YVSC is looking for volunteers to help restore Yampa Valley wetlands and wildlife habitat

Yampa Valley Climate Crew volunteers pose for a photo above a rock dam they created during a previous project with the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council. YVSC is looking for volunteers in Moffat County to help with other projects this summer.
YVSC/Courtesy photo

The Yampa Valley Sustainability Council is looking for volunteers to roll up their sleeves and help with a few projects this summer supporting healthy rivers and land stewardship in Moffat County.

The purpose of this program, the Yampa Valley Climate Teamis to connect community members to stewardship and conservation efforts in the area.

Ryan Messinger, the team coordinator, said that over the past year YVSC has been working on land restoration projects in Moffat County and many volunteers have come from Routt County to help. Messinger wants the people of Craig to know these projects are happening so they can get involved.

Over the past few years, YVSC has worked to expand more services and outreach to Moffat County. Having more Moffat County volunteers will increase YVSC’s ability to support more projects in the Yampa Valley.

“I know there are a lot of people in Craig who are really passionate about keeping the land pristine, and there are a lot of landowners who have seen their land degrade over the years,” Messinger said.

There will be three key projects coming this summer that Moffat County residents may be interested in.

From July 16-19, YVSC will be working on a wetland grassland restoration project at Visintainer Ranch outside of Craig near the Wyman Museum.

The project will address wetlands and riparian areas that have been compromised by erosion and low water tables, which are likely to be further damaged by drought and high-intensity rainstorms associated with climate change.

To address these challenges, simple restoration methods called “mono-rock dams” will be used to raise the water table and restore sagebrush habitat in wetlands and riparian areas. The project will restore vital ecosystem for carbon storage and important wildlife habitat, including sage grouse, migratory birds, elk and mule deer.

The Visintainer property is privately owned but is often used for hunting and camping with the owners permission. Volunteers working with YVSC are welcome to camp during the project on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and the nights before and after the project on Wednesday and Sunday evenings.

The Yampa Valley Climate Crew is working on a reforestation project, which increases shade, helps prevent erosion and better protects fish populations.
YVSC/Courtesy photo

Later in the summer, YVSC will work on a reforestation project on Lower Elkhead Creek, a nine-mile stretch of creek below Elkhead Reservoir where YVSC will plant poplars, alders, willows and chokecherries. This will be another opportunity for volunteers to come and participate. Last year, YVSC had 40 volunteers who helped plant over 1,000 trees as part of this project.

Over the years, landowners have noticed bank erosion and habitat degradation along this stretch of the creek. Landowners are partnering with YVSC and the Natural Resources Conservation Service to plant trees to help stabilize the shoreline and restore riparian habitats.

Reforestation along Elkhead Creek will help prevent erosion and protect native fish populations. The shade provided by the trees will also help cool the river, which has had problems with high temperatures in recent years.

Organizers say any work done on this section of the waterway will benefit the entire river system.

“What happens upstream affects what happens downstream,” Messinger said. “And what happens on the tributaries of the river also affects the river downstream.”

Projects on private land also affect rivers and streams in other publicly accessible areas, Messinger explained.

Yampa Valley Climate Crew volunteers work on a reforestation project along the Yampa River.
YVSC/Courtesy photo

There will also be a Wet Meadow Restoration Project in California Park north of Hayden in August. California Park is a public forest commonly used for camping. This project will be similar to the Visintainer Ranch Wetland Restoration and will have similar benefits.

“If you live next to the river or use it recreationally, you may have seen the degradation of the river and land and you may not feel like you have the power to do anything about it,” Messinger said. “It gives people a chance to do something about it.”

Volunteers can learn more about Yampa Valley Climate Crew and sign up for projects at YVSC.org below “To be involved.” Registration is currently open for the June project at Visintainer Ranch, other projects will be released as dates and details are confirmed.

“What comes with volunteering for these projects is the feeling of satisfaction for the work you’ve done,” Messinger said, “especially planting trees on Elk Head Creek, you’ll be able to come back in back and see what you’ve done.”

There is also a strong community aspect to volunteering for YVSC projects, as it brings together people from the community who care about the environment and want to get out and help.

The volunteers stop for a moment as they work on a previous project led by the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council. YVSC is looking for volunteers in Moffat County to help with projects this summer.
YVSC/Courtesy photo
A Yampa Valley Climate Crew volunteer plants a tree along Lower Elk Head Creek.
YVSC/Courtesy photo

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