Ryan Messinger, Yampa Valley Climate Crew Coordinator and Natural Climate Solutions Technician | November 15, 2022
As seen in the Steamboat Pilot & Today

The Yampa Valley Climate Crew has wrapped up its second season, and what a great season it was.

Yampa Valley Sustainability Council would like to thank all of the volunteers, partners and sponsors who supported this great program, which saw over 300 volunteers join us on 14 different restoration projects this year.

Climate change rears its ugly head in the valley through various impacts, including disappointing snowpack, river closures and devastating wildfires. The Climate Crew was started by YVSC as a way to engage more community members in climate action projects, which address the climate crisis by sequestering carbon and creating more resilient landscapes. We’d like to highlight some of our most successful projects from this season.

In early August, the Climate Crew put on a two-day event with the U.S. Forest Service to restore wet meadows in California Park. Wet meadows act like a sponge in our watersheds that soak up water during snow runoff and storm events, and slowly disperse it over time, allowing streams to flow for longer.

However, erosion has caused some of these wet meadows to become disconnected from their floodplains, limiting their water absorption potential. Twenty-three volunteers joined the Climate Crew to restore these ecosystems by building rock dams, called Zeedyk structures, within the eroded streambeds, which capture sediment and reconnect them to their floodplain.

Together we built over 30 structures, and already the area is greener and retaining more water than before the restoration structures.

Over the course of three days in late August, the Climate Crew teamed up with the U.S. Forest Service to conduct regeneration surveys in Buffalo Park. The Silver Creek fire that ripped through this area in 2018 burned so intensely that the seed source was also lost in the flames. Regeneration surveys were needed to determine if the forest was recovering on its own, and if not, where reforestation would need to take place.

This year, 18 Climate Crew volunteers helped survey nearly 700 acres of forest looking for naturally regenerating tree seedlings. Our work will help inform future planting efforts, which will begin as early as next spring. Forests are our most important natural resource and are vital to maintaining healthy watersheds and decreasing emissions through carbon sequestration.

Throughout October, YVSC and the Climate Crew put on a number of tree planting events in partnership with the city of Steamboat Springs, Trout Unlimited and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The Yampa River and many of its tributaries have experienced a decrease in riparian vegetation, which has led to bank erosion, warmer stream temperatures, and wildlife habitat loss.

Working on sites at Hitchens Island, Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area, Elkhead Creek and Trout Creek, 150 volunteers planted over 1,300 trees along 4,000 feet of streambank. These trees will not only sequester carbon as they grow, but they offer a plethora of benefits to the river and creeks that will make them more resilient in the face of a changing climate.

If you would like to learn more about the Yampa Valley Climate Crew program, or to see an overview of our past projects, please check out our website at YVSC.org/Yampa-Valley-Climate-Crew/. We hope to see you next year!