Gore Creek bisects the Town of Vail as it rushes down to its confluence with the Eagle River. Rising above the south side of Gore Creek is Vail Mountain Resort, one of the world’s largest and most renowned ski areas. Across the valley, north of Gore Creek, the sun shines on the Eagles Nest and Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness areas, and it provides habitat and winter grazing for big horn sheep and big game, including deer and elk. Wildlife depend on native plants for food and the presence of invasive weeds degrades the essence of wilderness.
In 2019, the National Forest Foundation supported the Western Colorado Conservation Corps with a grant from the NFF’s Ski Conservation Fund—derived from donations from guests of Vail Resorts—for two weeks of project work, employing 10 youth and young adults to work on invasive plants projects with U.S. Forest Service staff, Town of Vail, and Summit County partners. Classroom and field-based training aided WCCC Corpsmembers in their career pursuits and helped them gain Public Lands Corps hiring authority status with the federal government.
The WCCC crew worked alongside USFS staff to implement the large-scale project. The crew gridded large, steep swaths of land, hiking in remote areas not typically seen by the public. Crew members ducked under tree branches, climbed over big rocks and hiked thousands of vertical feet each day.
Over the course of the project in 1,382 person-hours, the WCCC helped treat 285 acres of public land, spraying 130 gallons of herbicide to treat invasive thistles, hounds tongue, oxeye daisy, yellow toadflax, dalmatian toadflax, sulfur cinquefoil and other noxious weeds. WCCC Crew Leaders learned about advanced GPS tracking and data collection and learned how to properly complete application records and other reports.
Support from the National Forest Foundation leverages interest from other groups and has been integral for improving the big game habitat and wilderness characteristics of the White River National Forest.