Anticipation hangs heavy in the air at this time of year. We see it in the faces of all the children (and adults, too) who visit the Christmas tree lot, selecting the perfect tree to adorn their house for the holiday season. We feel it as we look to our favorite weather apps, hoping to see the promise of accumulating snow and the adventures it beckons and the impact on next year’s growing season. And those of us associated with nonprofit organizations and small businesses feel it as we look at our financial statements and the calendars marking the end of the year, hoping that we close out the year strongly.
At the San Juan Mountains Association, we have also spent time reflecting on a solid year. The SJMA staff works hard to fulfill our mission to empower residents and visitors to the San Juan Mountains to explore them responsibly, learn about them more deeply and to join us in protecting them for future generations.
- SJMA hosted more than 190 distinct educational programs this year, including widespread return to school-based field trips and full-capacity summer camps. Many third-graders experienced their very first field trips with SJMA, highlighting just how abnormal the past several years have been.
- Our visitor information specialists worked diligently to provide information and resources through thousands of phone calls and walk-ins – even though the public lands offices still operated under variable schedules because of COVID-19.
- SJMA’s seasonal stewardship crews – including the Wilderness Crew and Snow, Forest and Alpine Loop Ambassadors, engaged with nearly 20,000 visitors over the entire calendar year, providing them with information about how to recreate responsibly and protect the public lands we all love.
- After Outdoor Research sold the iconic tiny home that has served as SJMA’s basecamp for stewardship efforts at locations such as Ice Lakes, Molas Pass and Lizard Head Pass, we purchased an off-road utility trailer that is currently being modified to serve as SJMA’s mobile basecamp, version 2.
- We collaborated not only with federal land management agencies throughout the region, including the San Juan, Rio Grande and Uncompahgre National Forests, and the Bureau of Land Management, including Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, but also with a number of other nonprofit partners, including Mountain Studies Institute, La Plata Open Space Conservancy, Southwest Conservation Corps and Companeros. Partners only strengthen our efforts.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight one of our most valuable resources – all of you who have supported SJMA’s efforts through your time and your gifts. Hundreds of you have supported us financially and contributed thousands of hours to assist with SJMA’s myriad activities. Whether you have volunteered to help with our children’s enrichment programs, interacted with visitors at popular trailheads, spent a long weekend at the Chicago Basin basecamp, adopted a section of one of the many forest roads in the region, conducted solitude monitoring throughout our Wilderness areas, helped greet visitors at the public lands offices, served on our board of directors, or assisted with the Christmas Trees for Conservation lot, all of us at SJMA recognize your contributions, and we know that we are stronger and more effective as a result.
As we come to the end of 2022, all of us at SJMA can’t help but be filled with gratitude for our partners and supporters, and we look to 2023 with great anticipation for more opportunities to work with you to care for the public lands we all love.
Stephanie Weber is the executive director of the San Juan Mountains Association.