Partnering on public lands
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — Struggling with funding shortfalls and increasing and competing demands on natural resources, public land managers are increasingly relying on collaboration with citizens and user groups to get the needed work done.
The drive toward collaboration, rather than confrontation, will manifest in western Colorado this week, as stewardship groups, volunteer coordinators and citizens gather Friday in Grand Junction for the Western Slope Outdoor Stewardship Forum.
One of the panelists is Dave Neely, top man for the U.S. Forest Service Eagle/Holy Cross Ranger District, who firmly believes that engaging the public in stewardship of public lands is a big part of maintaining a sustainable economy in Eagle County.
“We need to connect people to the landscape, and we need healthy landscapes to support a sustainable economy … If you think about how people make a living here, so much is tied to the quality of our natural resources,” said Neely, who will be part of an early morning panel on community engagement at the Grand Junction forum. The full agenda is online here.
Neely will share information about an integrated approach for collaborative restoration adopted last August for public lands in Eagle County, sharing the podium with other public land managers and municipal officials to explore the question of how to develop sustainable partnerships with user groups.
Neely described his vision as it relates to public lands on the West Slope:
“We can improve wildlife habitat by removing piñon and junipers from wildlife habitat. That wood can be fuel for biomass, and the removal improves hunting and wildlife watching,” he said, explaining how the different activities are connected.
One of the big drivers for focusing on collaboration is the ever-growing gap between the demands on public lands and the resources available for management, said Sue Anderson, with Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado.
“These lands are under increasing pressure from budget cuts, land agency maintenance backlogs, growing numbers of people recreating outdoors, and environmental challenges such as the mountain pine beetle,” Anderson said.
On Friday, March 23, parties involved in natural resources management and stewardship along the Western Slope will convene at a day-long forum to discuss new ways to care for and preserve the lands that make Colorado so special.
The forum will feature noted experts and specialists from local stewardship and conservation organizations as well as area land agencies. Topics will focus on community engagement as part of the Western Slope’s natural resources management strategy, as well as capacity planning, collaboration, funding, and volunteer programs.
Speakers include, Dr. Kim Langmaid from the National Forest Foundation, Dr. Jeffery Pryor, CEO of Pathfinder Solutions, Joe Higgins from Mesa County Partners, BLM leaders Catherine Robertson and Barb Sharrow from Grand Junction and Montrose respectively, and David Neely, U.S. Forest Service Eagle/Holy Cross District Ranger.
The forum is Friday, March 23 at the Mesa County Courthouse, 544 Rood Avenue (8a.m.-4:30 p.m.
The event is free and open to anyone involved in natural resources management, stewardship, recreational user groups, or community engagement. Register in advance by calling 303-715-1010, x119, or emailing to: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 303-715-1010, x119.
This event is hosted by the Colorado Outdoor Stewardship Coalition, a statewide collaboration of non-profit stewardship organizations and federal, state and local land managers. The Coalition is hosted and staffed by Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC). Learn more at www.voc.org.