The last major free-flowing river in the Colorado River Basin could be endangered if Utah’s neighbor moves forward with an idea to divert the Yampa River’s water to Colorado’s booming Front Range to feed municipalities, as well as the oil and gas industry.
Author Patrick Tierney teamed up with renowned nature photographer John Fielder to write and photograph a new book, “Colorado’s Yampa River: Free Flowing and Wild from the Flat Tops to the Green” to create awareness and prevent the allocation of resources from the Yampa and Green rivers, Tierney said.
The Green River west of Moab receives 65 percent of its peak flow from the Yampa, and any major diversion would affect not only that river, but also Canyonlands and Grand Canyon national parks, Tierney said.
“We’re trying to protect the peak flow, which is critical for wildlife, and national parks along its stream,” Tierney said. “The reason why we wrote the book is to protect the river.”
Tierney will give a multi-media presentation and book signing on Thursday, Feb. 18, at 7 p.m. at Back of Beyond Books, 83 N. Main St.
Tierney and Fielder rafted the entire length of the Yampa River – in sections – to capture in words and images, its beauty and wildness. Tierney writes about the river’s human, natural and political history, while Fielder captures images of wildflowers and wildlife, as well as the river’s canyons and tributaries. The river descends from its headwaters at 11,500 feet in Colorado’s Flat Tops Wilderness to its confluence with the Green River at Dinosaur National Monument near Vernal.
The two men walked with pack llamas for four days where the river was impassable, due to either waterfalls or fallen trees.
Tierney said he fell in love with the Yampa after getting a job as a river ranger at Dinosaur National Monument 40 years ago. Though currently a professor of recreation, parks and tourism management at San Francisco State University, Tierney often rafts the Yampa and Green rivers.
“It’s enthralled me for 40 years,” Tierney said.
Tierney met Fielder on a Friends of the Yampa river trip where they talked about and
agreed to collaborate on the book – a project that Tierney said he has been working on for years.
“I knew he was a conservationist and lover of wild country,” Tierney said.
Fielder is known for his work in promoting protection of Colorado’s ranches and open space and wildlands – he was awarded the Sierra Club’s Ansel Adams Award in 1993, and, in 2011, the Aldo Leopold Foundation Achievement Award.
Tierney has been a licensed whitewater guide, nature guide, teacher, researcher and director of the nonprofit Yampa River Awareness Project. He has kayaked, rafted, hiked and skied in the Yampa River Basin for decades.
A percentage of book sale proceeds will go to the Canyonlands Watershed Council, a local nonprofit organization working to preserve rivers in the region. Those who attend will receive a Yampa map and a chance to win door prizes.
“It takes a community to save a river,” Tierney said. “It’s a win-win for everybody.”
Canyonlands Watershed Council was founded by a group of Moab residents in 2009, to promote and protect the health of southeastern Utah’s water and watersheds. The group has been key in creating a multi-stakeholder effort around watershed analysis and planning, said director Heila Ershadi.
“This is a great opportunity to learn about the Yampa from someone who knows it and loves it well,” Ershadi said. “It will give us a chance to understand what is at stake with the proposal to divert a portion of the Yampa’s waters hundreds of miles, to the growing cities along Colorado’s Front Range.”
Author of new book about the Yampa to speak at Back of Beyond
When: Thursday, Feb. 18, at 7 p.m.
Where: Back of Beyond Books, 83 N. Main St.