by Randy Scholfield
Denver Post outdoors writer Scott Willoughby continued his excellent recent series on Colorado's "Best Wild Places" with a feature article on the Roan Plateau, a rugged backcountry area in western Colorado where TU has been working for 15 years to protect watershed habitat and the rare native Colorado River cutthroat trout population, which is highly vulnerable to oil and gas development.
The piece featured TU's energy team leader, Corey Fisher, who explained why this place is special and deserves protection:
"Those cutthroat trout up there have been isolated, really, since the last ice age. You're looking at roughly 10,000 years of being adapted to that unique environment in those streams, including the ability to withstand temperatures that would be fatal to trout not adapted to those streams," Fisher said. "Oftentimes TU works to restore populations through reintroduction and that kind of thing, but in this case, if a spill were to wipe out populations there, it's not the kind of thing that you could just stick some other cutthroats in there and everything would be all right. It's more of the Humpty Dumpty scenario where once it's broke, you can't put it back together again."
TU and its conservation partners are looking for a "win-win" solution that would allow responsible energy development while preserving the space and solitude and critical wildlife habitat that, as Willoughby eloquently noted, make the Roan a kind of "Gothic cathedral" of wild values.
Check out, too, a previous article from Willoughby about Colorado's Hermosa Creek--another backcountry angling paradise that TU is working hard to protect for future generations.
Randy Scholfield is TU's director of communications for the Southwest region.