Our View: ‘Respect the Yampa’ has new meaning | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: ‘Respect the Yampa’ has new meaning

Recreation restrictions put in place late this week on the Yampa River through Steamboat Springs may be voluntary for now, but the health of one of our most valuable resources demands that we treat the restrictions as mandatory.

Rising water temperatures and plummeting flows have reached the point where officials representing the various governments, agencies and stakeholder groups that manage the river think it’s best to stay out of the Yampa River, regardless of your chosen recreational pursuit. That means tubers, anglers, kayakers and rafters have been asked to find other places to play until conditions on the river improve.

There’s good reason to be pessimistic about the likelihood of river conditions improving anytime soon. High-country snowpack is nonexistent, and it’s uncertain the summer monsoon season will arrive earlier than usual. Temperatures this weekend soared into the 90s, and the forecast for the next week indicates more of the same.

It’s been a decade since summer 2002 brought similar conditions to the valley. Devastating wildfires and a Yampa River that slowed to a trickle through Steamboat Springs that summer are memories that remain for many residents. Sadly, fire and river conditions are setting up to be even worse this summer, and that’s the primary reason why most area land management agencies will look to enact Stage 2 fire restrictions this week, following a move Friday by the Bureau of Land Management to increase restrictions on BLM land in Northwest Colorado. The Stage 2 restrictions effectively ban any type of fire, regardless of the presence of campfire rings or other protective measures.

While the fire restrictions are enforceable by law, the voluntary closure of the Yampa River to recreational pursuits isn’t. However, we would hope that any resident or visitor who truly cares about the health of the river and the ecosystems it nurtures will treat the closure as though it were enforceable by law. That means no tubing and no fishing, no matter how tempting the evening caddis fly hatch or how cool the water might feel on a blistering hot summer day. The world-class fly-fishing on the Yampa River is much more likely to thrive in subsequent years if care is taken this year to protect the stressed trout population.

It’s simple: Be good stewards of our environment. It’s a rare year in which such restrictions must be put in place, but they’re put in place for a reason. If we take good care of our resources during the toughest years, they’ll thrive that much more during the good ones.

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