Why we must reclaim our river

It’s an annual ritual for the alpine snow to melt as soon as the spring winds blow over the Flat Tops and once the sun again embraces the raw lands of the backcountry. Water, here, is practically woven into nature’s coat out of thin air. It condenses on the rugged skin of the pine trees already battling to survive on the cusp of the tree-line and on the minuscule petals of the columbines. This water then trickles down into the South and the North Forks of the White River, where it then begins its expedition downstream into the Town of Meeker, then through Rangely, and finally meeting with the waters of the Green River.

Along the way, the high spring waters pick up the sludgy runoff from our roads and the neon-blue waste from our ranches — though sometimes it can also pick up those pesky hitchhikers leftover from the previous fall: the runaway plastic bottles, shredded Ziploc baggies, and half-crushed beer cans. It’s all whisked away, gently, downstream —out of sight, so it’s out of mind.

This all happens without an eyebrow raised or a shoulder shrugged, year after year.

It’s an undeniable fact that the climate is changing. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its Sixth Assessment Report earlier this year, and yes, you guessed it, it’s rather dire. It’s been dire for decades. Climatic change isn’t just threatening the way we live, it is changing how we navigate our spaces. It’s altering the ecosystems we co-inhabit with the funky creatures of our backyards. Wildfires undeniably have devoured fragile grazing lands and the White River is warming to temperatures unmanageable for native fish. Everyday, we walk outside and see with our own eyes the open wounds these changes are leaving behind. It can take years for these wounds to scar, if ever. At the end of the day, we are no different than the prancing deer in the woods or the mischievous fish in the streams. We too are victims of global change, but the difference lies in that we’re the only species capable of doing something about it.

Therefore it is imperative for us, the friends of the river, to prove ourselves to be stewards of —not users of— our landscapes. This isn’t a sappy debate about electric vehicles or solar panels or coal — this is the reality we live in that demands that we take care of the river in the same way that it has provided to us. The river is not only ours, nor does it solely belong to those that live up the river or those adjacent to the massive supermarkets and noisy water parks downstream the Colorado.

But the water comes from us, one way or another, whether we like it or not. It is in our hands to ensure that the water continues to flow and that the grass grows on both sides of the fence. Being a steward of the river is not drawing imaginary lines or using the river as a fleeting dumping ground for end-of-harvest waste. Spare the extra fertilizer and toss that jerky wrapper in the bin. It’s up to us to set an example. For we’ve always known what’s best for our waters, and now it’s just a matter of putting that to use and reclaim our river

By BRANDON LOZANO-GARAY – Special to the Herald Times

Brandon is from Meeker and is a second-year student studying Environmental Studies and Art History at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME.

Special to the Herald Times

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