Stewardship festival this weekend for Colorado Public Lands Day

Fence removal workday, camping, BBQ and live music at the I Bar

By Kendra Walker

This weekend, May 19-21, Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) is hosting a festival at the I Bar Ranch in Gunnison in honor of Colorado Public Lands Day and to benefit migrating wildlife in the Gunnison Valley.

The “Beers, Bands & Barbed Wire Strands” event will focus on a stewardship workday on Saturday, May 20 to remove 5 miles of barbed wire fencing around the valley to improve habitat connectivity for wildlife. The workday will be followed by evening festivities at the I Bar, including live music from Storm Pass, vendors, BBQ and beverages, silent auction, giveaways and camping. Friday night will also include a wild game potluck, and the community is invited to bring its best recipes to share with fellow hunters and anglers. 

“BHA does a lot of work in protecting public lands for the benefit of wildlife and angling,” said John Chandler, co-regional director for BHA’s Gunnison Valley region. “Oftentimes after big winters like this one, animals have to jump fences and will get hung up in these fences. We’re trying to help with the challenges big game animals and other wildlife face migrating. We put this project together with Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to remove expired fencing in big game critical winter habitat that’s no longer valuable, and we’re inviting volunteers to come and join us,” he said. 

“This is not meant just for hunters and to help big game, it’s a project that will benefit all kinds of wildlife in our valley.”

The goal is to remove about 5 miles of obsolete fencing that creates risks for wildlife, said Chandler. The workday will focus on sections along Signal Peak behind the Western Colorado University campus, at Hartman Rocks and up Ohio Creek. “We need about 150 volunteers to make it happen,” said Chandler. 

Chandler notes that volunteers don’t need to bring any experience or tools, just sturdy closed-toed shoes, gloves, tough clothes and water. “We’ll have experienced leaders from CPW, the BLM and Gunnison Wildlife Association to help direct folks,” he said. 

Colorado Public Lands Day on May 20 celebrates the state’s public lands and supports the conservation of land, waters and wildlife in a changing climate and their preservation for future generations of Coloradans. Colorado alone has 43 state parks, 350 state wildlife areas and 22 million acres of National Public Lands, according to the Colorado Public Lands Day organization. 

“Public lands are vital to our Colorado way of life,” said Chandler. “They provide us with adventure and solace, support our local communities, are the foundation of our outdoor recreation economy and they are critical to supporting healthy wildlife populations.”

The idea to hold the “Beers, Bands & Barbed Wire Strands” event on Colorado Public Lands Day felt like a no-brainer, explained Chandler. 

“It’s really easy to build a trail and ride it and see that reward in your efforts. But it’s different when you’re talking about animals and lands you might not normally see,” he said. “So many of us are outdoor oriented and game enthusiasts. Plus, it’s May and people are jonesing to get outside, get their hands dirty and boots on the ground. This is a great way to start our spring, to try to do work that benefits big game and small game and helps herds become more sustainable.”

Event participants have the option to volunteer just for the workday, purchase a weekend camping package that includes Friday and Saturday festivities, purchase Saturday night’s BBQ dinner or buy a ticket to just Saturday evening’s activities. For more information and to sign up to volunteer, visit www.backcountryhunters.org and click on the Events tab.

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