My time in Gunnison started with a series of wildlife talks at the ICElab of the Western State Colorado University on Thursday night. Topics such as recreation values and the far-reaching effects of sagebrush management, a native species of the Gunnison Valley, were presented and discussed. The event provided the perfect opportunity to meet some of Dr. John Hausdoerffers students, colleagues as well as many people working in various fields in or around wilderness.
Master of Environmental Management Programme
One of them was Melanie Armstrong, assistant professor in the Master of Environmental Management Programme. We talked about the outlay of the master program and the various fields the master students come from and work on during their studies. We also took a look on the master projects of some of the programme’s students to get an insight to the applicability of the program.
Ski tour to the West Elk Wilderness
After an early morning meeting and a campus tour, I finally got to go to a wilderness area. John Hausdoerffer and I took our skies to hike to the edge of the West Elk Wilderness. Hiking through aspen and spruce forests, crossing creeks and encountering elk bones definitely made me feel closer to the wild.
Hands-on wilderness stewardship
After that impressive hike I met with Joseph Carlson, responsible for three of the local Forest Service wilderness areas. The hierarchy of the US Forest Service Lands, the legal frameworks, exceptions and various tasks of wilderness stewardship as well as the implemented management measures were the main topics of this very informative meeting.
Last but not least, I met with Maddie Rehn, Project Director of the Gunnison Public Lands Initiative, and with Arden Anderson, former local outdoor recreation and wilderness manager of the Bureau of Land Management. Talking about the possibilities of special management areas and the opportunities they offer to combine land protected by the US congress with uses such as recreation, research and science as well as the protection of specific endangered species. Arden Anderson, gave me an insight in the wilderness stewardship of the Bureau of Land Management and, in particular, the many factors that have to be taken in consideration when managing fire in a protected area. This is of special interest also to Europe as the European Wilderness Quality Standard rules out fire prevention measures in the Wilderness Zone and limits them to the Restoration and Buffer Zone. We will for sure provide you with more details on suggestions and possibilities to meet the expectations of protecting human settlements while allowing natural dynamic process including fire.