04.29.14

Southwest Colorado Canyons Alliance Volunteers: Stewardship Prevails

Last weekend volunteers with the Southwest Colorado Canyons Alliance headed out to Canyons of the Ancients National Monument to close a rogue road and repair damage caused by three people who were illegally cutting juniper trees inside the monument for firewood. The three were arrested last winter and eventually required to pay restitution to BLM, but their illegal logging left behind about 1.5 miles of ruts, holes, damaged trees and stumps. Cutting wood inside the monument is not allowed due to the exceptional number of archaeological sites in the area.

The volunteers—who were guided by BLM Monument Manager Marietta Eaton and Interpretative Specialist Victoria Atkins—worked for several hours with rake-like tools called McLeods to break up soil compacted by truck and ATV tires, obliterate ruts and two-tracks, and to encourage plants to take hold. This work effectively “hid” much of the damage the vehicles caused; the volunteers later moved rocks and logs to hide entry and dissuade anyone else from trying to drive the route. Chain-sawed tree stumps still dot the area—a stark reminder of the theft.

Canyons of the Ancients, part of the National Conservation Lands located in southwest Colorado near Cortez and Dolores, became a national monument in 2000 and is one of the largest archaeological preserves in the nation, with remnants of cultures and traditions spanning thousands of years. Sites include cliff dwellings, shrines and rock art sites. More than 6,000 archaeologically important sites have been recorded, and thousands more await documentation and study.

Southwest Colorado Canyons Alliance formed a year ago to provide support and advocacy for the monument and for the Anasazi Heritage Center in Dolores. In addition to restoration projects like this one, the group raises funds to help pay for school buses that bring kids to the area on field trips, hosts lectures and films, serves as site stewards, assists with curating and managing the archaeological collections, and more. Be sure to visit their website and follow them on Facebook.  Thank you volunteers and BLM staff for your inspiring work! (Photos by C. Overby, Conservation Lands Foundation)

A road forged by people who were illegally cutting trees in the national monument before...

A road forged by people who were illegally cutting trees in the national monument before…

...and after.

…and after volunteers worked to fix and hide the damage.

Southwest Colorado Canyons Alliance volunteers, with evidence of their work behind them: a road once used by illegal loggers now hidden with rocks and logs.

Southwest Colorado Canyons Alliance volunteers, with evidence of their work behind them: a road once used by illegal loggers now hidden with rocks and logs.

A shard found on (and returned to) the ground near the area where the illegal tree-cutting took place.

A shard found on (and returned to) the ground near the area where the illegal tree-cutting took place.

Remnants of a granary in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.

Remnants of a granary in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument.