Community Agricultural Alliance: Inspiring environmental stewardship in us all | SteamboatToday.com

Community Agricultural Alliance: Inspiring environmental stewardship in us all

Being the best environmental steward is the responsibility of everyone in the Yampa Valley. Sure, that's an easy statement to say, but it's a lot harder to do. At Yampatika, we work hard to inspire others by sharing ideas and strategies in everything we do. It's a core part of our school programs, it's infused into our hikes in the summer and snowshoe programs in the winter and it's part of our everyday actions in fulfilling our mission. Yet, for many, it's hard. Not because we don't want to protect what we have in the Yampa Valley, but more often, we just don't know where to begin.

if you go

What: Yampatika’s third annual Fall Festival
When: noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29
Where: Legacy Ranch, 925 Weiss Drive
More information: yampatika.org

I would like to suggest that to be an environmental steward we each start with the small things that we can control. A great place to start is with your car. Far too often, I see cars idling with no one — or no one behind the wheel — in them. Frequently this is at the post office or in the pickup line at school. A small thing you can do is turn your car off when idling for longer than 30 seconds. In fact, the Ford Motor Company recommends turning your engine off for stops of more than 30 seconds. And you will also save a bit of gas and less exhaust ends up in the air.

Another small thing you can do if you are a dog owner is to pick up after your pet. Picking up after your pet helps to keep dog poop out of the rivers and streams and reduce spreading nasty bacteria that can enter our drinking water. And while on this topic, consider keeping your dog on leash in areas that designate leashing. Allowing your dog to explore the area in on-lease areas has lots of potential challenges for the environment. Dogs may encounter wildlife, they could trample native or fragile plants, and the could poop in a place you don't see or can't get to. This is especially important when a trail is near or next to a river.

When hiking or biking, staying on the designated trail is an important small thing you can do. It protects vegetation and wildlife in the area. Maybe you're thinking "it's not a big deal and I will only be off the trail for a minute." But, if you are thinking it, how many other people are thinking the exact, same thing?

Lastly, when camping, there are a few easy things to do. First, pack out your trash. If you brought it in, you should take it out. Burning it in the fire ring doesn't count. Second, don't create a new fire ring but rather use an existing one. When you create a new fire ring, you create a scar. In addition, by creating something new, there is a greater chance that embers could escape and begin a fire. Finally, when putting out a fire, make sure it is completely out.

Being an environmental steward is an important responsibility for everyone. But, it doesn't have to be something so big and overwhelming that we don't know what to do or where to start. Start with something small and manageable first.

At the end of this month, Yampatika will be hosting its third annual Fall Festival. This free, family-friendly community event will be noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29 at Legacy Ranch. Shuttles will run from the U.S. Forest Service Building because there is no parking at the event. There will be lots of activities, crafts and a pumpkin patch and pumpkin painting station. For more information, visit yampatika.org. We hope to see you there.

Joe Haines is the executive director for Yampatika.

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