Every year, YVSC recognizes local businesses and community members for their efforts and work toward creating a more sustainable future. These individuals, organizations, and businesses have demonstrated what we are capable of achieving through leadership and collaboration. Join us in celebrating these entities and individuals for their work moving climate action and climate solutions forward in the Yampa Valley.
Yampa Valley Connector – Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust
This year’s Yampa Valley Connecter Award is awarded to the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT) and the Yampa Valley Conservation Partnership. The Yampa Valley Connector award recognizes those individuals and organizations who bring the Yampa Valley region’s people and places together through their work.
The Yampa Valley Conservation Partnership was created in 2019 when CCALT and the Yampa Valley Land Trust joined forces to combine the experience and reputation of the statewide CCALT organization, with the local knowledge and passion of the Yampa Valley Land Trust. Both land trusts began their work in Routt County in the 1990s and have now conserved more than 111,000 acres in Routt and Moffat counties combined. In addition, CCALT works to steward land conserved in Jackson, Rio Blanco, Grand, and Garfield under the Conservation Partnership. A strong local advisory board helps guide CCALT in its work in northwest Colorado.
Conservation of agricultural properties is critically important to preserving the heritage and character of the Yampa Valley. Conservation easements help keep ranch families on the land, protect wildlife habitat and water quality, secure scenic views and in some cases provide recreational access. CCALT recently launched a new program to work with owners of conserved properties to practice “additive conservation,” helping landowners fund and implement restoration and stewardship projects that benefit all of us.
A key reason for this year’s award is to recognize the many ways that land conservation can bring urban and rural residents of our valley together. Routt County residents have voted multiple times, most recently in 2022, to dedicate some of our property taxes to help conserve properties, and CCALT is a key player in ensuring those funds are applied to quality projects that benefit both the landowners and the residents of the county. CCALT through its regular stewardship visits has contact with hundreds of landowners in the valley, and can help them understand and respond to the challenges of ranching as our population and tourist visits grow and the impacts of climate change mount.
CCALT also helps to spotlight shining examples of good land stewardship through the Leopold Conservation Award in partnership with the Sand County Foundation. Recent awardees include the Pankey Ranch and the Visintainer Ranch in Moffat County and the Stanko Ranch just outside of Steamboat on the Yampa River. These awards and the work of the dedicated staff of CCALT continue to highlight how ranching and conservation can work together and help keep the Yampa Valley a place where we all can work together to sustain what we love so much about this part of the world.
Sustainable Business – Big Agnes
It is our pleasure to present this year’s Sustainable Business Award to Big Agnes. Our Sustainable Business award honors those local businesses that demonstrate the ways businesses serve as sustainability and climate leaders. Big Agnes is a deserving recipient of this year’s award for their steady commitment to reducing their environmental impacts in their manufacturing, material sourcing, and facilities wherever possible. Being a climate leader in the outdoor industry can be a daunting task, which is something that co-owner Len Zanni is quick to admit, and Big Agnes demonstrates the ways that maintaining a focus on climate and community operationalizes sustainability in meaningful and lasting ways.
In the business world, the majority of emissions – or embedded carbon – is generated through production and transportation. Recognizing this, Big Agnes made an early decision years ago to make their Yampa facility powered by YVEA’s Green Choice, or 100% renewable energy. Their Warranty/ Repair facility in Copper Ridge has been also been powered by YVEA’s Green Power program since it’s inception and their Salt Lake City warehouse which serves as our main US distribution center is on Rocky Mountain Power’s Blue Sky Renewable Energy program so all three of our major facilities are on similar programs. These energy choices make a difference locally wherever their local infrastructure stands.
Realizing the ways business leaders can also serve as powerful climate leaders, Big Agnes also took an early step and signed onto the Outdoor Industry Climate Action Corps. This collaborative climate coalition works to evaluate and reduce emissions among Outdoor Business Industries, and Big Agnes is currently deep into measuring their carbon using Climate Neutral’s Business Emissions Evaluator tool and are working on reduction goal setting.
In the waste sector, more and more industry experts realize that our approach to materials management out to be reduce reuse and then recycle. To save customers money and to keep their materials in use, Big Agnes has a robust repair program and their repair center continues to flourish.
Lastly, Big Agnes has been working to redefine how they color and produce their materials in order to reduce their water and energy use. They incorporate many recycled fabrics and insulations into our products and some of their best selling tents are made from solution dyed fabrics. Big Agnes is also a certified RDS brand and all of their down adheres to their strict standards.
Last but not least, Big Agnes shows ongoing commitment to this community even as their goods travel nationwide by bringing their products back home to sell to our community at discounted prices, designing products like chairs that benefit nonprofits, and actively participating in local green business initiatives.
Sustainable business, as Big Agnes shows, is a practice, and today is our opportunity recognize all the ways that Big Agnes chooses to model community and environmental stewardship throughout their production and innovation choices. We look forward to seeing all the ways Big Agnes continues to reduce environmental impacts while maximizing community benefits in their years ahead.
Shining Star – Dylan Anderson
The Shining Star Award is presented to those individuals who advance sustainability in impactful and unique ways. This year’s Shining Star recipient is Dylan Anderson for elevating community voices and serving as a reliable and insightful source of information on climate and local government through his online newspaper, the Yampa Valley Bugle.
Dylan grew up in Minnesota and, after realizing that he wanted to be more informed and to inform others, he pursued a degree in Journalism from the University of Minnesota. He believes journalism can significantly impact the well-being of communities, as an informed community is more connected and empathetic.
Dylan moved to Steamboat Springs in October 2020 to work for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. In April of 2023, he founded The Yampa Valley Bugle, an online, community-based, independent journalistic outlet covering the communities of Routt County. In 2023, The Morning Bugle newsletter published 77 editions, reaching 1,374 subscribers with over 200 independently reported news stories.
In an age of rising misinformation and hyper-partisanship, the role of independent journalism and trusted local news outlets is more important than ever before. Journalists, like Dylan, play a crucial civic role in informing the public and aiding communities in making informed decisions. In just the nine short months since Dylan started The Yampa Valley Bugle, he has managed to achieve this and so much more.
The Yampa Valley Bugle has been instrumental in informing the public on important issues happening throughout the Yampa Valley. Dylan’s coverage of the City Council’s journey to banning gas-powered snowmelt gave our community insight into this important issue that will take us one step closer to achieving the goals set forth in the Routt County Climate Action Plan. He has also written extensively about the Steamboat housing crisis, local elections and ballot initiatives, statewide issues, and much more. YVSC shares our community’s gratitude for having a trusted source of news to stay informed about the issues that affect us most.
Dylan first reported on YVSC’s Yampa Valley Climate Crew during our California Park Wet Meadow Restoration Project in August. Though he came to that project as a reporter, he left as a volunteer with a newfound interest in restoring and protecting our landscapes. He also attended the annual ReTree event in October at Carpenter Ranch and our Elkhead planting, after which he wrote an article detailing the tree-planting projects YVSC implemented throughout the year.
Dylan plans to take steps towards making the Yampa Valley Bugle a non-profit in 2024, and his ultimate goal is for the newspaper to be an avenue for sustainable journalism in the Yampa Valley that will continue to cover the people and the happenings of this part of Colorado long into the future.
It is with great honor that we present the 2023 YVSC Shining Star Award to Dylan Anderson, and we look forward to another year of staying informed with the Yampa Valley Bugle.
Rising Leader – Marguerite Pilon
This year’s Rising Leader award is presented to Marguerite Pilon. Our Rising Leader Award recognizes young members of the Yampa Valley community who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and commitment to local climate action and sustainability initiatives, and this award is presented to Marguerite in particular for her commitment to utilizing the arts as a thoughtful and creative means of increasing climate literacy and initiating important climate conversations.
Marguerite received her Bachelors of Arts in Design from Seattle University in 2021 with a minor in Environmental Studies. This began her passion for utilizing art to support climate science and inspire climate action. Marguerite notes the disconnect between emerging research and public knowledge and thought that her art could be one method to try and bridge this gap.
Marguerite came to YVSC as an intern in 2022 during the Fall Term. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect as we were embarking on planning our first-ever signature fundraising event, Insight: Art for Climate Action. The fundraiser was in its infancy at that point, but it was clear that Marguerite’s expertise would be essential to bringing in the artist perspective and experience to an event that was built with the intention of uplifting artists and the arts as a means of communicating climate science. Kate Brocato, YVSC Communications and Program Manager, had the pleasure of working closely with Marguerite as her staff mentor across three internship terms. To say that the event wouldn’t have been nearly the success that it was without her is an understatement. If you’ve ever been a part of an event planning process, you know just what an undertaking it is. Marguerite proved instrumental in generating the prompts for our Call for Artists, communicating and coordinating with our artists one on one, creating the community mural that was painted by event attendees, and so much more. I learned so much from her throughout the process, and the event that YVSC has created will continue to have lasting impacts as it generates new conversations surrounding climate change.
Marguerite reflects that climate science gives us a very physical understanding of how we are affecting our environments, but it is also very emotional to live during a time where the earth’s systems that allow us to thrive are breaking down because of our actions. Art can help us process emotions around this crisis, and therefore can help to build community and connection around our shared issues. Marguerite’s goal in using art as a form of climate communication is to inspire each of us to find the role we play in being a positive force in our ecosystems.
In working so closely with our community of Yampa Valley artists, Marguerite has noticed how each artist’s care and appreciation for our ecosystems and the Yampa Valley is tangible in their work and in their conversations. And beyond this, the artist community seems to understand how important it is for a community to care for the land together and use our ecosystems as a point of connection to each other.
As a Rising Leader of the next generation herself, Marguerite notes how the younger generations have the poignant experience of growing up with climate change and environmental degradation being the reality of their world. They don’t know a world before climate change, and this particular sense of being in the world brings a special awareness and sense of urgency into their action. Marguerite feels very hopeful when she sees youth taking climate action, because they move with such care and a clear understanding of the crisis.
Please join us in thanking Marguerite for her contributions to YVSC, the Yampa Valley, and the climate action movement.
Sustainable Government Leadership – Routt County Regional Building Department
This year’s Government Leadership in Sustainability award goes to The Routt County Regional Building Department. The Government Leadership in Sustainability award recognizes those who go above and beyond their position to advance sustainability and integrated solutions to sustainability challenges and provide vision, leadership, and the hard work necessary to advance climate initiatives in the Yampa Valley region.
The Routt County Regional Building Department has earned this award through their work in the development and implementation of building codes for all of Routt County including Rural Routt County, City of Steamboat Springs, Town of Hayden, Town of Oak Creek, Town of Yampa, and the Routt County School Districts. Building codes are an essential platform that has a huge impact on the transition to a rapidly evolving post carbon regional economy, as buildings are responsible for 54% of the carbon emissions in the Yampa Valley. The Routt County Regional Building Department partners with Yampa Valley Sustainability Council on Green Building Program initiatives, energy codes, and sustainability practices related to construction.
Building and energy code advancement is not an easy task. The process requires knowledge, skilled management and community and industry outreach and education. Fortunately, outreach and education are core values of the Building Department and are some of the most important services they provide. They do a magnificent job of keeping the public, building/construction professionals and government officials well informed and educated on code development, adoption, and management. Their process begins with building community engagement, workshops and education and ends with post-implementation training workshops and other support.
The Routt County Regional Building Department has successfully and professionally managed the building code adoption process over time, and this history of success was instrumental in the department’s ability to incorporate Climate Action Plan supporting language into the 2021 building code adopted by all of the Routt County Governments in 2023. This new code includes local provisions for Solar and EV readiness and outdoor energy use.
It is with great pleasure that we award The Routt County Regional Building Department this year’s Sustainable Government Leadership Award.
Partner of the Year – United States Forest Service
It is with great pleasure that we recognize our Partner of the Year as the team of dedicated foresters, water resource managers, and wildlife biologists with our local Hahn’s Peak/Bears Ears and Yampa US Forest Service district offices. This group of individuals is committed to partnering with YVSC to build community involvement in forest, water, and range management and to advancing natural climate solutions such as restoration projects that promote forest resilience, river and riparian function, and wetland health.
Since 2022, the USFS has partnered with YVSC on our California Park Wet Meadow Restoration project. They have been instrumental in the implementation of this project, from site identification and environmental review, to constructing the restoration structures and site cleanup. The effort is designed to reverse channelization of these upland wet meadows and slow water movement to re-enter the surrounding floodplain. With USFS oversight and funding, YVSC coordinated volunteers and RMYC staff to organize and install the rock dam structures, and we have collectively restored a mile and a half of ephemeral streams in California Park, restoring approximately 5 ½ acres of wet meadow habitat.
In addition to the wet meadow collaboration, the USFS has been identifying burned forest sites for tree planting projects and regeneration surveys in order to prioritize vulnerable areas that need tree planting to recover. In 2023, YVSC Climate Crew volunteers spent 3 days with the USFS planting 3,000 seedlings at the Muddy Slide burn scar, and several days conducting regeneration surveys at the Silver Creek burn area near Rabbit Ears and the Big Red Park burn area in North Routt with YVSC’s Climate Crew. The USFS team has adjusted their implementation of these projects to make it possible for community volunteers to engage. This builds awareness of the importance of forest restoration, and educates the community on the process.
The USFS team continues to be a reliable thought partner for reforestation efforts and potential new projects such as seed collection for future plantings. YVSC looks forward to partnering with USFS to gather locally adapted Ponderosa Pine, Douglas Fir, and Lodgepole Pine seeds for future reforestation efforts as we consider adaptation to climate change impacts and prepare for warmer, drier conditions. We look forward to our ongoing collaborations with the USFS team in 2024 and beyond, and value their dedication to restoring the health of our forests, rivers and wetlands.
USFS has also been a strong partner and leader in the Yampa Valley regarding other land and water projects. In 2023, USFS and YVSC partnered to develop the framework for a citizen science for soil moisture project in the Yampa River Basin. This project aims to increase the geographic range, number, and frequency of soil moisture observations to better inform land and water management decision-making by engaging citizens.
Congratulations, USFS team, for being our choice for YVSC’s Partner of The Year Award!
Environmental Cairn – Routt County Climate Action Plan Working Groups
The Environmental Cairn Award recognizes projects or initiatives that help chart a path forward for a sustainable future in the Yampa Valley. We are pleased to award this year’s Environmental Cairn Award to the Routt County Climate Action Plan (CAP) Working Groups.
In 2021, Routt County, the City of Steamboat Springs and the Towns of Hayden, Oak Creek and Yampa adopted the Routt County Climate Action Plan and signed an Intergovernmental Agreement to form the Routt County Climate Action Plan Collaborative. The purpose of the Collaborative is to work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Routt County through the implementation of the Climate Action Plan.
In 2022, the CAP Collaborative Board created five working groups representing Energy, Transportation, Waste, Land Use and Economy. Each Working Group is composed of 10-15 diverse, technical experts, government staff and dedicated community members, tasked to identify and prioritize specific implementation actions that would best advance the strategies and actions identified in the CAP.
Over the course of a year, over 60 Working Group members voluntarily attended monthly meetings to review CAP Strategies and Actions, evaluate what was currently being done and ultimately come up with a list of recommended actions. Members reviewed recommendation language and helped assess their feasibility and impact. This rigorous process, an investment of over 1400 volunteer hours, resulted in 40 high impact, recommended actions.
Working Group members also participated in a successful community open house to present the recommendations to the public, and the recommendations were ultimately adopted by the CAP Collaborative Board. Additionally, throughout the year, Working Group members have lent their voice and consultation on timely implementation opportunities like outdoor snowmelt, updated building and land use codes, recycling and local procurement. Issues that will have a lasting impact on carbon emissions in our community.
We are now in the implementation phase of the CAP, and are grateful that so many community volunteers have and continue to offer their time and expertise to guide the government partners and other organizations in implementation of this important community plan. In recognition of the critical role the CAP Working Groups have played in moving climate action forward at a time when immediate action is needed, YVSC presents the Environmental Cairn award.
Sustainable Community Leader – Colorado Mountain College
It is with great pleasure that we present our Sustainable Community Leader award to Colorado Mountain College – Steamboat Springs. This award recognizes those entities who help define and build sustainability in the Yampa Valley by advancing cross-cutting initiatives with sustainability at their core. CMC in particular has been chosen for this award for their commitment to reducing environmental impacts and promoting sustainability across campus and college-wide operations, training the next generation of climate leaders and ecosystem stewards, and helping to define, lead, and elevate community climate action initiatives across our Valley.
CMC demonstrates not only a clear commitment to student success but also to community building and engagement. In addition to the Sustainability Studies program, CMC Steamboat Springs also offers a Bachelor of Science in Ecosystem Science and Stewardship and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, among many associate’s programs. All three programs are deeply engaged with our community and have proven able to continuously adapt and respond to growing workforce demands from local and regional partners committed to furthering sustainability across our western slope. Additionally, CMC provides our region with important certificate programs, which further local workforce skills training, including Sustainability Leadership, Geographic Information Science (GIS), U.S. EPA Watershed Technician, and Permaculture Design.
The Permaculture Design program in particular is made possible through CMC’s Bear Park Permaculture Center. This unique site houses a 42-foot growing dome and includes many examples of sustainable agriculture techniques that are utilized for hands-on learning with students.
