by Jay Thompson, Bureau of Land Management
|Steve Sanchez, CRA 2007 “Excellence in Riparian Management” award recipient|
Steve Sanchez, a Natural Resources Specialist based in the San Luis Valley Public Lands Center (SLVPLC), received the Colorado Riparian Association’s “Excellence in Riparian Management” Award at the recent conference in Breckenridge, Colorado. Over the past eight years, Steve has served as the riparian coordinator in the SLVPLC’s Saguache Field Office. During his tenure, Steve has been a strong advocate for proper riparian stewardship and has initiated and completed several riparian improvement projects. Steve has a relentless passion for the land, a “big-picture” approach to caring for public lands, and a commitment to the application of sound science.
Steve has a long list of riparian accomplishments, and most of them are a direct result of his uncanny ability to get multiple parties with divergent interests to work together for a common goal. One of his first big riparian projects was to relocate an existing BLM road out of the riparian zone along Dorsey Creek (just south of Poncha Pass). Steve worked with the affected private land owners and succeeded in closing the old road and re-routing the road to the top of the ridge where impacts to the riparian area were eliminated. The road closure allowed the riparian zone to heal and widen, and brook trout have once again moved downstream onto the BLM reach of Dorsey Creek.
Following his success at Dorsey Creek, Steve has subsequently spearheaded two additional large-scale riparian improvement projects. A similar but more ambitious road relocation project is nearing completion along Ford Creek northwest of Saguache. Steve’s latest riparian improvement effort focuses on relocating mine tailings and restoring riparian vegetation on Kerber Creek, which flows into San Luis Creek at Villa Grove, Colorado. The Kerber Creek drainage was the site of extensive past mining operations, which left numerous mine tailings in and adjacent to the creek. Working cooperatively, the BLM, Forest Service, and private landowners have already relocated and capped several mine tailings and have plans in place to move and cap several more. CRA members who attended the conference in Alamosa in 2003 may be familiar with Kerber Creek, since one of the field trips looked at the mining-related impacts to the creek. While the ongoing work along Kerber Creek and Ford Creek and the completed work along Dorsey Creek are Steve’s long-term legacy to riparian and watershed health in the San Luis Valley, his contributions extend beyond these three major projects.
As riparian coordinator in the Saguache Field Office, Steve has been instrumental in overseeing proper functioning condition assessments of riparian areas, participating in land health assessments, maintaining riparian projects, and designing new projects to improve riparian health. Steve is a whiz with GIS, and has organized his office’s riparian data into easily accessible GIS maps and tables. Steve has also served as a mentor to numerous college students and summer seasonals, some of whom have gone on to full-time employment with the BLM or the Forest Service.
The CRA is proud to present Steve with our “Excellence in Riparian Management” in recognition of his professionalism, passion, and commitment to enhancing riparian resources in the San Luis Valley.