Your average USA Pro Challenge out-of-town spectator had no idea.
“Who are those people in green uniforms?” they might’ve thought. “Why is the U.S. Forest Service here?”
Or, they simply didn’t notice the federal employees at the Stage 2 finish at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area on Tuesday.
In between free concerts and the excitement of the cyclists arriving, the head of the Dillon Ranger District spoke to some of those gathered at A-Basin about how the land where they stood is national forest.
District ranger Bill Jackson manages 15 year-round employees whose jurisdiction covers about three-quarters of Summit County.
His district lies within the White River National Forest, which is the most visited national forest in the country when you include visits to the 11 ski areas using permitted forest land.
Jackson and other foresters on the White River National Forest have played an integral role in the Pro Challenge. In the event’s fifth year, cyclists and fans will spend four days on or surrounded by the national forest.
With any large event that passes through national forest, foresters approve permits, attend planning meetings and arrange where people can and cannot camp, park, use portable restrooms and spectate.
Mountain passes — like Hoosier, Independence and Fremont — are the areas the natural resource managers are most concerned about because the high-alpine tundra is more fragile, Jackson said in May during the planning stages of the cycling race.
“A little bit of damage to that environment takes a long time to heal,” he said, and the passes are where larger crowds form to watch riders climb.
Look for Forest Service employees at the cycling event’s other Summit County stops at Copper Mountain and Breckenridge later this week as they talk about national forests, wilderness and the agency’s multi-use mission.
You might even be able to introduce a young one to Smokey Bear, the famous forest fire preventing mascot now more than 70 years old.