Students also have a unique opportunity to apply for two competitive internships that have been developed with partner organizations. Now in its 6th year, the U.S. Forest Service Internship Program has placed 15 CMC alumni into full-time career positions in the Forest Service, including five full-time employees in our very own Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests. Additionally, CMC helped develop the partnered Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes-CMC-YVSC Summer Internship Program. Nine CMC students have been accepted into the program, conducted original research with co-mentors from Scripps Institution, YVSC, and CMC, and presented their findings at UC San Diego.
CMC’s community engagement and commitment to sustainability extends beyond the classroom in more ways than one. In 2018, CMC co-created the Yampa Basin Rendezvous with Yampa Valley Sustainability Council, the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes, Friends of the Yampa, and Steamboat Resort. The conference is highly collaborative, science-based, and focuses on water and weather in the Yampa River Basin.
College-wide, CMC demonstrates a commitment to institutional climate action through its Climate Action Plan (CMC CAP), AASHE Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating Reports (STARS), Sustainability Action Plan (Natural capital Solutions), and the College President’s Climate Leadership Commitment (Second Nature).
At YVSC, we recognize that a sustainable community is so much more than a community that takes climate action, and CMC has shown this as well. CMC Steamboat Springs has offered several DEI events, hosted its first Posada for the Latino Community, and has partnered with Integrated Community on expanding its interpretation and translation services. In 2023, the campus also completed the construction of its new apartment-style housing, providing important affordable housing for their students. Lastly, the campus serves as a venue for many nonprofit events and trainings, including the Routt County Wildfire Mitigation Conference.
Please join us in thanking Colorado Mountain College for their commitment to students, the community, and climate action.
Volunteer of the Year – Liz Green
YVSC’s Volunteer of the Year award recognizes those individuals who have gone above and beyond the call of service to advance sustainability in the community. Our Volunteer of the Year for 2023 is Liz Green, who demonstrated how volunteerism and community commitment to climate action are essential to advancing natural climate solutions throughout the Yampa Valley.
Liz is a former experiential educator and course director for the Colorado Outward Bound School, having guided in Peru, Nepal, and Mexico, with rescue patrol experience on Denali in Alaska. She attended medical school at the University of Vermont and recently retired from clinical practice. She is a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians’ Climate Change and Environmental Health Interest Group, and in the fall of 2023 participated in the GIS For Climate Action course. Aside from her work with YVSC, she is also an active volunteer with the Routt County Wildfire Mitigation Council.
Liz attended the first Climate Crew event of 2023, planting lodgepole pine seedlings in the Muddy Creek burnscar with the US Forest Service. YVSC’s Yampa Valley Climate Crew is a program that links community members to volunteer opportunities that address the climate threat facing our planet, so that they too can be a part of climate solutions. Her enthusiasm for climate action and volunteering quickly became apparent, and it wasn’t long before she became a familiar face at Climate Crew events throughout the summer and fall. In total, Liz attended seven events, including the wet meadow restoration project in California Park, two seedling surveys, both ReTree events, and our last project at Elkhead Creek. Her dedication to these natural climate solutions projects will help increase sequestered carbon and promote climate resiliency within our landscapes.
The Yampa Valley Climate Crew and ReTree programs are only successful because of inspiring volunteers like Liz. Her hard work, positive attitude, and sense of hope for the future drive us to continue to build out these great programs knowing we have the support of our wonderful community members. Please join us in thanking Liz Green for her service to climate action and volunteerism in receiving the 2023 Volunteer of the Year Award.
Lifetime Achievement – Liz Schnackenberg
We are honored to present a Lifetime Achievement award to Liz Schnackenberg, in recognition of her lifetime commitment to the stewardship of watersheds in Northwest Colorado. Liz recently retired in 2023 from her position as the USDA Forest Service Hydrologist with the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests and Thunder Basin National Grassland. Our Lifetime Achievement award recognizes those individuals whose years of professional service have helped build the road we at YVSC and our community continue to walk forward upon in our endeavors to sustain the rich cultural and natural heritage of the Yampa Valley.
During her 30-year career with the USFS, Liz’s work focused on the effects of land management activities on watershed hydrology and wetland/riparian conditions. As a hydrologist, Liz’s primary objective was to build and maintain watershed resiliency by balancing watershed function with multiple uses (e.g. wood production, livestock grazing, recreation, etc.), climate change, and natural events such as beetle epidemics and wildfires. She was a member of the Colorado Riparian Training Team from 2004-2022 teaching riparian assessment methods to land managers and local citizens around the state. She worked on some of Colorado’s largest recent wildfires including the High Meadow Fire in 2000 where she worked on flood flow modeling and the Lake Christine Fire in 2018, among others where she implemented Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER).
