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“Our mission is to promote stewardship of the White River National Forest in Summit County,” Evett says. “We are fortunate to have a very active volunteer community. We did 60 projects last year alone.”

Jessica Evett

Colorado’s White River National Forest is the most visited recreation forest in the nation. More people visit the forest than Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain and Grand Canyon National Parks combined.

Due to its popularity, the forest’s trails and other amenities see heavy damage.

That’s where Jessica Evett, who’s working on her master’s degree in strategic communication at DU, steps in. As executive director of Friends of the Dillon Ranger District, Evett and her organization try to help reverse the declining conditions of national forests, specifically in Colorado’s Summit County.

“Our mission is to promote stewardship of the White River National Forest in Summit County,” Evett says. “We are fortunate to have a very active volunteer community. We did 60 projects last year alone.”

The volunteers perform a number of tasks, including trail maintenance, weed control, fire mitigation and tree replanting. Volunteers logged more than 7,000 volunteer hours last summer. For their work, the organization was named Volunteer Group of the Year by the National Forest Service volunteer program. Evett’s organization was selected out of hundreds of similar groups across the country.

“It’s a huge honor,” Evett says. “It’s a testament to what our volunteers do.”

Evett says thesis research at DU also could benefit the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District.

“What is also interesting about Jess is that her thesis is an examination of factors affecting stakeholder relationships between the Forest Service and volunteer organizations,” says Renee Botta, associate professor of media, film and journalism Studies. “With her thesis research, she learned what it takes to build a good relationship with the Forest Service; being chosen as the best volunteer organization by the Forest Service is really reflective of her ability to apply that knowledge.”

Evett hopes she can apply it even further. A goal is to create awareness about the organization beyond Summit County.

“We’re always looking for people to volunteer with us, and there are a variety of ways to get involved,” she says. “I love this kind of work because people want to give back this way and there is a desire to take care of these lands.”

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