Nov 152010
Authors: Allison Sylte

Before intensive work was completed with help from the CSU Society for Conservation Biology, Roberts Ranch was an ecological disaster.

A failed canal project led to severe erosion and habitat degeneration, and 3 million tires had been sloppily placed all over the area to combat these effects. But now, after years of projects involving long days digging in the mud and restoring the area, Roberts Ranch is in recovery.

“We’ve been keeping in touch with Roberts Ranch for years,” said Bill Tiedje, a senior natural resources economics major and the vice president of the CSU Society for Conservation Biology.

Working on the project since his freshman year, Tiedje said it’s rewarding to see the work and resulting “noticeable difference” out at the ranch.

The society spent homecoming weekend doing work on the ranch and rebuilding habitats. But Roberts Ranch, which is located about 30 minutes north of Fort Collins, is only one of many projects that the SCB works on throughout the year.

“I love what we do because I sort of feel like a homesteader,” said Luke McNally, the president of CSU’s SCB chapter. “I get to play in the dirt and do pretty intensive manual labor … we get to see some good results. It’s beautiful in its simplicity.”

The SCB has roughly 30 active members and participates in conservation projects throughout the Front Range. CSU’s SCB chapter is the oldest continuing chapter in the United States.

In addition to projects in Colorado, the SCB recently took a trip to Yellowstone National Park, where the group stayed at a wildlife-tracking center and field institute. Here, they had a chance meeting with one of Yellowstone’s preeminent wolf biologists, who guided them to see one of the parks oldest wolf packs.

“It was absolutely amazing and one of the coolest things that I’ve done over the course of my college career,” said Nicole Weprin, a senior wildlife biology major and a member of the SCB. “It really brought together the information that I’d been learning in class with real world experiences.”

Despite the involvement of faculty advisors in the Warner College of Natural Resources, students in the SCB are adamant that it is almost entirely student-organized and run.

“When we showed up at Yellowstone, people wereshocked that we were just a bunch of unsupervised college students,” Tiedje said. “But, we’re all so motivated and do such good work that we really won them over.”

Tiedje and McNally are quick to credit the society’s success with the passion and motivation displayed by its members, as well as their close camaraderie.

“It’s a great group of people who are very knowledgeable and motivated, and we really get along well,” McNally said. “We combine fun and getting outdoors with doing some really hands on work and hopefully making good professional contacts.”

According to McNally, the club has grown substantially in recent years, with upwards of 70 students showing up to this year’s fall informational meeting. Upcoming events include a wildlife-tracking clinic given by McNally and another Yellowstone trip in the spring.

“We also really try to emphasize that we’re open to everyone, not just natural resources people,” McNally said. “We’ve got people from every major, from political science to kids whose parents are forcing them to be finance majors. We’re all united by our love of the outdoors, and we want to preserve the great things that nature has to offer.”

Outdoor Life Beat Reporter Allison Sylte can be reached at

  • Mission: To advance the science and practice of conserving the Earth’s biological diversity.
  • Members: 10,000 worldwide, CSU has the oldest continuing chapter in the United States.
  • Want to join? Send an e-mail to
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