My name is Chloe Denning, and I am one of YVSC’s Resilient Land & Water interns for the summer 2023 term. My project has centered around the organization and maintenance of YVSC’s Yampa River Forest Restoration Project along the Yampa, which aims to bolster the growth of cottonwoods along the bank in select areas in an effort to provide much needed shade as water temperatures rise and threaten the delicate ecosystems of our rivers all while sequestering carbon. I have created digital maps marking each tree’s location within all 30 plots as well as a database to track mortality, irrigation status, and eventually the amount of carbon sequestered from these plantings as they mature. 

Since moving here from Denver at the start of the pandemic to pursue my BA in Sustainability Studies at CMC, Routt County has captured my heart with its endless opportunities for exploration, strong sense of community, and shared passion for climate action. The Yampa River serves as the Valley’s lifeblood. I’ve spent a lot of time with her this summer, and with each passing day my respect and admiration for the greater history and ecological importance of our flowing friend grows. 

The Yampa River, considered one of the last free-flowing rivers in the West (despite its dam at Stagecoach), serves as a shining example of healthy riparian habitat within the Colorado River Basin. With its headwaters flowing from the Flat Tops Wilderness, she meets with the Bear River and eventually the Green near Dinosaur National Monument in her 250 mile reach. 

Of course, like much of the West, our water future is uncertain and a bit daunting. This past winter gifted us a wet, green spring, but we are still in a decades-long drought. Warming water temperatures and low flows threaten the delicate balance of the Yampa ecosystem, endangering our already struggling fishy friends the humpback chub, bonytail, colorado pikeminnow, and razorback sucker. Not to mention no one looks forward to the inevitable midsummer river closure of recent years – I know I don’t! An unhealthy river = a community (both human and non-human) stunted and removed from an essential building block of life, love, and all encompassing well-being. 

If you care for the Yampa, or even tube down her once every summer, I highly encourage you to read through opportunities for action laid out on the Friends of The Yampa website. They host a wide range of events and offer opportunities for involvement. I would also highly encourage you to keep an eye out for upcoming ReTree events with YVSC to plant more cottonwood saplings to keep the Yampa wild for generations to come!