2020 Year-end Review
“Dancing Cranes” by Abby Jensen
Since 2012, Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition, Inc. (CCCC) has worked to ensure the protection of the Rocky Mountain population of Greater Sandhill Cranes and their habitat in Northwest Colorado. We present the annual Yampa Valley Crane Festival, an on-the-ground habitat program called Crops for Cranes, and various crane education and awareness programs for both children and adults. As this unusual year comes to a close, we hope you will consider a donation to CCCC to help support our efforts on behalf of the cranes.
In 2020, CCCC was significantly impacted by COVID-19. Several of our programs faced daunting challenges as a result of the virus.
- The annual Yampa Valley Crane Festival consists of 4 days of exciting activities and educational programs focused on cranes, birds, and nature. Because of the virus, the festival could not take place as a live event in 2020. The festival is our most important program for educating the public about cranes and for building support for our programs.
- Every spring we typically present an entertaining and fact-filled program about cranes and their habitat to all the third graders in the county and we offer them a special 3rd grade Crane Coloring Contest. This year schools were closed due to the pandemic and we could not present either the crane education program or the Crane Coloring Contest to third graders.
- For many years CCCC has participated in the annual Steamboat Springs 4th of July Parade. Our crane dancers do a fantastic job of raising “crane awareness” among parade spectators. The crane dancers are accompanied by young “crane chick” volunteers who pass out thousands of origami cranes that have been folded over the course of the year. Our crane entry has often won the “Best Group” award. This year the parade was modified into a “cars only” parade and our crane dancers could not perform within that format.
Just like cranes have adapted to threats over the years, CCCC adapted to the threat of COVID-19.
We decided to go virtual with the 2020 Yampa Valley Crane Festival. We created a series of videos about cranes and crane-related topics that we are now offering for free through our website. These 30 videos cover topics such as The History of Cranes in Northwest Colorado, Nesting and Breeding Ecology of Sandhill Cranes, The First 39 Days in the Life of a Crane Family, and much more. In the first two months we have received more than 2200 “views” of these videos. They will remain available to the public throughout 2020; click here to view. We believe our virtual festival will provide people the opportunity to learn about and enjoy cranes from the comfort and safety of their homes. We hope to return to our normal festival format in 2021. All the outstanding speakers that were scheduled for 2020 are planning to present at our 2021 Yampa Valley Crane Festival. Click here to see the 2021 festival line-up.
- We adapted to the closing of schools by taking our in-person, 3rd grade crane education program and turning it into a video for kids of all ages. The feedback about this video from kids, teachers, and adults has been outstanding. It will remain available throughout 2020:
- Although we were unable to hold a separate 3rd grade Crane Coloring Contest, we were still able to hold a community-wide contest for all children ages 2-18. We displayed all entries, mailed prizes to all winners and announced winners in a video:
- When the COVID virus threatened participation in the 4th of July Parade, the CCCC crane dancers did not bow in defeat. Instead, they created a video version of their performance (with masked cranes and proper social distancing) in a beautiful field where live cranes often hang out. This video was nominated in the 2020 “Best of the Boat” contest in the “virtual” category:
- The origami cranes that normally are passed out to the crowd at the parade were put to another use. CCCC volunteers converted them to hanging ornaments and sent them off to Washington D.C. to decorate the Christmas trees that will be displayed in 42 federal buildings during this holiday season.
Despite COVID-19 we were able to successfully accomplish many of our usual activities and programs.
- Our Crops for Cranes program continued to expand in 2020. CCCC worked with farmers in Hayden, Steamboat Springs and Craig, CO this year to grow and leave crops for the cranes. These crops help provide the nutrition that cranes need, especially young cranes, for successful migration to their winter homes. Our Crops for Cranes program has been in effect since 2015 and has not only helped the cranes but has also created safe viewing areas that attract locals and tourists.
Crops for Cranes Field
- In March our First Crane Sighting Contest generated excitement about the migrating cranes returning to the Yampa River Valley. Notwithstanding the nationwide shutdown that occurred that month, we received 50 + reports and photos of cranes from every area of the Yampa Valley. With all the bad news about COVID, cranes provided a welcome relief from the grim human situation.
