Vail Daily letter: Priceless opportunity
Ryan Summerlin September 2, 2013
On Aug. 6, we attended a presentation at Walking Mountains Science Center by the summer interns, one of whom was our son, Matt.
These interns are high school students or recent graduates who were selected to fill 12 positions in the national forest’s sagebrush enhancement program funded by the National Forest Foundation’s Ski Area Conservation Fund.
These kids worked hard all summer long, Monday through Friday. Duties included visiting remote study sites throughout Eagle County to gather data regarding sage brush pollinators.
Sage brush, they learned, is critical habitat for many species, but in our county it is not regenerating due to decades of unnatural fire suppression. One effort to change this required them to gather wood debris into large slash piles designated for controlled burns this winter. The burns will produce ash and nutrients to support potential new growth.
The interns learned about habitats of local plants and animals. They saw beautiful water falls, rivers and mountaintops. They had reading assignments, wrote papers, participated in spirited debates and were asked to develop their own personal land ethic. They earned two college credits from Colorado Mountain College, as well.
Perhaps most important, they developed love and passion for care of one of our country’s greatest assets, our national forests.
We spoke to Deputy District Ranger Matt McCombs after the kids’ presentations were done. He said he had not heard such great passion about our forests from anyone in a long time. He believed he had just witnessed a new generation of stewards for our country’s national forests.
Mr. McCombs is now the new district ranger in Asheville, N.C., and plans to carry forward the enthusiasm he saw that night for similar programs in his new district.
He talked to each kid that night to encourage them to consider exploration of career opportunities with the Forest Service. How great is that?
We are a family that greatly values our public lands, and we want to recognize and sincerely thank the community organizations and individuals that made this program possible: Peter Wadden and Markian Feduschak of Walking Mountaings for providing such excellent leadership and education to these young people; the Forest Service for contributing significant staff time to support the Walking Mountains staff and interns in their program duties; National Forest Foundation for the funding; Vail Resorts for collecting money for the program through a small additional charge on guests’ rooms, ski passes, etc.; and the National Forest Foundation board, which includes Vail Resorts, who determine where the money collected will go. You all are supporting incredibly important work.
As dangerous wildfires burn across our great nation, with our national forests counted among the victims, this work is contributing to the whole body of knowledge regarding the critical role of fire in our forest ecosystem. The benefit of educating young people about the forests is priceless. Our son had one of the best summers of his life and he knows it! Thank you!
Janet and Carl Jordan