Talking Green: Plant trees, help the Yampa |

Talking Green: Plant trees, help the Yampa

Ryan Messinger
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
The Yampa Connects, Trees Protect by Jill Bergman.
Courtesy image

Don’t let the warm weather fool you. Fall is just around the corner, and with it comes sweater weather, pumpkin spice, and of course, tree planting!

Yampa Valley Sustainability Council’s annual ReTree event is back for one of its biggest years yet. On Oct. 1 and Oct. 8, volunteers will plant over 500 cottonwood trees along the Yampa River in and above town. People of all ages and abilities are welcome to join because we all deserve the opportunity to restore our river, tackle the climate crisis, and build a more resilient Yampa Valley.

Over the last 12 years, ReTree has engaged more than 3,700 volunteers and planted nearly 30,000 trees. For the past three years, these efforts have been focused on restoring a riparian forest along the Yampa River. These forests reduce erosion and flooding, provide habitat for numerous wildlife species, and improve water quality. Narrowleaf cottonwoods are the largest riparian tree in our region and their shade is key to reducing river temperatures, the most pressing water quality issue affecting the Yampa. However, our riparian tree cover through town has been slowly disappearing, and we are now starting to feel the consequences.

Year after year now, the river fails to make it through the summer without being shut down to recreational activities like fishing and tubing, due to high water temperatures. This hurts local businesses and deprives both locals and tourists of their favorite pastimes. With summer temperatures predicted to continue to rise, these closures will become longer and more frequent.

Planting cottonwoods along the Yampa is the best thing we can do to ensure that our beloved river stays healthy and cool. These towering trees cast their shade over the river, which limits solar loading during the hottest parts of the year. And, as all trees do, they sequester carbon as they grow. In fact, the trees YVSC volunteers have planted since 2019 will sequester approximately 2,600 tons of carbon over a 30-year period, making them an important tool in the fight against climate change.

If you’re not around to attend this year’s ReTree events and still want to get involved, don’t fret. You can find more tree planting opportunities with the Yampa Valley Climate Crew, YVSC’s volunteer program that links community members with climate action projects throughout the Yampa Valley. This fall, the Climate Crew will lead tree planting events on First Creek in California Park on Sept. 20, Trout Creek near Oak Creek on Oct. 9, and Elkhead Creek near Craig on Oct. 15.

Visit our website at to sign up to volunteer for ReTree and other Climate Crew projects this fall.

Ryan Messinger is the Yampa Valley Crew Coordinator/Natural Climate Solutions Technician for Yampa Valley Sustainability Council.

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