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The Grand Mesa Visitor Center on the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests has opened for the summer season. Summer programs will be offered on various nature topics every Saturday at 2 p.m. through Sept. 10.

Upcoming program subjects and speakers include:

June 25 -- Birds of Grand Mesa, John Andrews.

July 2 -- Tree Cookies and Tree Factory, Peggy Vaughn.

July 9 -- Native Peoples of the Western Slope, Sally Crum.

July 16 -- Grand Mesa History, Jim Wetzel.

July 23 -- Every Tree for Itself, Peggy Vaughn.

July 30 -- Moose Day, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (9 a.m. to 3 p.m.)

Aug. 6 -- Mushrooms, Jim Worrall.

Aug. 13 -- Smokey's Birthday Celebration #72 (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.)

Aug. 20 -- Black Bears, Trina Romero.

Aug. 27 -- Grand Mesa Landslide, Bill Edwards.

Sept. 3 -- Geology, David Noe.

Sept. 10 -- Bats, Anne Janik.

"Our summer programs provide a great opportunity for families to learn more about nature and our forest," stated Grand Valley District Ranger Bill Edwards. "We have a great lineup of programs offered by educators or resource specialists including topics on weather, trees, bears, birds, bats, mushrooms and more."

New this year will be 10-minute "porch talks" and interpretive hikes throughout the week for visitors interested in learning more about the plants, wildlife and geology of the Grand Mesa. Forest Service staff and volunteers will be available to address questions, provide information and sell forest products including fuelwood permits and inter-agency recreation, military, senior and access passes (with appropriate documentation).

The Rocky Mountain Conservancy has stocked the shelves with an assortment of nature, guide and children's books, stuffed animals, clothing, jewelry and other fun interpretive products. So if you are looking for a gift or something for yourself, this is a great stop for the nature lover!

To encourage children and families to get outdoors and explore the forest, the Forest Service, Cabela's and Rocky Mountain Conservancy have again partnered to sponsor Families in the Forest -- a contest of observation and writing skills. Kids (accompanied by their parents) complete two nature activities from a list of options and write about their experiences on the forest. They receive a sticker from the visitor center staff when they complete and submit their form for the drawing. Drawings for the winners are held in the fall. First prize is a free one-night stay in the Moose Manor Forest Service cabin on the Grand Mesa; second prize is a four-person tent, sleeping bag and lantern, compliments of Cabela's; and third prize is a Grand Mesa National Forest sweatshirt and two educational books, compliments of Rocky Mountain Conservancy. For more information on the Grand Mesa visitor center, the contest and the summer programs, visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/GMVC.

"We hope these programs and activities will encourage the public to explore and play on the Grand Mesa National Forest, to reconnect with nature and to recognize that they are the true owners of the national forests," Edwards said.

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