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Celebrate our public lands this Saturday

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Photo by Lee Gelatt Volunteers and members of the Grand Mesa Nordic Council work on setting up the warming hut at Skyway Trailhead on the Grand Mesa National Forest. It is a much appreciated addition to skiers' winter experience on the Grand Mesa!

Saturday, Sept. 24, is the annual National Public Land day (NPLD), the nation's largest, single-day volunteer effort for public lands. Through NPLD, the National Environmental Education Foundation works to connect people to public lands in their community, inspire environmental stewardship and encourage use of public lands for education, recreation and general health.

Each year, NPLD volunteers provide tens of millions of dollars' worth of services in one day that would otherwise take limited agency staff months to accomplish.Lend a hand and have fun at the same time by bringing your family, friends, classmates, students or coworkers to spend the day outdoors giving back to your community by pulling invasive species, maintaining trails, picking up trash and more. Your work will help ensure public lands continue to be beautiful places for all to enjoy!

The Grand Mesa Nordic Council (GMNC), partnering with the Forest Service is sponsoring a work day "sprucing up" the ski trails on the Grand Mesa on Sept. 24.

According to GMNC president Dave Knutson, "We have a lot of tasks to accomplish to get ready for this year's ski season. We 'divide and conquer' with volunteers...some will clip bushes, clear trails and replace signs on the Skyway and Ward Lake trails, others on the County Line Trails. We also resurrect the warming hut at Skyway."

The aspen should be at peak fall colors that weekend. Sept. 25 is "Color Sunday" along the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway. "Enjoying the fall scenery will be a bonus for our volunteers this weekend," Knutson added. Volunteers will meet at 9:30 a.m. at the Skyway parking lot, located approximately five miles west of the Grand Mesa Visitor Center off Highway 65. Volunteers should come prepared wearing work boots, long pants and bring gloves, water and sunscreen. Lunch will be provided if volunteers contact GMNC prior to the event (email orionrisingllc@gmail.com).

Many NPLD celebrations go beyond volunteer events, hosting recreational and educational activities! This year to encourage youth to learn about their public lands, on Sept. 23, the Forest Service is hosting an environmental education day for many of the fourth graders in the North Fork Valley. This event is part of the "Every Kid in a Park" initiative, President Obama's commitment "to protect our nation's unique outdoor spaces and ensure that every American has the opportunity to visit and enjoy them." Fourth graders will visit the Gunnison National Forest near Paonia for a field trip where they will learn about forestry techniques, invasive weeds, "Leave No Trace" principles, meet the Rocky Mountain Mule Pack string and explore the forest on a nature hike. "An important component of NPLD is stewardship -- taking care of and giving back to the land -- in this case, habitat for blue birds," stated Paul Kimpling, Forest Service event coordinator. "Students will build blue bird houses which will be installed at their respective schools and learn about why this is an important contribution to the habitat of these birds," he added.

The Bureau of Land Management will also host a work day on the Blackridge Trail in the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area on Oct. 1 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Contact Robin Lewis (rlewis@blm.gov) for more information on this project.

To encourage people to join in and visit their public lands, NPLD is a fee-free day for all federal public lands and many state parks, with some federal lands also celebrating the National Park Service centennial.

U.S. Forest Service photo Future foresters? Two fourth graders practice forestry techniques for measuring trees during the fourth grade “Every Kid in a Park” event on the Gunnison National Forest.
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