The National Forest Foundation (NFF) and USDA Forest Service Announce Partnership with the VF Foundation to Create Front Range Stewardship Strike Team
The innovative, new pilot program was created to conserve and improve high-use trails throughout the Denver metro area.
The National Forest Foundation (NFF) and USDA Forest Service recently announced a new partnership with The VF Foundation that will create a new program in the Denver area called the “Colorado Front Range Strike Team.” In total, The VF Foundation has granted more than $400,000 to help fund the first two years of the pilot project in partnership with the NFF, the USDA Forest Service, and Mile High Youth Corps (MHYC) to conserve and maintain beloved Front Range trails.
“We are proud and excited to kick off this unique partnership with The VF Foundation. Their gift will further our mission at the National Forest Foundation to engage all Americans in promoting the health and public enjoyment of our National Forest System,” said Mary Mitsos, NFF President and CEO. “This partnership demonstrates the deep commitment The VF Foundation has to our National Forests and Grasslands, as well as equitable access to the outdoors, and fostering the future leaders of the conservation and sustainable recreation industries. The VF Foundation is a leading example of how, together, we can proactively steward our spectacular public lands.”
This new program helps the USDA Forest Service, NFF, and MHYC address trail needs along the Front Range from Colorado Springs to Boulder on the Arapaho, Roosevelt, Pike, and San Isabel National Forests. These forests have seen a dramatic increase of use in the face of recent metro-area population growth. In addition, trail use on the Front Range has reached historic levels since the pandemic started. Trail access has played an important role in both mental and physical health for Front Range residents. With increased trails management needs, this strike team is poised to complete work where it is needed most. Prioritized by the Forest Service, the trail projects have strong community support as they are among the most heavily used in the metro region.
Colorado’s population has multiplied rapidly and is projected to grow from 5.7 million people in 2018 to 8.7 million in 2050. Many residents and millions of out-of-state visitors seek quality outdoor experiences in Colorado’s National Forests. National Forests along the Front Range see the most visitors. Three million people visit the 1,375 miles of popular National Forest Front Range trails annually.
“This partnership represents the future of outdoor recreation along Colorado’s Front Range. We all benefit by working together to find innovative solutions to trail stewardship, the creation of jobs, and access. Most importantly, visitors benefit by having access to a well-cared for and well-maintained system of trails,” said Jennifer Eberlien, Acting Regional Forester, USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region.
The Strike Team aims to address two goals:
- Provide high-quality visitor experiences across Front Range National Forest trails by connecting communities and improving trail access for diverse populations in the Denver metro area.
- Build local capacity for work opportunities in Denver’s backyard through volunteerism, job creation, and youth engagement.
“The VF Foundation believes that fostering a connection to nature and love of the outdoors at an early age can have a profound impact on people’s lives,” said Gloria Schoch, Director of The VF Foundation. “We’re proud to be part of this innovative pilot program that we hope can be leveraged as a national model to improve access to the outdoors while exposing youth to meaningful careers in environmental conservation and stewardship.”