On Saturday, September 24th, FLC’s Outdoor Pursuits program began a two-day service project near Bluff, Utah. Sixteen members of the Fort Lewis College community -- thirteen students and three OP staff members -- comprised this hard-working group. The volunteer service trip included floating a 27-mile stretch of the San Juan River.
This trip was a collaboration with the Bureau of Land Management to celebrate National Public Lands Day, Saturday September 24th. The 23rd annual National Environmental Education Foundation hosts National Public Lands Day, the nation's largest, single-day volunteer effort for public lands. Through National Public Lands Day, NEEF works to connect people to public lands in their community, inspire environmental stewardship, and encourage use of public lands for education, recreation, and general health.
The service was conducted in two phases. A group of nine students spent the morning at the Sand Island Recreation site with one of the river rangers, who directed several tasks. Some folks were moving piles of brush that had been cut, while the remainder of the group spent time removing invasive weeds by hand from several campsites. Once on the river, the group spent time over the course of the next two days picking up trash along the river banks. The haul included a tire, a propane tank and many trash bags filled with glass and plastic bottles. There were a total of 54.5 hours of volunteer work provided for the BLM.
The OP program, as well as many academic departments, provides Fort Lewis College students with academic and recreational experiences on public lands around the Four Corners region. In the mid-1970s, the Outdoor Pursuits program was started and ran many trips over the years on the San Juan, exposing generations of college students to the beauty of the canyons as well as teaching whitewater skills that would lead to a lifetime of river recreation. Outdoor Pursuits has also conducted spring break service trips, which have included trash pick-up and invasive species identification and removal. The San Juan River has been an integral part of our academic and recreational programming, providing opportunities that have had a lasting impact on many people.
Given the rich history of public lands use by OP, providing pathways to give back to the resource is an integral part of embracing stewardship -- for the landscapes of the Four Corners that we utilize and have grown to care deeply about.