When citizens and kids band together with volunteer organizations to protect their public lands, wonderful things can happen. Recently, Tread Lightly!, Noble Energy, Inc. and the U.S. Forest Service completed three Restoration for Recreation projects implemented this year on the Pawnee National Grassland, near the community of Greeley, Colorado. What's exciting about the Restoration for Recreation drive is that they're been part of a wider Noble Energy-supported "Nurturing with Nature" partnership, which is all about introducing students to their role as stewards of the outdoors. This unique educational program doesn't just preach; it helps students learn in a hands-on way how they can help protect their public lands. This new youth program aims to reach 10,000 students grades 2-6 by teaching outdoor ethics and skills education. The final project was held at the Baker Draw Designated Shooting Area, where volunteers cleaned and improved the popular public space with new permanent shade structures.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife Director Bob Broscheid attended the September 21st event to lend his agency's support and speak to the group of volunteers. "Colorado Parks and Wildlife is known across the country as a leader in conservation, outdoor recreation and wildlife management, and this program is right in line with our mission to provide enjoyable and sustainable outdoor recreation opportunities that educate and inspire current and future generations," Broscheid said.
This important multifaceted partnership has grown to serve as a national example of the benefits of public-private collaboration outlined by various federal and state agencies from the "America's Great Outdoors Initiative" and the U.S. Forest Service's "Framework for Sustainable Recreation" to the Bureau of Land Management's "Education, Interpretation, and Youth Engagement National Strategy 2013-2018" and Colorado Parks and Wildlife's 2015 Strategic Plan.
By providing the funding and volunteers needed, priority projects that otherwise might not have been completed for another year or more are now finished and providing enhanced and sustainable access to various groups including Off-Highway Vehicles (OHV), bird watchers, wildlife conservationists, and recreational shooting sports enthusiasts.
"The Tread Lightly!-Noble Energy partnership complements many priorities of national importance with regard to conservation and outdoor recreation, and we're proud to set the national example right here in Colorado where the needs are great and the community is so supportive of outdoor recreation," said Lori McCullough, Tread Lightly!'s executive director. "We're fostering citizen stewardship, leading community engagement and establishing public-private partnerships that will serve these communities for years."
This project will protect long-term access to this popular shooting area, sustain opportunities to enjoy outdoor recreation, and protect valuable natural resources. The Baker Draw Shooting area was opened in January 2014 and originally made possible by grants from Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the National Rifle Association. Other critical support was provided by Weld County, Chesapeake Energy, Anadarko, Noble Energy and the U.S. Army Corps Reserves. Due to the great popularity of this area, the recent renovations and updates were critical to keep it a safe and enjoyable spot for visitors.
"Partnerships have been instrumental in the construction and improvement of the very popular Baker Draw Designated Shooting Area," Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grassland Acting Deputy Supervisor Tom Ford said. "We appreciate all the work done by our partners and volunteers to enhance the experience of Pawnee visitors at all three of the Restoration for Recreation projects."
The other two Noble Energy Restoration for Recreation projects included improvements and updates on the Main Draw OHV Area and Pawnee Buttes Trailhead.
More information about Nurturing with Nature and Tread Lightly!'s Restoration for Recreation program can be found at http://treadlightly.org.