Ecology Center Collaborates with Shasta-Trinity Forest Service

The Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center Continues Partnership with Local USFS Office via their H.O.M.E. Program

(Mt. Shasta, CA) –  The Ecology Center’s H.O.M.E. (Honoring Our Mountain Environment) Program focuses on educating outdoor recreational enthusiasts, especially tourists, on the best practices of being a good steward of the environment. Through stewardship sittings, booths, and online messaging the organization can disseminate information to people on how to enjoy the natural landscapes with little-to-no negative impact. Recognizing the need to have cohesive messaging with other organizations and agencies and the desire to do more than educational activities, they’ve made great efforts to rekindle their partnership with the United States Forest Service Shasta-Trinity National Forest over the last year.

“The H.O.M.E. Program actually started in 1997 in response to a proposal for day-use fees for visitors on Mount Shasta and we recruited stewardship volunteers from the community to assist the US Forest Service with maintenance and restoration activities to help protect the sensitive Panther Meadows area. So we’re really excited to once again find common ground with the local Forest Service office,” said Jessica Matthews, Program Director at the Mount Shasta Bioregional Ecology Center (MSBEC.)

Borne of those efforts was an agreement to aide in wilderness solitude monitoring. The monitoring will be conducted in the Mount Shasta Wilderness and Castle Crags Wilderness and will be focused on current moderate and high use areas. Ecology Center staff will conduct monitoring sessions, then recruit, train and manage volunteers to complete monitoring sessions based on the USFS STNF protocols. Each monitoring session will last four hours.

Becky Cooper, Recreation Officer with the Shasta McCloud Management Unit (SMMU), commented, “I’m really excited and optimistic about the new partnership with the MSBEC team. Their efforts with wilderness solitude monitoring will assist us in meeting national Wilderness Stewardship Performance targets. After the most recent meeting with the Ecology Center staff & Board, we’ve decided to take our collaboration further and they’ll take on volunteering to complete maintenance and condition surveys of the trails within Panther Meadows in 2020.”

Following the meeting between the Ecology Center and the Forest Service, on Thursday, November 14th, Becky Cooper hosted the SMMU 2020 Trail Maintenance Meeting to bring many of the areas environmental and outdoor recreation organizations together to discuss the maintenance needs of the SMMU National Forest System trails, establish a schedule for 2020 of what trails and which groups, organizations, and agencies will complete volunteer trail maintenance, discussed spring trail training sessions, and reviewed volunteer agreements and FS policy on trail maintenance.

“We know everyone’s heart is in the right place and we want the same outcomes, but it’s technically illegal to be maintaining trails without the Forest Service’s knowledge and/or involvement. There has to be a volunteer agreement in place between us and the organization or group,” stated Becky. Becky continued, “Going into the meeting knowing MSBEC had already agreed to the Panther Meadows trails was very helpful. There were 24 members of various organizations or groups present for the 2020 Trail Maintenance meeting on Thursday evening; we made great progress and hope to receive more commitments from other organizations in the future whose mission is similar to the Forest Service’s.”

“Personally, I’m really excited to be a part of the team that gets MSBEC back into restoration, maintenance and stewardship efforts of Panther Meadows!” stated Bianca Garza, Development Director at the Ecology Center. “I know the Center has a long history of aiding in the protection and restoration of the culturally and ecologically sensitive area.”

With increased use of national forest land, and a lack of reliable and accurate information on the use of these areas, the Ecology Center’s H.O.M.E. program will be able to make a dramatic impact on this void.

Jessica stated, “The information we collect  in wildernesses areas of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest will be critical in helping the Forest Service identify and prioritize areas that need attention such as maintenance and limiting or increasing permitting. All the while, our stewardship sittings will help inform the public and protect our local landscapes.”