Accountable recreation begins with schooling – The Sopris Solar

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National Forest Week (July 11-17) was created four years ago by the National Forest Foundation to “celebrate our incredible 193 million acre National Forest System and all the benefits it provides to the public.”

How do we responsibly celebrate our surroundings?

White River National Forest Recreation Manager Sam Massman said educating the public about responsible recreation is the first step.

“I always refer to the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace (LNT). It’s a well-packaged way to educate the public, including someone new to outdoor recreation. It tells you what to do, how to be considerate of others, prepare, respect wildlife, potential impacts that come with certain activities, and how to plan,” he said.

The White River National Forest, the country’s most visited forest, runs north and south along the corridor from the Eisenhower Tunnel to the town of Rifle. It is divided into five Range Districts: Aspen, Basalt, Carbondale, Marble and Snowmass.

When planning a trip to a national forest, Massman would “encourage people trying to figure out the basics of what they’re doing and where they’re going to start with a call to the county office.”

In addition to managing field programs and outdoor recreation throughout the White River District, staff are available to answer questions about regulations governing vehicle use, which campgrounds require reservations, and what permits or passes are required for famous destinations like the Maroon Bells Scenic Area needed and Hanging Lake. Massman added, “You can suggest places to go based on what you enjoy doing.”

If getting to know the forest sounds like fun to you, know that White River currently has job openings. As Massman explained, “We’re in the same work environment as the rest of the country right now.” For job openings, visit USAjobs.gov, the federal job portal.

There are sometimes concerns when people drink alcohol or use drugs while camping or participating in outdoor recreation. About 50 volunteer search and rescue (SAR) teams across Colorado respond to calls from local law enforcement to conduct search and rescue missions in upstate Colorado.

Jeff Sparhawk, executive director of the Colorado Search and Rescue Association (CSAR), said: “Though I suspect so many [SAR] Teams may have stories, here in Boulder we have a story of subjects on shrooms or acid running around naked in the flatirons thinking they could fly or freaking out and curling up in a ball.”

Statistics are not tracked on whether or not drug use leads to more 911 calls during recovery. Sparhawk said, “While there is a long history of stoner huts used by inbounds and backcountry skiers, anecdotally I am not aware of any increase in backcountry SAR calls near these huts.”

Jordan White, President of Mountain Rescue Aspen, said: “It’s not that Aspen doesn’t have its share of recreational drugs, but as far as we can tell it’s not usually a problem when we’re upstate, but it’s not something , which I can point out as a regular event.”

Carrying a satellite messenger—a real-time personal beacon locator—when exploring the backcountry can save your life. White emphasized: “They are their own safety net, so to speak. So if you’re hurt you’re lost, at least we know where you are. Once you send the message, we’ll get your GPS location.”

When called to a rescue, White explained: “People can be very well prepared, but still things can happen and you can get hurt, but those who are well prepared are much better equipped to await a rescue than they are someone who is ill-prepared.”

Travis Duncan, public information supervisor at Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), said one problem in Pueblo is drowning. He said, “People swam in the reservoir where swimming is not allowed and got themselves into trouble and most likely died of hypothermia” due to the cold temperatures of Alpine lakes.

Duncan explained that they’ve been seeing more inexperienced outdoor users since the pandemic began. “I think a lot of people found great healing value in going out into nature, and people have been going there ever since. It’s an educational issue, and new users don’t always understand it.”

Each summer, CPW runs a Responsible Recreation Campaign to talk about outdoor use, the principles of leaving no trace, and to encourage “bringing an outdoor ethic with you whenever you go outside,” Duncan said.

CPW also has educational resources on living with wildlife species, including what to do if you encounter a bear or mountain lion on a trail.

Massman suggested if community members have concerns about the recovery’s impact on our local forests, they volunteer with one of White Rivers’ partnership groups, such as Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers, Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association, Independence Pass Foundation, and Forest Conservancy, just to to name a few: “helps manage the White River and is a great way to give back.”

For information on White River National Forest, visit www.fs.usda.gov/whiteriver

For Colorado Parks and Wildlife information, visit cpw.state.co.us

Seven Principles of Leave No Trace*

Know before you go

Stick to trails

Leave it as you find it

Throw away the trash

Be careful with fire

keeping wild animals wild

Share the trails and parks

*This version of LNT was developed in collaboration between the Colorado Tourism Office and the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics for travelers from Colorado