First Crane Sighting Contest Photo by Audrey Bortz
- CCCC effectively carried on with the Crane-inspired Creative Arts Contest and Scholarship Program for high school seniors. Students from Moffat and Routt counties submitted original essays, stories, poems, and artwork inspired by our Greater Sandhill Cranes. CCCC awarded $6000 in continuing education scholarship money to the six winners of this contest. All submitted work was displayed virtually during the First Friday Art Walk in April and can still be viewed, along with other CCCC crane art videos, by clicking here.
Crane-inspired Creative Arts Contest Winning Entry by Lauren Ehrlich
- Our Crane Yard Art Event is a traditional festival activity that helps promote “crane awareness” as well as raise funds for CCCC. This year, twenty-five cranes were decorated, each in a unique fashion, by local artists, then auctioned off and placed in lawns and gardens all over the Yampa Valley and beyond. The decorated cranes were displayed in a socially distanced manner along the sidewalk in front of the Bud Werner Library. The public was invited to view the cranes (masks required) in a safe manner and to place their bid for the crane of their choice through an online auction site. The Yard Art Cranes were especially beautiful this year, perhaps because artists had plenty of time during the shutdown to work on them. Every crane sold!
“Lady Bird” by Carol Jean
CCCC is always looking for new ways both to protect cranes and to educate the public about cranes. In early March work began on a new Steamboat Springs grammar school that is located very close to a traditional Sandhill Crane nesting area. Over the years many of the prize-winning photos from our Crane Photo Contest have been taken at this nesting site such as the photo below.
“Colt Protection” by Kevin Dietrich
CCCC worked with the Routt County Public Works department to design, pay for, and install “Crane Crossing” signs to protect the crane pair that has nested and successfully raised chicks there year after year. CCCC has also proposed that the new school name one of the new streets in the area “Crane Lane”. When the new school opens in fall 2021, CCCC is prepared to offer crane education programs to the entire student body.
Crane Crossing Sign
In the coming year CCCC will expand its important work of protecting cranes and their habitat. From the beginning, CCCC operated primarily as an all-volunteer organization. Four years ago we hired our first part-time assistant to help keep up with the growing workload. As we have added and expanded programs, we now have reached the point where we plan to hire a full-time Program Director in 2021. The Program Director will take on the task of running our existing programs, including managing our more than 85 volunteers, and will also amplify our impact by developing new programs.
One new project that is already in the works involves setting up a camera at a Sandhill Crane nest in the Yampa Valley in spring 2021 and live streaming the action at the nest. Anyone with access to the internet will be able to watch the cranes changing places with their mate, rotating eggs, and hopefully, hatching out their chicks. In addition, CCCC staff will record, edit and post video clips of nest activity highlights. This nest cam project will include an interactive format through our website and Facebook page so that the public can ask questions and receive information about what they are seeing at the nest.
Photo by Abby Jensen
Greater Sandhill Cranes remain a Tier 1 Species of Concern in the state of Colorado. Threats to this iconic species persist, including habitat loss, development, climate change, drought and other factors. CCCC has stepped up this year to find innovative ways to educate the public about cranes and promote crane awareness. CCCC’s programs not only benefit cranes but also the many other wildlife species that share habitat with the cranes. Humans also benefit by becoming more attuned to nature. CCCC offers their programs to the public for free or for only a nominal fee. To do so, we rely on the generosity of volunteers, sponsors, and private individuals like you.
Please consider a year-end donation to Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition, Inc. Click on the DONATE button below to donate by credit card, PayPal or check.
CCCC also participates in Colorado Gives/Yampa Valley Gives Day taking place on December 8, 2020. Donations can be made to CCCC by accessing the Colorado Gives website.
Thank you for your support of the cranes and of our organization.
Nancy Merrill, President
Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition, Inc.
*Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition, Inc. is a 501(c)3 organization. Contributions may be tax-deductible under IRS rules.