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Colorado woman leading movement to save sandhill cranes in Yampa Valley

Denver7 Everyday Hero Nancy Merrill
Posted at 3:52 PM, Oct 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-07 19:01:41-05

For more than a decade, there's been a growing movement to save a certain type of bird in the Yampa Valley: the sandhill crane.

The Colorado Crane Conservation Coalition (CCCC) is a nonprofit based in Routt County, and President Nancy Merrill is at the center of the movement.

"I know that the cranes will never know how lucky they are to have someone in their corner like Nancy," said Stephanie Appel, an operations coordinator with the CCCC. "But Nancy does it with a passion."

That passion came to fruition nearly 13 years ago, when Merrill launched the Yampa Valley Crane Festival, as part of the CCCC. Since then, her commitment to cranes has expanded further through partnerships with local farmers and ranchers to increase grain production and lease land to help these big birds thrive.

"Cranes have discovered many of the fields that are specifically crops for cranes," said Merrill. "And cranes rely on waste grain crops from farmers' fields for a lot of that nutrition before they migrate."

A difference maker in this community, Merrill helped defeat a proposal that would have allowed hunting sandhill cranes in northwest Colorado. Both farmers and hunters put their support behind her.

"Because of her tireless efforts, she's creating pathways between farmers and ranchers, educating future generations about conservation," said Appel.

Those efforts are why Merrill's community of "craneiacs" nominated her as Denver7 and West Shore Home's newest Everyday Hero!

Denver7 features a different Everyday Hero each week. To nominate a hero in your life, click here.