National Public Lands Day Restoration in Dry Creek, Colorado a Whacking Success

My feet hurt and shoulders ache, but today’s National Public Lands Day restoration project near Montrose, Colorado was a “whacking” success. The day overflowed with blue skies, sunshine and camaraderie.

I think that’s what National Public Lands Day – and the Great Outdoors America week leading up to it – is all about. It’s about the beauty and love of nature bringing people together. It’s about hard work in the outdoors making people happy, despite differences we may have back in the “civilized” world.

Nearly 40 volunteers gathered early this morning at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) offices in far western Colorado. The crowd included conservationists, mountain bikers, four-wheel enthusiasts and others who appreciate the great outdoors resource provided by Montrose’s public lands right in our “back yard”. BLM Field Office Manager Barbara Sharrow said the turnout was one of the largest they’ve ever had.

Our mission was a restoration project in Dry Creek, just a few miles west of Montrose. The Dry Creek area encompasses 115,000 acres of mesas and canyons, dotted with pinon and juniper, and full of hidden remnants of the lives of Native American people who first inhabited the region.

Dry Creek is popular with mountain bikers, runners, jeepers, birdwatchers, hunters and hikers. All this activity damaged some of the trails and campsites. The Uncompahgre BLM office recently finished a good travel management plan for this area and they needed help- our work would help restore a retreat for quiet users, away from motorized trails.

After a treacherous drive down the rocky road into Dry Creek canyon, we unloaded our tools, including shovels, McLeods, Pulaskis, and gloves. I joined a pleasant crew that carried pots of wood rose, sumac and cottonwood down to the lovely creek. BLM botanist extraordinaire Amanda Clements guided our work.

The ground at our restoration site was very hard and rocky. We had to whack with all our might to dig holes for the little shrubs and trees. After lots of sweating, it was a joy to nestle our plants in their new homes and give them their first watering.

Another crew stayed above the arroyo, strenuously digging holes and setting fence by hand. By early afternoon, our many hands had accomplished an amazing amount of restoration. Our final touch was reseeding, which should revegetate these areas so they aren’t overrun in the future.

Dry Creek is one of many areas included in the BLM’s Resource Management Plan (RMP) revisions, which are underway all across western Colorado. In 2012 there will be numerous opportunities to comment on these plans as we work to preserve these valued western resources and lands.

The Wilderness Society's BLM Action Center will be tracking this process. You can also check out the BLM Uncompahgre Field Office’s website on the progress of their RMP revision. And next year, plan to join your local BLM field office efforts on National Public Lands Day.