Yes, it will mean more blocked trails. But it also means more wildflowers and secluded wildlife habitat. Now more than ever, we need to see the bright side of things.
MK Gunn works for the San Juan Mountains Association. In her free time, she seeks out remote places that may or may not contain trails. Email her at MK@sjma.org.