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Philmont Recovery Corps fights back against the effects of the fire

by Lillian Eva Lieske

CIMARRON — This past July and currently August of 2018, Philmont Scout Ranch announced for the first time in its 80 year history, that it would cancel all backcountry expeditions. In an effort to welcome crews in 2019, the Philmont Recovery Corps was created with a goal of completing timber stand improvement and fire rehabilitation projects. These projects promote sustainable fire ecology and create defensible space so many can enjoy the wilderness of Philmont for generations to come.

The recovery corps crews are working in the burn area to prevent erosion and protect the Cimarroncito watershed. This is the source of drinking water for the Village of Cimarron. Crews have used trees to build terraces, catch water runoff, and prevent sludge from making its way into the filters. Along with the water runoff projects, the corps are digging out any sludge that makes its way to the filter plant intake each week to ensure water is flowing into the village’s water plant. The damage to the Cimarroncito watershed could have been devastating, but timber stand improvement projects prior to the fire helped protect it. These previous efforts kept the fire low and to the ground. This had a similar effect as a controlled burn would have, and increased the health of the forest.

The scout ranch is committed to expanding timber stand improvement across the entire 140,177 acres it owns. Initially the focus of the recovery corps is to complete timber stand improvement projects. These projects will create larger defensible spaces around camps, and road corridors. This aims to help decrease the likelihood and effect of future fires.

The corps are made up of 308 staff members who committed to staying throughout the summer to work on timber stand improvement and fire rehabilitation. They were broken into 23 crews, with numerous support teams to help maintain equipment and provide logistical support.

Philmont Scout Ranch is the Boy Scouts of America’s largest national base. Its 35 staffed camps and 55 trail camps provide an unmatched adventure in the high country along hundreds of miles of rugged, rocky trails. Every year more than 23,000 scouts hike the trails of Philmont. More than 1 million scouts, venturers, and leaders have experienced Philmont since it’s first camping season in 1939.

The Philmont Training Center (PTC) is the national volunteer training center for the Boy Scouts of America. Since 1950, the center has provided a unique environment for training volunteers and creating leaders, as well as hosting family friendly experiences and adventures. Yearly, more than 6,000 scouters and their families attend the PTC.

Special thanks goes to Dominic Bla for providing the World Journal with information on the Philmont PTC and the great work the Recovery Corps are doing.

The Philmont Recovery Corps has used burned trees to create terraces to prevent flash flooding and collect sediment before it can reach the Cimarron water intake. Similar terraces have been constructed in the Ute Park area to protect the community and Cimarron Canyon. Photo by Philmont Scout Ranch/John Celley

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