I moved to Craig right out of college, knowing I wanted to work for conservation on Colorado’s Western Slope.
For most folks, places like the wide open spaces of Moffat County seem devoid of life. It’s what I call windshield country. People just drive through on their way from one destination to another, if they even go at all, and probably don’t think much about what’s there. But if you know where to look, these landscapes are filled with life. There are 350 species that depend upon this sagebrush ecosystem. It’s some of the best wildlife habitat in North America, particularly for ungulates like mule deer, elk, and pronghorn that are also very important to our local economies, customs, and culture.
In the mid-2000s, the BLM set about revising the Little Snake Resource Management Plan, which included spectacular places like Vermillion Basin, as well as habitat for endemic critters like Greater sage grouse. A brand new stakeholder group with a broad array of interests spent over two and a half years trying to develop a consensus community alternative to what the BLM had laid out. We had to find common ground—not only with other conservation groups, but also ranchers, state agencies, oil and gas companies, and other residents. I learned a great deal about how to empathize and appreciate different perspectives. It’s important to challenge your assumptions about where people are coming from and what they care about.
Eventually, we won protections from energy development in the Vermillion Basin, and I’m confident that some day places like the Basin and the other spectacular wildlands in Moffat County will enjoy permanent protections so future generations can enjoy them as I have over the years.