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The National Forest Foundation works with the U.S. Forest Service and local partners to restore our National Forests and Grasslands. We are proud to be continuing our national partnership with REI Co-op and REI Foundation into 2020. Through the REI Co-op World Elite Mastercard, REI Co-op and REI Foundation have collectively invested $3.575M in our National Forests and Grasslands since 2017.1
REI believes a life outdoors is a life well lived, so we work to awaken a lifelong love of the outdoors for all. This partnership will support meaningful on-the-ground restoration and youth engagement efforts on National Forests and Grasslands across the country. Learn more about our 2020 projects below.
This project will support an all indigenous youth crew and make a popular recreation site on the Coconino National Forest safer and more ecologically sustainable. To implement this project, we will engage the Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps, in partnership with Northern Arizona University, providing the youth with conservation training and work and leadership experience. Young adults in this program come from the Hopi, Navaho, Zuni, Acoma, and Apache Nations.
Oak Creek is an immensely accessible and popular recreation area that is used by around 1.5 million visitors annually. By closing an illegal pullout along the highway, decommissioning dangerous, steep and ecologically destructive social trails, and improving the sanctioned trails from legal parking areas, together with our partners we will improve user safety and decrease environmental degradation. In total, 26 social trails will be decommissioned and 10 trails will be improved.
Just over an hour outside of Denver, the Grays Peak National Recreation Trail is often flooded with visitors and residents trying to summit the Peaks. Grays and Torreys are the only two Fourteeners situated on the Continental Divide, and hiking both peaks is one of the most popular fourteener hikes in Colorado due to its proximity to Denver and the Front Range. An estimated 25,000-30,000 people visit the summit trail annually, giving the Steven’s Gulch Trail the distinction as the second-most visited Fourteener summit trail in Colorado.
This project is the second year of this 3-year trail stewardship project, which was launched in 2019 with REI’s support. The goal is to improve the user experience, and to protect the fragile alpine from increasing use and impacts by restoring and reconstructing primarily the upper sections of trail leading to the summits of both peaks. Overuse of the current trail has braiding, undercutting, and erosion, leading to heavy soil loss from the mountain. Work in 2020 will include a mile of trail reconstruction above 13,000 feet, utilizing skilled trail crews, high school-aged youth corps, adult aged (18-30) youth corps, and volunteers.
The Wild and Scenic Rivers of the Huron-Manistee National Forest have been a source of enjoyment and the icon of the Forest since the inception of the Wild and Scenic River Act 51 years ago. The Au Sable, Manistee, Pere Marquette, Bear Creek, and Pine WSRs all offer world-renowned fishing and recreation opportunities for their adjacent communities, as well as visitors from around the world.
However, increased use has led to litter and safety issues on the rivers and at popular recreation sites along them. With REI’s support, the NFF and the Forest Service are partnering to establish a recreation intern program to employ six interns for the summer to support clean-up efforts and increase public outreach and information on user ethics. The interns will lead volunteer clean-up efforts and provide information to the public on LeaveNoTrace principles.
This program will help urban youth connect to their public lands and educate the public about conservation and responsible recreation. Junior Field Rangers will receive STEM-based outdoor education and train as naturalists. Through the program they will earn college credit and a California Naturalist Certification.
As part of the program, the youth will have multilingual interactions with hundreds of visitors to popular National Forest locations on these heavily used public lands. The youth will provide information about forest health and conservation and leave no trace principles. The Junior Field Rangers will also conduct visitor surveys, perform trash assessments, and do trail maintenance.
Cathedral Ledge, is an iconic destination in the Mount Washington Valley for climbers of all ages and skill levels. The uptick in visitors, coupled with aging access routes (some will be 100 years old in 2020), has led to erosion concerns on the trails and staging areas of this popular climbing destination.
With REI’s support, this year we will undertake a component of a multi-year project to address increasing maintenance issues on climbing access trails, staging areas and other popular multi-use trails in this trail system. This work will both make the access routes safer for users and address erosion issues to reduce environmental impacts.
Much of the work at this stage of the project is technical, and will be conducted by professional crews. It will require highline rigging, stone splitting and shaping, and dry stack stone work. Training days on some of these techniques will be provided to volunteer crews, to build capacity for local stewardship of this area. The NFF and Forest Service are partnering with White Mtn. Trail Collective and multiple local organizations, including some youth groups, to accomplish this multi-year restoration effort.
In this post-fire restoration project, REI funds will allow us to scale up restoration efforts to address invasive species that threaten a unique and vital desert landscape as a result of the 2020 Bighorn Fire. This area is significant to Tucson and surrounding communities, providing a year-round destination for local and visiting hikers, bikers, birdwatchers and more.
The Bighorn Fire was ignited by lightning in June 2020 and before it was contained, it burned 102,000 acres on the Coronado National Forest. The fire moved from higher elevations down into the Sonoran Desert, which is an ecosystem that is not adapted to fire and therefore more susceptible to lasting damage, and the most sensitive to invasion of non-native invasive plant species.
Without this crucial restoration work, the disturbance from the Bighorn Fire would give non-native invasive plants a chance to invade and take over the ecosystem and transform it from a fire-resistant desert into a fire-prone grassland. Together with our partners, we will be able to take steps to contain invasive species on 2,400 key acres of the burn scar.
Our National Forests sequester carbon to fight climate change, provide a third of our nation's drinking water, clean our air, and provide habitat for threatened and endangered wildlife. Natural disasters such as wildfire and insect and disease outbreaks have deforested millions of acres of our forests. To help address our National Forest Systems reforestation needs on areas of natural disturbance, the NFF is in the midst of campaign to plant 50 Million for our Forests.
To support this effort, REI will be planting at least 40,000 trees with us in 2020 on the Chatahoochee-Oconee National Forest near Atlanta. REI funds will help us plant longleaf pine seedlings, part of a large multi-state, multi-agency effort to restore critical longleaf ecosystems across the Southeastern United States.
1This year, REI will donate $0.10 per REI Co-op World Elite Mastercard purchase transaction made to the REI Foundation, up to $1 million. REI Foundation is a 501(c)(3) private charity that aims to: rewild cities and keep wild places wild; connect underrepresented groups to the outdoors; demonstrate nature’s health benefits; and advance climate action. Non-Purchase transactions, including cash advances, convenience checks, balance transfers, and other advance transactions as defined in the Cardmember Agreement, as well as interest charges and fees, do not qualify. Transactions posted in late December of the current year may be applied in the following year. REI may change the benefit or named charity in future years. REI is solely responsible for making the donation.
The creditor and issuer of the REI Co-op Mastercard® is U.S. Bank National Association, pursuant to a license from Mastercard International Incorporated. ©2020 U.S. Bank
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