Today my Intro to Environmental Science class took a trip to the local Nature Conservancy site located on the Carpenter Ranch outside of Hayden, CO. The ranch sits along the Yampa River, the last relatively free-flowing river in America, and the unique ecosystem it fosters. Because the Yampa is free-flowing, it creates flood plains, oxbow lakes, and streambeds dry to channels. This unique habitat has supported the evolution of an unlikely trio of plants, unseen together anywhere else in the world. Here at the Carpenter Ranch, narrowleaf cottonwoods, box elders, and red-osier dogwoods grow together to create a riparian habitat that is entirely unique to Colorado and the world. The environment, however, is not without its challenges.
A ranch that neighbors the Carpenter Ranch has their irrigation pump built in one of the formerly filled in channels created by a free-flowing, dynamic, and natural river. In order to get the water needed for their crops, the ranchers have dug the channel deeper, as well as broken down any beaver dams existing in the channel. This struggle occurs every year and constantly diverts from the river’s natural flow. The Nature Conservancy is working towards a solution though. They have proposed that the rancher’s build a new irrigation pump directly on the main channel of the river, on the Conservancy’s property. This is an incredible offer by the Conservancy, and truly shows the organization’s dedication to the natural environment. Unfortunately, the ranchers have so far opted to not spend the additional money to install the new pump.
While the battle of conservation might often seem like a losing battle, it is important to remember how many amazing people and organizations that are fighting for the natural beauty of the United States and the world. With their help, and yours, it is possible for humans to continue to decrease our impact on our beautiful planet. Thanks to the Nature Conservancy and Carpenter Ranch for showing us an amazing time. To plan a trip to your local Nature Conservancy site, go to nature.org.