Her passion for protecting watersheds has taken her across the U.S. and internationally. She has worked in Mongolia, China, Australia, and Georgia on wetland conservation and post-flood planning. In 2019 she was awarded a Fulbright Specialist to Portugal where she trained foresters with strategies for post-fire response. Additionally, in 2019, Liz was recognized by the U.S. President as a member of the Department of State Exchange Program. In 2023, she received the USDA Wagon Wheel Gap Hydrology award. Among her many accomplishments and international work, Liz always stayed rooted in the Yampa Valley and has had a lasting impact on our community.
This lasting impact of Liz’s local work can be illustrated through the voices of her colleagues whom she inspired throughout her career. Melissa Dressen, USFS Regional Wildlife Program Leader & Resource Advisor Coordinator says “I was fortunate enough to work with Liz for close to 27 years on the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest. Liz was much more than a Forest Service hydrologist. Liz took on roles as National Lead to BAER teams. When a wildfire happened, the Forest Service called on Liz to assist with reducing the impacts of floods across the country. This role took her to greater heights as a global lead and being requested to serve in this capacity for Portugal, Spain, Australia, and more. Liz is a natural leader and wherever she lands, we all look to Liz to give direction during a crisis. She is also an amazing mentor and a good friend who made time to listen. When Liz retired we had a huge hole to fill in the Forest Service, but as every great leader and mentor does, she taught us along the way, so we are rising to the occasion to be great leaders too!” Tyler Carleton, Hydrologist at USFS Routt National Forest, reflects that “Liz’s career of work protecting our soil, water, and air resources in the Yampa River watershed and beyond serves as an inspiration for me and many others.” Kelly Romero-Heaney, Assistant Director for Water Policy for Colorado Division of Natural Resources (DNR) shares “although she is never one to need them, Liz Schnackenburg is so deserving of any praise, award, or accolades she can get. She is one person that has driven landscape-scale change for a region and, through her investment in others, for an entire state.”
Liz holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Geology from Colorado College and a Master’s Degree in Watershed Science from Colorado State University. Since retiring in 2023, she enjoys spending time traveling with her husband Larry and being outside whether on two skis, two wheels, or two feet.
With great pleasure, we present this Lifetime Achievement award to Liz for her career protecting watersheds in Northwest Colorado and beyond.
Lifetime Achievement – Bob and Audrey Enever
It is with great pleasure that we present a Lifetime Achievement award to Audrey and Bob Enever. Sadly, Audrey left us in 2023, but we are honored to have Bob with us here today to receive the award recognizing both of them for their incredible contributions to conservation and sustainability. Audrey and Bob have left a lasting legacy for the residents of the Yampa Valley through their efforts over many years to create and grow the Yampa River Botanic Park into the gem it is today. They also have demonstrated a lifetime of caring for nature and encouraging others to do the same. Audrey and Bob initiated and then led, literally hands on, the effort to transform a hay pasture along the Yampa River into our spectacular botanic garden. Their vision was to create a space for people to enjoy and learn about the natural world around us, and to foster respect and awe for the beauty of nature. Today, anyone who visits the Botanic Park would agree they succeeded in that vision.
The Botanic Park welcomes more than 35,000 visitors annually, and it is one of the top attractions in Steamboat for visitors and residents alike. The park allows guests to experience plants from a variety of environments and particularly the landscapes that surround us in the Yampa Valley. The gardens showcase the beauty of our native plants. YVSC partners with the park to promote landscaping with native plants, to help conserve water and to benefit native wildlife, particularly pollinators and birds.
Birds were also a passion for the Enevers; from the multiple, and creative, bird feeders at their Steamboat home to the osprey nest near the botanic park. Bob is a talented photographer and has published multiple books about the birds of northwest Colorado and the beloved ospreys of the Yampa River, documenting their recovery and return.
In addition to the botanic park, Bob and Audrey have been generous supporters of other conservation organizations, and they demonstrate what a life devoted to appreciation for and support of nature looks like. For giving so much to residents and visitors to the Yampa Valley and for their personal commitment to raising awareness of the beauty of the natural world, we are very pleased to recognize Bob and Audrey Enever for their lifetime achievements in sustainability.
