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Mixed-Conifer Working Group considers public education

The Mixed-Conifer Working Group is moving well into phase two - community education and monitoring.

During a Tuesday meeting, the education and outreach committee discussed goals, strategies and funding opportunities were.

Among the goals mentioned were helping the community understand basic forest ecology and notifying the public of possible forest management actions.

“People want to learn the basic education of the forest process,” Firewise ambassador Pam Wilson said, adding, “People say they want the forest to stay like it is. Well, it doesn’t do that. Nature doesn’t do that.”

To which fellow committee member and local businessman J.R. Ford responded, “They don’t understand what we have isn’t natural.”

The reason the working group wants the community to understand this is multitiered. One reason is the threat of fire posed from forests filled with beetle-attacked trees, forests protected for over 100 years from natural fires. Another reason is to gain community support for forest management actions that will help prevent large scale wildfires and increase forest sustainability and resiliency.

But the question of how to present this to the public in an interesting and understandable way was one which shifted to a focus on the target audience.

“Who is our target audience?,” asked Marcie Bidwell, executive director for the Mountain Studies Institute and member of the working group. The audience in the Pagosa community includes many lifestyles and demographic differences. The audiences mentioned at the meeting included outdoor recreationists, homeowners, new homeowners, guides and outfitters, tourists, utilities and businesses.

In order to effectively reach each audience, Bidwell suggested that a communication plan be written. The rest of the committee agreed. Bidwell offered to lead the group in writing such a plan.

Marsha Porter-Norton, group facilitator, suggested that, eventually, a comprehensive education plan be created. It was not made clear when that issue will be addressed.

Funding options were discussed next. Money is needed for effective communication approaches, such as creation of pamphlets. A variety of grant options were mentioned including a North American Partnership for Environmental Community Action grant, Colorado Water Conservancy Board grants and Colorado Forest Restoration grants, to list a few.

Other ideas for funding were noted, including help from various utilities that would be beneficiaries of resilient forest conditions, such as water utilities.

The next meeting of the education outreach committee and the Mixed Conifer Working Group will be April 20 at 9 a.m. at the Ross Aragon Community Center.

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