The goal of this program is to enhance the public's enjoyment of the Indian Peaks and James Peak Wilderness Areas by having IPWA volunteers participating in a variety of projects aimed at restoring these areas to their natural state. These efforts, many done in conjunction with other volunteer-based organizations, over the past few years have included the following:
- a series of trail remediation projects during the summer on heavily used but eroded trail segments,
- in 2019, the IPWA partnered with the USFS and Rocky Mountain Conservancy to complete a major bypass project on the Mitchell Lake Trail.
- in 2018, IPWA funded the Rocky Mountain Conservancy to complete trail projects tasks on the Pawnee Pass Trail #907.
During 2019, the Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Conservancy, and IPWA trail crews completed trail restoration on parts of the upper and lower South Boulder Creek Trail. Tasks lincluded:
-Cleaning and widening half a dozen water bar ditches
-Setting several new water bar rocks
-Mitigating a very wet section of the trail by digging new drainage and adding screen
-Building a 3 foot berm of rock and dirt at the lower junction of the winter (ski) trail, which will keep hikers off this social path and allow it to re-vegetate
The IPWA also contributed volunteers to the USFS/WRV Mitchell/Blue Lake trail relocation project. Work we did included:
-Removal of an 11 inch diameter tree (blow down) from the trail
-Helped hew and notch the stringer logs for a new bridge across the inlet creek to Mitchell Lake.
-Dug about 110 feet of new trail including setting two rock stagger steps and one rock step stone.
During 2018, the IPWA sponsored and completed five trail projects and provided the funding for the Rocky Mountain Conservancy to complete a major renovation project on the Pawnee Pass Trail.
Spanning 3 weekends of work in September of 2017, IPWA volunteers, working with the USFS employees, completed a 'turnpike' (shown at left in the first two pictures) on the heavily used South Boulder Creek trail. Volunteers help to fall two trees, de-bark the trees, cut two trees to size using the cross cutting saw skills learned at the start of the summer, and then place the trees along the pathway. A group of volunteers than hauled rock to fill in the trail, added dirt on top, and completed the project just as the rains were coming in.
The IPWA has established an ongoing public education program regarding the Indian Peaks and James Peak Wilderness Areas focusing on its ecology, its popularity, and techniques to minimize the public usage of these areas. Initiatives within this program include the following:
- Since 1998, the IPWA has funded and awarded graduate and undergraduate research grants within focus on ecological impacts within Colorado's high country region. These grants have been awarded to applicants studying environmental sciences, geography, ecology, geology or the human impact on alpine and sub-alpine environments. Up to three grants have been awarded annually since the initiation of this program. In 2019, IPWA funded 3 research grants.
- From 2015-2019, the IPWA has funded and managed the Wilderness Ranger internship program. This program selects two undergraduate college students who are interested in a career in natural resource management and provides them an opportunity to receive training and education in Wilderness management from an inter-disciplinary, field-based perspective with US Forest Service Rangers.
- In 2018, the IPWA piloted the "Wilderness In Nature" (WIN) Teach the Teacher Program in partnership with the University of Northern Colorado's Center for Urban Education. The WIN program focused directly on achieving the IPWA mission by reaching out to a younger, and more ethnically diverse, generation than the majority of our current programs. Students in the teacher training program will be teaching in Denver Public elementary schools, and will be able to pass on their knowledge of Colorado public lands to their classes.
Over the past 20 years, the IPWA has awarded over 33 grants. Recipients of the grants and their projects in 2019 are as follows:
1. Alex Alexsiev - "Can Symbiotic Fungi from Boreal Toads Inhibit the Amphibian Chytrid Fungal Pathogen?"
2. Laurel Brigham - "Do Microclimates And Plant-Plant Interactions Change The Nature Of Range Expansions?"
3. Chiara Forrester - "Plant Responses To Early Snowmelt And Warming Across A Complex Alpine Landscape"
For the Wilderness Internship Program, both the 2018 and 2019 final reports are available as a youtube videoes in the introductory portion of the Indian Peaks Wilderness Alliance Web Page www.indianpeakswilderness.org.
