Community Indicators – Environment

Our Vision

The Yampa Valley community is dedicated to preserving, protecting and enhancing our natural environment in a sustainable manner for future generations while balancing responsible public and private land use decisions. We value our land and its resources.

 

Introduction

The Yampa Valley’s natural resources continue to be largely healthy and diverse, a credit to landowners, managers and public servants. The wildlife, natural diversity, scenic beauty and culture of this area continue to entrance its populace, attract new residents and promote year-round tourism.

 

At the core of this suite of natural amenities is the Yampa River, which provides the water that maintains the diversity of plants, animals and people. The Yampa River is key to the survival of species that were nearly lost and to species that are enjoyed in larger numbers today. The river is also central to the humans who inhabit and use the region’s mountains, waterways, valleys and landscapes; these are the caretakers and decision-makers who are critical to the future of the valley. The Yampa remains one of the least-developed rivers in Colorado, providing clean water, high-quality recreation, a home to rare and common species and water for agricultural and human consumption.

 

The natural values of northwest Colorado are a key reason that the area is changing. Many people who visit want to stay. Recreational opportunities of the quality and accessibility found in this area are increasingly rare and sought out. As the demand for oil and gas products increases around the world, so does the need to extract those resources. Colorado is growing at an unprecedented rate that is expected to place serious stresses on natural resources.

 

Land uses continue to shift and more areas are dedicated to residential, recreational, commercial and industrial uses. There is a continued decline in some agricultural practices, increased fire risk, and an increase in diversion of water. These current trends and future projections will create important challenges for the people of the Yampa Valley.

 

Demonstrating that challenges to our natural environment can be overcome, Routt County residents voted to create a Purchase of Development Rights program in response to rapidly changing land use. This has resulted in more than 11,000 acres being withdrawn from future development in Routt County. This land will remain in a natural state, available for compatible agricultural and wildlife benefits. Community efforts have also led to improvements in air and river quality.

 

The area’s natural resources provide ecological services to the Yampa Valley and are valuable to the local economy and culture. With vigilance and thoughtful action there is time to meet the challenges to the Yampa Valley’s environment.

 

Key Findings and Trends

The Yampa River Valley maintains its status as one of the least developed rivers in Colorado and the western United States.

 

Wildlife populations are healthy, but with increasing challenges from continued human population growth and increased interest in petroleum exploration and development. Deer, elk and antelope populations continue to thrive in the region with largely healthy sex ratio and young-to-female ratios.

 

Bald eagle counts in the Yampa Valley dramatically increased over the past five years, making this once imperiled bird a commonly observed inhabitant of the Yampa Valley.

 

Columbian sharp-tailed grouse and greater sage-grouse are a primary focus of conservation efforts in the Yampa Valley region, serving as sensitive indicators of shrubland health. Both the numbers of displaying males at leks and the total numbers of active leks in the region are higher than most recent years, providing an excellent baseline for evaluating future changes in land use.

 

Timber harvest levels have increased sharply due to amplified management practices that are necessary to protect forests and human communities in the face of pine beetle impacts. The beetles are likely to increase their advances in Colorado and therefore that forest harvest will increase and potentially spread into other districts.

 

Grain production continues to decline sharply in Moffat and Routt counties as did hay production in Routt County. Cattle and sheep production have dropped with the agriculture market changes.

 

Higher quality air in Yampa Valley is maintained or improved from poor conditions between 1991 and 2003.