The 13 winners recognized during the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council annual awards ceremony Wednesday, Jan. 12, were the most ever, and local environmental leaders say it’s an indication of the breadth and collaborative efforts of the environmental work that’s happening in the valley.
At the same time, the award-winners acknowledged, in particular, the wide variety of partnerships that helped move sustainable projects forward last year.
“When we work connected and collaboratively, we do great things,” said Sasha Nelson, a resident of Craig who won the Yampa Valley Connector award. “We are so lucky to have such amazing neighbors in the valley.”
Holly Kirkpatrick, public information and external affairs manager, accepted the Partner of the Year award for the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District.
“Collaboration on all these water issues here in the Yampa Valley is of the upmost importance in addressing these issues and making sure we have a sustainable future,” Kirkpatrick said.
YVSC Executive Director Michelle Stewart called the largest number of recipients for the 2021 awards “an inspiring reminder of how profoundly collaborative sustainability is and how fortunate we are to have such exceptional and committed people, businesses, organizations and initiatives in our community.”
She added that it indicates “a rising tide of interest in taking action together to protect and sustain the Yampa Valley.”
More than 50 people attended the online meeting to celebrate environmental accomplishments, leadership examples and inspiration in the community.
Many attendees expressed congratulations to lifetime achievement winners Geoff and Betsy Blakeslee, and C.J. Mucklow.
The Blakeslees, a married couple, are best known for their previous work for 23 years as stewards of The Nature Conservancy’s Carpenter Ranch east of Hayden. The couple managed the ranch as a place to show how ranching and conservation can work together.
They hosted thousands of visitors through the years, including school students, birders, and water and wildlife managers. They helped restore the ranch buildings and made them into a living museum and classroom.
“Well-deserved, thank you for showing us the way,” Nelson noted of the couple.
Mucklow is best known as the former longtime Colorado State University extension agent in Routt County, author of “A Guide to Rural Living and Small-Scale Agriculture” and as an advocate for preserving valuable views through maintaining agricultural land. He retired in 2021 after a 35-year career with CSU extension, including a regional director role.
“More acres of land in Northwest Colorado have been positively impacted by C.J. and his influence than by any individual landowner aside from the U.S. government,” said Todd Hagenbuch, local CSU extension agent and agriculture director.
The 2021 award-winners included community volunteers, collaborating municipal groups and nonprofit organizations in such areas as education, government and business. Winners ranged from an artist-volunteer to a teacher and entrepreneurs.
Artist Jill Bergman, winner of the Shining Star award, used her artwork to support the YVSC ReTree program, such as providing T-shirt designs since 2016 as a way of combining her art with environmental action. Bergman also is known for her “Yampa is Wild” mural.
The Sustainable Business of the Year award was presented to Bar-U-Eat, a Steamboat Springs business owned by Sam Nelson and Jason Friday that makes healthy, organic snack bars while accomplishing environmentally sustainable practices.
The bars use locally sourced ingredients and 100% compostable packaging from the adhesive to the ink. Through 1% for the Planet, the company donates 1% of their proceeds to environmental nonprofits. The owners set a goal of powering their manufacturing facility by 100% renewable energy by 2028.
The Recycler of the Year award went to Shelly Bonner and Carrie Sabin, representing the engineering company Stantec, who went out of their way to recycle 6.25 tons of office paper and to donate associated supplies while moving to a paperless records management system. The huge effort required every file to be sorted to separate plastic binder materials and metal clips from thousands of old paper reports.
The Educator of the Year winner, Kristyl Boies, is the advanced learning coordinator for grades sixth through eighth at Steamboat Springs Middle School and Sleeping Giant School, where she mentors students in creative problem-solving, including sustainability concerns.
Boies explained that many of advanced learners are concerned about the future and are motivated to help their community. Some of the eighth-grade students helped to build awareness by building a trash sculpture displayed with attention-grabbing statistics, hosting a recycling competition at lunch, or conducting interviews and creating a documentary-style video.
Full information about all the 2021 sustainability award winners can be found at YVSC.org.
To reach Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email sromig@SteamboatPilot.com.