As one former Wilderness Ranger Intern stated, "Those of us who believe (in wilderness) must be willing to fight vehemently in its interest, rise to that necessary standard of responsibility, and demand others to do the same. I am very grateful for the chance I got to learn these things. … It is nice to know that there is a community of people dedicated to protecting our land… I encourage anyone in the future who has the opportunity that I had to take it, and for students of the environment to keep getting out into the woods to defend our planet for generations to
In the Teachers in Nature program, the group of 10 students participated in a series of education hikes starting in the grasslands/prairie, and heading up into the foothills/shrublands, montane and sub-alpine/alpine life zones. These hikes included:
- Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge (US Fish & Wildlife)
- Red Rocks Park National Historic Site (City of Denver Park)
- Dinosaur Ridge National Natural Landmark (US Park Service)
- Mud Lake Boulder County Open Space (Boulder County)
- Brainard Lake Recreational Area (US Forest Service)
The students met with volunteers and state and federal agency staff (biologists, geologists and naturalists) to learn about the ecological life zone, plant & animal adaptations, seed dispersal, and geological concepts.
Finally, the initial IPWA lecture series event took place on June 6, 2018 in which George Wuerthner, a longtime wilderness activist, writer and ecologist, was the inaugural speaker and delivered a lecture entitled "Wilderness Under Siege" which focuses on raising awareness of the numerous threats facing wilderness.
The IPWA participates in several advocacy programs to assist and promote the public's responsible use of the Indian Peaks and James Peak Wilderness areas.
- The IPWA trains volunteers to work as Wilderness Information Specialists for half-day shifts in the US Forest Service Boulder Ranger District Office. These volunteers assist the public in the planning of backpacking and hiking trips within the Indian Peaks and James Peak Wilderness Areas including route planning, regulation adherence, and completion of permit applications.
- From 2016 to 2019, the IPWA has conducted Trailhead Host days in which IPWA volunteers man a hosting station at popular trailheads. This program provides an opportunity to greet visitors at the start of their hikes and provide them information on trail routes, wilderness regulations and best practices, and to answer any questions they might have. As part of this program, the IPWA is developing a proposal to renovate an existing Forest Service structure at the Hessie trailhead in Eldora to serve as a permanent station.
In 2019, the Wilderness Information Specialist (WIS) program covered over 50 half-day shifts from June through September (the length of the active season for this program). :
As WIS volunteer Janie Stuart puts it, "It's my great pleasure to return to volunteer with IPWA. I'm honored to be part of this group of dedicated people who love the backcountry and work to preserve its wildness as a valuable resource for the future. Serving as a Wilderness Information Specialist is enjoyable, because I can share in the visitors' excitement as they plan their adventure. Also I can nudge in a bit of education about how take to take care of the areas in which the they'll travel and camp, while helping them chose a route that's appropriate for their experience level."
The IPWA sponsored 4 Trailhead Host days in 2019. Two events were held at the East Portal/Moffat tunnel area of the James Peaks Wilderness and 2 events were held at the Hessie Trailhead in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area. Record numbers of visitors were seen in both locations in 2018.
Since 1986, the IPWA has trained, co-ordinated and supervised Volunteer Rangers who have committed to complete a minimum of four patrols during each summer season. The Volunteer Ranger has committed to perform at least four patrols during the summer season in which they hike certain trails within the Indian Peaks and James Peak Wilderness Areas thereby providing a Forest Service presence in these areas by monitoring trail usage, performing light trial maintenance work such as removing campfire rings and cutting downed trees, and assisting the public both terms of general knowledge and existing regulations. At the end of each patrol, the volunteers submit reports back to the Forest Service and provide trail condition information to the general public via the IPWA website. In 2015, this program was expanded to incorporate the winter season as well. During the 2019 season, the IPWA had 154 Volunteer Rangers during the summer season and 10 Volunteer Rangers during the winter season (note, the winter volunteers are required to have Wilderness First Aid certification whereas summer volunteers do not).
During the 2019 seasons, the IPWA Volunteer Rangers were able to achieve the following:
- 503 Patrols, 3489 Miles hiked, Hours patrolled 3947.4
37454 - People seen, 5878 dogs seen, 513 dogs off leash
8 horseback riders
81 fire rings dismantled - 50 % increase from 2018
During 2018, the IPWA doubled the number of winter volunteers on the trail and performed more than a dozen hikes in both the Brainard Lake Recreation Area and the James Peak Wilderness. Winter Patrollers held educate the public on the importance of wilderness preservation, removed downed trees (when possible!), and act as a presence of the USFS from November through the start of our summer patrol season. Turn out for the 2019 Wilderness First Aid training was robust, indicating another solid year of Winter Patroling in 2019.