Youth crews to tackle fire mitigation, weeds at Duckett Creek Ranch

Young people from across south central Colorado will work to reduce fire risk and treat invasive weeds on Duckett Creek Ranch, a protected ranch on the eastern flank of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains near Westcliffe.

Great Outdoors Colorado has awarded San Isabel Land Protection Trust $22,500 to pay the Mile High Youth Corps – Southern Front Range to work on the ranch over three weeks next summer.

Colorado’s nine accredited youth corps groups provide skills and labor for critical conservation services while developing civic engagement and leadership skills. About 1,600 young Coloradans participate annually.

Duckett Creek Ranch, a 400-acre property protected by a San Isabel conservation easement, plays an important role in the area’s forest and watershed health. The ranch adjoins San Isabel National Forest and the popular Rainbow Trail and sits a quarter mile from the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness. The property’s forests, open meadows and waters offer food, water and shelter for wildlife, including elk, mule deer, mountain lion, bobcat, black bear, migrating birds, trout and amphibians.

In 2011, the 4,690-acre Duckett Fire burned about 100 acres of the ranch, and the Hayden Pass Fire threatened it again earlier this year.

As part of its Stewardship Services program, San Isabel will help direct the work and support the crews. Ranch owners David and Cynthia Huber will provide equipment and matching funding. Eight to 12 young people on specialized sawyer and herbicide crews will do the work. Participants will camp on the ranch.

The youth crews will remove dead trees and branches, chipping the debris or cutting it up for firewood. They also will apply herbicide on non-native Canada thistle, musk thistle and hound’s tongue, preserving plants that provide food and habitat for wildlife.

Removing fire fuel and increasing native vegetation also will benefit nearby areas, including U.S. Forest Service property.

In addition to the work experience, the crews will receive onsite training on such topics as fire behavior and mitigation, safely enjoying mountainous terrain, wildlife in the Sangres, protecting private land, tree identification, weed management, and backcountry hiking and camping. 

Ben Lenth

Posted in News


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