Lifetime Achievement – Gretchen Van de Carr
It is with great pleasure that we present a Lifetime Achievement award to Gretchen Van De Carr. Our Lifetime Achievement award honors those local leaders who have made significant contributions to advancing sustainability in our region through their years of professional service and impact. Gretchen is deserving of this award in recognition of her incredible 31-years of service to the youth, young adults, communities, partners and ecosystems of Rocky Mountain Youth Corps as Founder and Chief Executive Officer of RMYC. On January 22, 2024, Gretchen handed leadership over to the incoming executive director, Ryan Banks, and departs the organization as strong, impactful and inspired.
Since establishing RMYC in 1993, Gretchen has grown the organization from one staff and a partnership program with the City of Steamboat Springs serving 24 teenagers, to a thriving 15 year-round staffed organization serving 835 youth ages 10-30. Today, RMYC programs span four programs: Conservation Corps, Youth Corps, Yampa Valley Science School, and Natural Resource Internship Program.
- Conservation Corps – Since 2000, this cornerstone program of Rocky Mountain Youth Corps has served up to 170 young people each year through environmental conservation projects and education. RMYC offers a diverse set of hard skills training opportunities including trail work, fuel reductions, environmental restoration, recreation management, historic preservation, wildlife habitat management, and invasive species management.
- The Youth Corps provides leadership and hands-on workforce experience for youth ages 11-18. Participants provide service to communities including beautifying, weeding, trail work, restoration, gardening, and other conservation-based projects in 10 counties in North West Colorado each year.
- Each September Yampa Valley Science School YVSS serves as many as 300 Routt County 6th grade students in a residential, experiential Science Camp operated at the historic Perry Mansfield Performing Arts Camp in Strawberry Park.
- Internships are designed to engage youth and young adults in valuable work experiences within natural resources management agencies and non-profits.
As a leader, Gretchen is visionary, approachable, passionate and collaborative. It is rare to find a leader who so naturally defines success as the number of people and organizations supported and empowered to be more. RMYC actively works with over 75 Program and Project Partners, which means that RMYC often operates as the glue that binds youth and our community together. Each year, for example, RMYC Service Learning Crews come out to YVSC’s reforestation sites to help pull weeds, water, repair fencing and help with survival counts. RMYC Conservation Corps has been an integral part of the collaborative USFS-YVSC wet meadow restoration efforts in California Park. RMYC models the ways that service and connection to community and land equip leaders with skills and capabilities that carry all forward into the future we need.
In Gretchen’s words, “It is the development of a young person that is as important as the environmental projects” RMYC advances. Working in teams and living in tents in the forest, RMYC operates under the premise that the program is, and should be, youth-driven rather than adult-driven. Working with peers on a variety of projects, kids learn cooperative skills, develop interpersonal relationships, and come to appreciate the importance of task completion and teamwork.
Gretchen has a MS in Environmental Engineering from the University of New Hampshire and a BS in Civil Engineering from Clarkson University. She was a founding member of Routt County Youth Services Coalition (YSC), Partners in Routt County, the Community Evaluation Team, and Grand Futures Prevention Coalition. Gretchen currently serves as a board member of the Governor’s Marijuana Education Oversight Commission, Routt County Human Resource Coalition, and the Yampa River Legacy Project. Gretchen is a 2005 graduate of El Pomar’s “Non-Profit Executive Leadership Program” and a 1995 graduate of the Community Resource Center’s “Grassroots Leadership Program”. As CEO of RMYC, Gretchen has supervised the management of millions of dollars of federal, state, local, and private funding for RMYC. In her spare time, Gretchen enjoys skiing, river trips, camping, playing drums, and traveling with her husband, Pete and two teenage boys, Otis and Oliver.
In Gretchen’s words, “RMYC is in my blood,” – Everything I have done has been related to the place, the mission, the corps members, students, and interns of RMYC. Gretchen’s legacy will continue to gain momentum with the change in leadership because she has built a foundation anchored on building resilience: resilience in people, resilience in community and resilience in the lands and waters around us.
Educator of the Year – Becky Edmiston
We are honored to present our Educator of the Year award to Colorado Mountain College Professor of Biology, Becky Edmiston. Our Educator of the Year award recognizes those educators in our community who go above and beyond their classrooms to bring sustainability alive for our community’s students, and this award is presented to Becky in particular for her leadership and commitment to incorporating thoughtful environmental education across CMC programming and to the community at large.
