Arkansas Headwaters Wilderness Partners (AHWP)
This GARNA chapter, which functioned from 2008 into 2010, has now been replaced by the Upper Arkansas Wilderness Volunteers. Its Mission was very similar to the new chapter – here is the background:
AHWP was formed in 2008 in response to an initiative of the Leadville District of the San Isabel National Forest, the office which has lead responsibility for managing some 250,000 acres of designated wilderness within three districts of the San Isabel: Leadville, Salida and South Park. Faced with a mandate to increase its level of management to meet a national Forest Service program named the Ten Year Wilderness Challenge, Leadville District officials recognized that involving volunteers was a good option since their own staff and budget for wilderness work were stretched very thin.
During 2006 and 2007, several Chaffee and Lake County volunteers informally participated in wilderness management in the Buffalo Peaks WA, and in late 2007 the Forest Service encouraged them to consider developing a formal group. It was decided it would be most efficient if such a group become associated with an established non-profit organization, which could handle financial and administrative tasks. Since its geographic range includes the Arkansas River corridor from Leadville to Pueblo, and having a natural resource-based mission (see www.garna.org) and existing partnerships with public land managers, GARNA was a logical choice.
Thus AHWP was formed in part to assist the Leadville and Salida Districts in meeting thatTen Year Wilderness Challenge:http://www.fs.fed.us/r9/forests/superior/bwcaw/documents/10yearwildernesschallenge.pdf This program requires that each wilderness manager address priority issues such as fire management, invasive species, air quality, visitor education and information, and control of camping impacts, among others. Volunteers, after proper training on standardized approaches and under the direction of Forest Service staff, spent time in the summer seasons of 2008 and 2009 inventorying campsites and consolidating or eliminating certain sites, a project to protect the rare boreal toad, installing or maintaining trailhead and directional signs, and minor trail maintenance. This was not a trail building or litter clean up or regulation enforcement group, nor was it a lobby group for expanded wilderness; it was simply a service group helping the Forest Service meet its new challenge.
AHWP started its first season with a training session in June, 2008 which attracted eight volunteers. Some of those volunteers went on to assist in projects in the summer of 2008 and 2009 (see links to updates) with the first priority being work in the Buffalo Peaks Wilderness Area. Potential volunteers - hikers or horse-users - were already very comfortable hiking, riding and backpacking in wilderness areas; the training was not on wilderness skills but on specific data-collection techniques (like GPS location and mapping), photography, record-keeping and safety. After training volunteers were allowed to set their own schedules and complete their tasks without being accompanied by FS staff, provided they followed the program set by the Leadville District and subsequently provided observations and data they collected. Off-season there may also be need for volunteers to help enter information in a convenient spread-sheet or data-base format.
In early 2010 the chapter’s primary leader withdrew and during the 2010 and 2011 seasons no formal volunteer work was undertaken. However the Leadville District remained impressed with the earlier projects and was anxious to get the chapter up and running again
To review descriptions of work accomplished by the Arkansas Headwaters Wilderness Partners, check out the 2009 and 2008 annual reports below.
2009 AHWP activities posted December 8, 2009
2008 AHWP activities posted December 5, 2008
The following US Forest Service weblinks give further information on the four wilderness areas managed all or in part by the Leadville District.
Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area: http://www.wilderness.net/index.cfm?fuse=NWPS&sec=wildView&WID=131
Holy Cross Wilderness Area: http://www.wilderness.net/index.cfm?fuse=NWPS&sec=wildView&WID=131
Buffalo Peaks Wilderness Area: http://www.wilderness.net/index.cfm?fuse=NWPS&sec=wildView&WID=86
Mount Massive Wilderness Area: http://www.wilderness.net/index.cfm?fuse=NWPS&sec=wildView&WID=377