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Mixed Conifer Working Group offers Turkey Springs field trip

On Friday, July 13 at 1 p.m., the Upper San Juan Mixed Conifer Working Group will offer a field trip in the Turkey Springs area.

The purpose is to view various treated and untreated mixed conifer forested areas and demonstrate to the public the need to improve local forest health. An area that was sanctioned by the Forest Service and treated by Renewable Forest Energy, LLC will be the first stop on the tour.

Renewable Forest Energy, LLC, owned and managed by local businessman J.R. Ford, has been working to thin designated areas. The wood chips left over from the thinned area will be used to create energy at a power plant through a “gasification” process. Viewers can see the possibilities this process has for creating improved forest health conditions, increased water to the water table, increased hydration, improved wildlife habitat, reduced threat of catastrophic wildfire and disease and less air pollution and stream contamination.

A second example will show the difference in the various mixed conifer vegetation combinations including warm-dry and cool-moist conifer. Various participants will demonstrate treatment options, highlighting the many ecological, social and economic trade-offs within the forest where planning and implementing a range of high-quality projects can contribute to improvement in conditions in the San Juan National Forest. Key guidelines for management of improvement projects include watershed protection, forest resilience and diversity, wildlife improvement, insect and disease control and wildfire mitigation.

In the late 1990s, the Forest Service requested help from the scientific community to gain a better understanding of the ecological conditions on the San Juan National Forest to better inform the anticipated revision of the San Juan Public Lands Forest Plan.

The Upper San Juan Mixed Conifer Working Group was established in 2009 when the Forest Service identified mixed conifer forests as a priority for assistance from the Colorado Forest Restoration Institute. Since that time a core group of dedicated volunteers from organizations including the U.S. Forest Service/Pagosa Ranger District, Mountain Studies Institute, Renewable Forest Energy LLC, Firewise Council of SW Colorado, San Juan Public Lands, many property owners and state organizations have been working to find viable ways to improve the health of the million-plus mixed conifer acres that residents of Pagosa Country call their back-yard.

To attend the free field trip, call the Pagosa Springs Chamber of Commerce at 264-2360 to reserve a spot. Participants are to meet at the large parking area on the east side of Piedra Road near the Turkey Springs trail head area (after the cattle guard) at 1 p.m. Attendees are reminded to dress appropriately as field conditions exist and to bring plenty of drinking water.

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