In 2013, a historic flood ripped through Boulder County, Colorado, causing widespread devastation and severely altering the region’s watersheds. Although the flood destroyed houses and roads and eroded river banks, it also provided an unique opportunity for the restoration of wetland habitats. Small stream-fed ponds in the flood-plain were filled with water, debris, and nutrient rich silt. Instead of clearing the sediment, the County decided to designate these areas as a protected wetland habitat, and restore native species to help prevent another erosion event.
One such area is Webster pond, located in county-owned Pella Crossing. Following the flooding event, the county decided to transition the pond from a recreational fishing area to a native fish nursery. Boulder County Parks & Open Space and Colorado Parks & Wildlife convened to discuss the options for reintroducing native species to the newly recovered habitat. After much deliberation, the ecological experts decided to utilize the pond to help restore a “species of greatest conservation need,” the Northern Redbelly Dace (Chrosomus eos).
The Community Steps-Up
While it may have been possible to simply release the fish into the waterway, the organizations saw this particular recovery effort as an opportunity to engage students in the field of conservation. In response, Boulder County Parks & Open Space and Colorado Parks & Wildlife partnered with Ocean First Institute, a nonprofit organization located in Boulder, and the St. Vrain Valley School District to create opportunities for students to be involved in this unique local conservation effort. In September of 2020, high school students were able to rear and release nearly one thousand dace into a private pond in Lyons as a pilot study. Over the past year, rearing efforts have continued and there are currently plans in place to release the new fry into Webster Pond later this summer.
Northern Redbelly Dace Recovery Project A collaborative species conservation partnership Email: firstname.lastname@example.org