Nature's Beacon Autumn Excerpt

Updated: Oct 2, 2019

Why take care of nature?

If a business factory was turning out significant amounts of clean air for our health and life as well as billions gallons of clean water for all of our use from drinking to bathing and commerce and it fell into a state of disrepair would you let it become destroyed so that that these amazing benefits ceased? Or would the business invest to keep these and quantifiable economic benefits intact for years? Our land and water provide life’s essentials and the awe-inspiring scenes and sounds for our soul.

So why is “nature’s factory” so vital to our existence allowed to sink into disrepair? Our National Parks and National Forests are roughly $18 billion behind in maintenance. That is just a glimpse into the problem.

A local perspective

The state of our land

Our trails

The White River National Forest Receives approximately 14.4 million recreation visits annually. This takes a toll on our eco-system and a lot of it starts with our trails as these gateways into the forests are so heavily used that they are truly in a state of disrepair.

The trail system provides recreation, health benefits, social cohesion and massive economic benefits to the surrounding businesses and the outdoor industry.

In Summit County, home to the Dillon Ranger District, there are roughly 435 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking and mechanized use. The Friends of the Dillon Ranger District in coordination with the USFS and many volunteers make great strides each year with close to 6 miles of trail constructed or maintained along with over 300 trees and other vegetation planted in 2018.

Despite this magnificent work in coordination with other stewardship groups, the pressure on our land continues and without USFS capacity increases, there will continue to be a difficult time expanding the scope to take care of the trails and land that so many Americans enjoy.

Is the situation tenable with underfunded land and water agencies and a growing desire to enjoy the magnificent beauty in nature? The trail head parking areas are overflowing unsafely a lot of the time and the toll on our eco-system is noticeable. How do we instill a sense of responsible recreation and at the same time find creative solutions to pay for the basic maintenance of our land?

Colorado Parks and Wildlife collaboratively with many agencies and organizations has formed the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan. How many of us hold a land and water ethos that furthers stewardship efforts? Is the idea of conservation of our land, water and wildlife pervasive enough to make a sizable difference?

I like the intention of this initiative and the recognition that we need solutions at massive scale to address even the most basic needs of our valuable natural assets. We need to start at the trail and go well beyond in our efforts to protect our vitally important land and water.

What do we need?

Awareness on the importance and value of nature to our lives and economy.

A dedicated Colorado and American ethos on land and water stewardship and conservation.

Dynamic Funding solutions to implement the needed work.

Take the inspiration that this evokes and resolve to take care of it.

If you would like to receive Natures's Beacon full Autumn Edition please let me know.


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As a Summit County, Colorado Local Tom Koehler, founder of Sustainable Hiker, is passionate about driving people toward solutions for the health of our forests and waters. After many years of success in the capital markets that include stints as Director of Research for a wealth management company and Managing Director on a bond desk at a D.C. bank, Tom recognizes the true crisis that we are in with our forests and waterways and wants to foster a community that participates in its healing through traditional and non-traditional means. 

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