By David Taft
San Juan Mountains Association
As one of Durango’s longest running public lands education and stewardship organizations, San Juan Mountains Association has plenty of experience connecting folks with the outdoors and confronting challenges in the backcountry.
However, just like everyone else, we are caught in the middle of the ongoing public health situation. We’re currently observing how it relates to our local public lands and the San Juans community, as well as figuring out how we will approach this season.
We have been in close communications with our agency partners, fellow conservation organizations and health care specialists to ensure that we can continue pursuing our mission of caring for our local public lands, while protecting the health of our staff members and supporters.
This season, we have planned on increasing our efforts in the Weminuche Wilderness, and we continue working hard to ensure these plans can go forward. This is especially important as people continue to retreat to the local mountains for their social distancing, a trend likely to continue as weather warms and trails dry.
In a collaborative effort with the San Juan National Forest, we will help manage a new San Juan Ranger crew thanks to generous donations from the local community. This crew will be backpacking through heavy-use areas, documenting and maintaining trail conditions, restoring heavily impacted areas, engaging with the public (according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines) and ensuring the SJNF has the information it needs to make informed management decisions. We will be providing reports from the field over the course of the season so we can all keep an eye on their progress.
While in-person volunteer events are off the table in the near term, there are still ways to get involved. Sign up for a webinar (we are hosting a Colorado Public Lands Day crosscut saw course on Zoom!), stay informed about future volunteer outings through our E-News at sjma.org, and share your stories and photos to stay positive.
We encourage everyone looking to stay excited about our magnificent local public lands by sending in a short write-up along with photos of a memorable trip to the San Juans. You can send these to us at our Instagram @sjma_co, Facebook or email, email@example.com.
As always, we will continue to offer visitor information for local public lands, and our staff will do their best to provide the clearest up-to-date guidance about trails, access, facilities and regulations.
Thank you, be safe, be healthy, stay close to home.
David Taft is the conservation director at San Juan Mountains Association.