Community Agriculture Alliance: Yampa River Fund marks 1st year
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
This first year of the Yampa River Fund has been a whirlwind and one of great anticipation of the things to come.
In April, the first ever Yampa River Fund grants were awarded by the fund’s steering committee. Those projects are underway and, in some cases, already completed. You can read more about these projects and see videos about them at yampariverfund.org.
In addition, we just had our first-year virtual anniversary celebration, Voices of the Yampa. One of the nice things about doing prerecorded virtual celebrations, as this one was, is that they can live on indefinitely for people to watch again or at their convenience. I guarantee you will find Voices of the Yampa entertaining with music and words by some of our partners, friends and neighbors. Check it out on the Yampa River Fund’s YouTube channel or the website.
With the first year now under our collective belts, we have a lot to look forward to in the next year and beyond. Here are just a few highlights of what lies ahead for the Yampa River Fund:
• 2021 Yampa River Fund grant funding cycle: While the dates have yet to be confirmed by the steering committee, the fund will be preparing to run the next funding cycle either later this year or early next. To remind you of what this means, the Yampa River Fund awards grant funds that allow entities to execute projects that benefit the Yampa and its tributaries.
Three types of project are eligible: water leases from reservoirs to augment flows in dry periods; restoration actions to benefit habitat; and infrastructure improvements, such as diversions and headgates, to allow more water to remain in the channel.
Of course, awarding these grants takes funds. The Nature Conservancy was honored to have received a donation of $50,000 from the Gallogly Family Foundation to be applied toward the next round of grants. In addition, the Yampa River Fund endowment housed at the Yampa Valley Community Foundation is earning interest that will provide a sustainable source of funds for our grants.
• Strategic planning: The Yampa River Fund Steering Committee has recommended the completion of a three-year — 2021 to 2023 — strategic plan to be completed in early 2021. This plan will outline the goals and objectives of the fund in the following areas: conservation and flows, outreach and marketing and fundraising for operations and the endowment. In addition, the plan will set out goals for both the management entity, which is currently The Nature Conservancy, and the financial partner, which is the Yampa Valley Community Foundation.
• Business engagement strategy: Let’s face it, 2020 has been tough on many businesses in our valley. While the Yampa River Fund is interested in seeking business partnerships to help augment its funding, we are sensitive to the timing.
Our first step in building business support will be a simple message on a poster that businesses may elect to post. That message is: “We Support the Yampa River Fund because the Yampa River Supports Us.”
In the meantime, we will look at other models for business/conservation partnerships in the region, such as in Gunnison and Eagle counties, to determine if something similar may be a good fit here in the Yampa Valley.
• Management transition from The Nature Conservancy: The Nature Conservancy has been proud to have worked with partners in the basin to help launch the Yampa River Fund. Yet, it has always been a goal for the conservancy to transfer management responsibilities to a local partner for the long term.
Soon, the Yampa River Fund Steering Committee will begin work to design a process to gauge interest and identify an appropriate entity to take the reins of the fund’s management. Ideally, that entity will be in place by the beginning of 2022.
We want to thank our partners and our communities for continued support of the Yampa River Fund. We have a lot to look forward to in the months ahead.
Andy Baur is manager of the Yampa River Fund.
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