Becky often seeks out hands-on learning opportunities for her students noting that this style of learning really seems to resonate with her students. Getting students out into the field gives them something tangible to connect the information in their textbooks to and opens up a world of future career possibilities when working on projects with organizations like YVSC, Friends of the Yampa, and the US Forest Service. Becky was first introduced to YVSC’s Yampa Valley Climate Crew in 2022 on the wet meadow restoration project in California Park. Since then, her students have taken part in a beaver mitigation project in Bear River Park, and learned how to conduct site assessments with the US Forest Service and YVSC. For Becky, “It’s rewarding to be able to do real work to effect a positive change with a group of like-minded people.”
Becky joined CMC as faculty in the first year of the Sustainability Studies program, and since then she has been instrumental in building CMC’s Permaculture Design program and Beekeeping club and classes alongside sustainability professor Tina Evans. These unique programs give students an opportunity to explore hands-on applications of sustainability right on campus. CMC’s Bear Park Permaculture Center has been in development since 2013 with Becky and Tina obtaining their Permaculture Design Certificates in 2015 from the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute, so that they could start bringing the permaculture design principles and knowledge back to students of their own. Since then, the site has been developed into the beautiful community space that it is today, being used by students across Sustainability, Art, Biology, Engineering, Environmental Science, Culinary and Astronomy programming.
As an educator, Becky’s efforts extend beyond the classroom as a Routt County Master Gardener and leader of the Routt County Beekeeping Association. She has learned a lot as a Master Gardener and enjoys sharing that with community members who are trying their hand at growing local, sustainable vegetables, or want a pollinator garden or are interested in making more of their landscaping sustainable with water-wise techniques and native plants. The Routt County Beekeeping Association was born out of community members showing up to CMC beekeeping club meetings. The group shares experiences, knowledge, and helps one another solve problems, supporting the importance of our pollinator populations.
Becky enjoys her work with students and the younger generations, recognizing their enthusiasm for the climate. She notes that we all have a part to play in caring for our planet, and she hopes to do her part by engaging and empowering the next generation.
Please join us in thanking Becky Edmiston for her important role as an educator in our community.
Recycler of the Year – Cowgirl Compost CO
The Recycler of the Year award recognizes individuals and businesses that have a real impact on waste diversion in the Yampa Valley. This year’s Recycler of the Year award goes to Winn Cowman, owner and founder of Cowgirl Compost CO for pioneering and advocating for compost services in the Yampa Valley.
Throughout her career, Winn has shown a dedication to helping rural Colorado communities promote circularity and ethical waste diversion through the many roles she’s filled at Xcel Energy, Twin Enviro Services, the environmental consulting firm Souder, Miller and Associates and Yampa Valley Sustainability Council, where she served as both a Board member and Waste Diversion director.
During her tenure at YVSC, Winn managed a range of community services, from advancing zero waste services to organizing the Yampa Valley Recycles depot, an electronics and other hard-to-recycle materials collection center here in Steamboat. Winn served as a strong advocate and advisor for composting and recycling from the state level to the local level, and was heavily involved in discussions around the Commercial Recycling ordinance and the Data Requirement ordinance for local haulers. Winn also served on the Organics Task Force, a collaborative group of stakeholders addressing local composting issues.
Presently, Winn runs her own sustainability consulting firm, Sandhill Environmental Services, to help communities build more circular economies, and continues to focus her energy on growing Cowgirl Compost CO operations – the Yampa Valley’s only local and carbon negative composting option.
Since Cowgirl Compost CO was founded in 2021, it has composted 127.8 tons of organic material, which saved 136.1 metric tons of CO2 from entering our atmosphere – the equivalent of removing 29 vehicles from the road for a year. The compost is free from biosolids (sewage sludge), so it’s safe for use in gardens and landscapes, and all the compost is distributed back to community soils.
Cowgirl Compost CO is also a Bronze-level member of YVSC’s Colorado Green Business Network of the Yampa Valley. In addition to striving to make her own businesses as environmentally friendly as possible, Winn acts as a source of knowledge and inspiration for other business owners to do the same.
Rural communities face a host of unique challenges when it comes to taking care of our waste. Winn’s expertise, creativity and persistence through the years in finding new ways to solve these problems has been an invaluable asset to our community here in the Yampa Valley. YVSC is pleased to name Cowgirl Compost CO our Recycler of the year.