On March 2, the Coronado National Forest rescinded the Fire Closure Order for a portion of the Arizona National Scenic Trail that has been in place since the Bighorn Fire started in June of 2020. Thanks to Arizona Trail Association staff, stewards and volunteers, as well as the crews at Arizona Conservation Corps and staff from the Santa Catalina Ranger District, the AZT is now open through the Pusch Ridge Wilderness (Passage 11)…just in time for thru-hiking season! Portions of Passage 11B (Pusch Ridge Wilderness Bypass) that are popular among mountain bikers and day hikers remain closed due to public safety concerns from the wildfire’s impacts. When hiking and camping in recently burned areas, please be aware of falling trees, unstable soils, and the increased possibility of flash floods during storms.
New Vehicle Barriers Help Protect the AZT
On March 10-11, a crew of ATA volunteers and staff joined forces with the Bureau of Land Management to install three vehicle barriers to help protect the Arizona Trail from unlawful motorized impacts near the Gila River along Passage 16. With more people recreating outdoors and the recent rise in 4WD sports and widespread availability of UTVs, some segments of the AZT have been suffering from resource impacts. The BLM’s Gila District Office collaborated with the ATA to identify road and arroyo access points where motorized recreationalists were trespassing onto the trail. Then, environmental studies were conducted to ensure no negative impacts to natural and cultural resources would occur. Once the project was approved, an adventurous crew of individuals met up in a particularly remote corner of Arizona with steel gates, concrete, and a commitment to stewardship. After two days of hard work, a total of three gates and one new sign had been installed. These will help keep motorized recreationalists on roads while protecting the Arizona National Scenic Trail’s non-motorized designation. By keeping motorized vehicles off the AZT, sensitive natural and cultural resources will be protected (which are prevalent near the Gila River), and the trail will be safer, quieter, and less prone to erosion. Big thanks to the BLM for funding the steel and concrete; to Rob Bauer for his craftsmanship; to the staff and volunteers who supported this effort; and to all ATA members and supporters who allow us to do this kind of work. For years, the ATA has supported the Warrior Hike program, which provides combat veterans long-distance therapeutic experiences along the Arizona Trail as a way to “walk off the war.” Recognizing the profound impact this has on individuals, families and communities, we have dedicated more resources to hosting Veterans Volunteer Work Weekends throughout the year, and engaging more veterans in the Arizona Trail experience with support from the US Forest Service and ATA donors like you. Our program got a boost when Michael “Chappy” Chappell accepted his mission to serve as the ATA’s Veteran Program Coordinator. He’ll be working alongside other ATA stewards and volunteers who are also military veterans. “The mission of the ATA’s Veteran Program is to connect, restore and engage those who have served our country with fellow veterans to educate, protect, and preserve the Arizona National Scenic Trail,” said Chappy. “The Veteran Program is designed to create opportunities on and off the trail, where vets can feel a sense of accomplishment that is found in military service, as well as in the strength and power of community by participating in meaningful experiences along the AZT.” After serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004, Chappy looked to nature’s healing properties which led him to the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), where he focused his studies in Outdoor Education and Conservation. He took that knowledge and applied it to educating and assisting outdoor enthusiasts stoke their passions by outfitting them with the best equipment through his work with REI Co-op and Summit Hut. A Tucson native, Chappy has given back to the community through volunteering with Southern Arizona Rescue Association, Arizona Conservation Corps, Beads of Courage, and TreeHouse Farm. You can learn more about him on our Staff page. Chappy and Regional Trail Steward Mark Flint will lead the next Veterans Volunteer Work Weekend on March 26-28 to help repair wildfire-damaged trail on the Tonto National Forest. Although that event is already full, three other dates are on the books for 2021. Learn more about the ATA Veteran Program here, and please share these opportunities with others. Help Keep Our 4 Runner Running
In 2012, the Valley Toyota Dealers teamed up to donate a Toyota 4 Runner to the ATA. Since that time, our volunteer Director of Trail Operations has put it to the test! This reliable workhorse of a vehicle has over 300,000 miles on its engine, and is still going strong. But Arizona’s rugged roads have recently eaten up two of its tires. If you’ve ever hiked, biked or driven on Hardscrabble Road west of Pine, you know how formidable the volcanic rocks can be. Would you be able to help pay for a new tire or two so we can keep the 4 Runner running? To help ATA donors and supporters better understand the needs of the organization, we have developed a Wish List online. This allows you to purchase items directly from the source and gift them to the ATA. You’ll receive an in-kind donation form for tax purposes and our profound gratitude. Please take a look at our Wish List, and if you’re receiving a stimulus check, please consider a little extra support for the Arizona Trail Association so our staff and volunteers are able to keep doing what they do best – protecting, maintaining, enhancing, promoting and sustaining the Arizona Trail. Mask Mandate on National Forest Lands
Vicki Christiansen, Chief of the USDA Forest Service, recently issued an updated Workplace Safety Plan today on the mandatory use of masks while on National Forest lands. This new plan guides US Forest Service staff, volunteers and visitors in implementing best practices for public health, “while demonstrating a commitment to lead by example in protecting the health and safety of all who work and recreate on the National Forests and Grasslands,” she said. “Our workplace safety plan will be updated as appropriate based on feedback, Union consultation, and the latest science-based public health guidelines.” Masks must be worn on National Forest System lands when physical distancing cannot be maintained. Forest Service employees, on-site contractors, cooperators, partners, volunteers, employees of special use authorization holders, and visitors must wear a mask that covers the nose and mouth in accordance with current CDC and OSHA guidance. CDC recommends the following: Non-medical disposable masks, masks that fit properly (snugly around the nose and chin with no large gaps around the sides of the face), masks made with breathable fabric (such as cotton), masks made with tightly woven fabric (i.e., fabrics that do not let light pass through when held up to a light source), masks with two or three layers, and masks with inner filter pockets. USDA will not allow non-protective masks, masks with exhalation valves, or face shields as a substitute for masks. Employment Opportunities Conservation Legacy has announced a plethora of employment opportunities in the field and in the office. If you want to pursue a career in public lands stewardship, visit their website to learn more. Here are just a few of the open positions in the Western Region: Local Program Opportunities
Program Director • Arizona Conservation Corps/Conservation Corps New Mexico in Flagstaff, AZ Hopi Program Coordinator • Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps in Kykotsmovi, AZ Trails Field Technician • Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps in Gallup, NM Fence Field Coordinator • Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps in Leupp, NM Forest Health Partnerships Program Manager • Southwest Conservation Corps in Durango, CO Watershed Programs Manager • Southwest Conservation Corps in Durango, CO Corps Director • Stewards Individual Placement Program in Durango, CO Regional Staff Opportunities Communications Coordinator • Tucson, AZ or other Conservation Legacy office Admissions Coordinator • Durango, CO or other Conservation Legacy office Field Operations Coordinator • Any Conservation Legacy office Director of National Philanthropy • Any Conservation Legacy office in the Region or remote within service area Talent Development Specialist • Any Conservation Legacy office in the Region or remote within service area