Steamboat Springs The Yampa River Basin has been tabbed among 100 high-value natural and cultural heritage lands nationwide under President Barack Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative.
It’s intended to reconnect Americans to the natural world while creating travel, tourism and outdoor recreation jobs across the country. The Rocky Mountain Greenway on the Front Range is the other Colorado project named to the program this week.
Although the details about what the new designation might mean are few, local conservationists agree that the program adds gravity to ongoing efforts to conserve agricultural lands and protect watersheds.
“It’s really an honor for all of us to be recognized in this way,” Susan Dorsey said. She was on the board of the Great Outdoors Colorado-funded Yampa River System Legacy Project that took shape in the late 1990s and continued into the past decade. It helped to establish a pattern of conserving riparian habitats along the Yampa and establishing low-impact recreational opportunities. A portion of $2 million in Legacy Grants helped the city of Steamboat Springs purchase land and conservation easements in Howelsen-Emerald Mountain regional park and along the Yampa south of Steamboat.
Dorsey observed that Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who announced the America’s Great Outdoors program, also was instrumental in creating GOCo.
The timing of the announcement coincides with the efforts of Steamboat-based Friends of the Yampa to land a grant in a new round of GOCo funding dedicated to rivers.
Steamboat resident Kent Vertrees, who represents recreation interests on the state-supported Yampa/White River Basin water roundtable, said the new designation will open more doors for conservation efforts in the area. He was among a group of Routt County residents who participated in an informal 60-minute conversation with Salazar earlier this month when the secretary of the interior dedicated the new dinosaur exhibit at Dinosaur National Monument near Jensen, Utah.
“This will bring more awareness to our area,” Vertrees said. He has been leading Colorado Mountain College students on trips to Dinosaur and said one of the provisions of America’s Great Outdoors calls for communities to foster a greater connection between youths and natural attractions.
Dorsey agreed that local organizations like Yampatika and Rocky Mountain Youth Corps are well-suited to play that role.
America’s Great Outdoors also calls for the exploration of new ways to protect working landscapes like farms and ranches.
— To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com