Community Agriculture Alliance: Community forestry in the Yampa Valley
Community forestry is defined by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations as “any situation that intimately involves local people in forestry activity.”
Our Yampa Valley is blessed to have diverse forested systems along our streets and greenways, in our backyards and parks, along the Yampa River and all around us. We also have a strong community that cherishes those resources.
Forested systems are dynamic and serve many ecological functions: they clean air and water; conserve energy and soil; provide wildlife habitat; and reduce noise while adding form, structure, beauty, value and recreation opportunities in our communities.
Here in the Yampa Valley, people strongly value their community forests and open spaces. It is at the crossroads of the intrinsic environmental values and the social values that community forestry happens: individuals and organizations playing a significant role in the management of their forest resources while also influencing current and future land use planning.
This is the essence of community forestry: to involve the participation and collaboration of various stakeholders including community, government and non-government organizations as well as individuals, in the management and conservation of local forest for current and future generations.
The Colorado State Forest Service had been an active partner in community forestry efforts in the Yampa Valley, combining forest management and conservation with youth development and community empowerment through a variety of programs and activities, and leveraging those efforts through partnerships with other conservation organizations.
For example, we successfully wrapped up our third ReTree event of the 2014 season by planting more than 700 native riparian trees along the Yampa River Core Trail with a hundred volunteers, half of which were youths.
ReTree is a community forestry program, in partnership with the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council, through which almost 23,000 trees have been planted with the help of local schools, parks and individuals in the past five years.
Now come the post planting care and maintenance, by involving local youth groups in the watering and weeding of those seedlings through the spring and summer, and later by monitoring in the fall.
Another way we are involved in community forestry is by providing technical support and direction to the town of Hayden and the city of Steamboat Springs, both recognized as Tree City USA communities for their forestry programs. Hayden has had the recognition for nine years and Steamboat Springs for 23.
We are all stakeholders of community forestry. We all have a vested interest to establish sustainable practices, whether to ensure that forests are actively managed and protected or to develop and maintain local recreation and tourism opportunities. Continued improvement in the collaboration between local governments and agencies, NGOs and forest communities is a key point for better community forest management.
We encourage you to participate in improving your community forests while inspiring and empowering our youths to take meaningful action on behalf of their environment. There are plenty of opportunities to do so locally, just give us a call if you would like to get involved.
Carolina Manriquez is a forester with the Colorado State Forest Service and can be reached at 970-879-0475.
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