In hiring a full-time staff member, Friends of the Yampa aims to do more for the Yampa River
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Lindsey Marlow grew up on the West Coast, but she’s no saltwater snob. That’s a good thing, because this month she started as program manager for Friends of the Yampa, becoming the organization’s first full-time staff member.
As a child and a teenager growing up in San Diego, she visited and fell in love with the Colorado River. From then on, her goal was to be around mountains and rivers.
“I just feel at peace when I’m in the presence of them,” she said.
As program director, she’ll be coordinating outreach, helping to plan and put on events and working to help the organization grow. She’ll also focus on promoting the Yampa River Fund and developing water planning efforts in the Yampa River Basin.
“The one main thing we’ve lacked over the years is capacity to do more,” said Kent Vertrees, Friends of the Yampa board president. “All nonprofits face the struggle of how do you get things done. You need staff to really get things done.”
Friends of the Yampa’s events, fundraising and programs — for the most part — have been coordinated by its volunteer board of directors.
The organization once had a part-time program manager, but the position went away when the organization ran out of grant funding to pay wages, he explained. Now, Vertrees said the organization has “grown up.” Marlow’s position is funded by regular donations to the organization.
The organization is also looking to expand its work in stretches of the river upstream and downstream of Steamboat Springs. It hopes to expand its board, Vertrees said, and is seeking people who can represent the upper Yampa River Basin in South Routt and the lower Yampa in Moffat County and people with experience in accounting or law.
Marlow has spent several years in Colorado, most recently working toward a master’s degree in watershed science at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. She’s a thesis away from completing that degree and plans to finish writing her thesis on the job.
She worked in environmental compliance for the city of Loveland, and before that, she served in the U.S. Coast Guard for 10 years as an environmental regulator. She still serves in the Coast Guard Reserve. Her undergraduate degree is in film and media. At the time, she was interested in making films about nature and the environment.
She hopes that background will help her in expanding awareness about the Yampa River and Friends of the Yampa.
“Friends of the Yampa has been around since the 1980s, and they’re looking now to expand their voice and make it louder and expand their outreach to the community here,” she said.
Friends of the Yampa’s biggest goal in the coming years is making sure those who enjoy non-consumptive water use — recreational and environmental use — have a voice, and that that voice is heard in policy discussions, Marlow said.
This is particularly important as states consider what happens in light of years-long droughts and concerns that Colorado one day might not be able to meet its obligations to send a certain amount of Colorado River water to states downstream.
“Those are issues that are impacting this area because, if there’s not enough water downstream, that might mean something happens to the Yampa,” Marlow said.
She’s already floated the Yampa twice, through Steamboat Springs and Cross Mountain Canyon in central Moffat County.
When she’s not working, she enjoys spending time with her family and hiking, camping, biking, fly fishing and any sort of watersport.
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This first year of the Yampa River Fund has been a whirlwind and one of great anticipation of the things to come.