New Short Film Highlights How Future Of Conservation Depends On Collaboration With Private, Working Lands


On Monday, January 10, Chama Peak Land Alliance and Western Landowners Alliance will convene the public, landowners, and legislators for a virtual film screening and Q&A to  debut their newest film, The Fish & the Flame. The 14-minute film has already garnered numerous  festival selections and awards. It shows how Tim Haarmann, ranch manager at Banded Peak  Ranch, and Jim White, a biologist with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, collaborated to save one of the  last remaining populations of rare and recently-rediscovered San Juan cutthroat trout, just as a  wildfire threatens to decimate the fish.  

The story highlights the critical role private lands play in protecting watersheds. By working together,  a public agency and private landowners protect a rare species in an era of climate change,  megafires, and increasing pressures from human populations. This is a story of hope in the face of  mounting conservation challenges across the Southern Rockies. As White says in the film, “There  are a lot of folks out there that really want to see native species flourish. That gives me hope about  the future of cutthroat trout.”  

“Private lands are the cornerstones of both our ecosystems and our human communities,” said Lesli  Allison, executive director of Western Landowners Alliance, based in Santa Fe. “This film shares just  one example, albeit a particularly epic one, of the many, many landowners and managers dedicated  to the future of biodiversity in the West.”  

As Haarman says in the film, “In this particular area, there is a really amazing effort at collaborative  land management, between the states, between the Forest Service, [and] private landowners. There is a place at the table for everyone. I think there is real power in that.”  

The San Juan Cutthroat flourished in the streams of Southern Colorado until mining pollution, fishing  pressure, and non-native competitors drove it to extinction—allegedly. Thanks to genetic data from a  146-year old tissue sample at the Smithsonian, Jim’s team identified a few tiny holdout populations  in 2018. But immediately after this discovery, the 416 Fire burned through the watershed, flushing  toxic chemicals into the stream where one of the six known populations lived.  

“Private lands provide a critical refuge for biodiversity in the Upper Rio Grande and the Southern  Rockies in general,” Caleb Stotts, executive director of the Chama Peak Land Alliance, of which  Banded Peak is a founding member, says. “This story highlights just how dedicated to conservation  landowners in our region really are.” 

The Fish & the Flame has already been making a splash on the film festival circuit, as an official  selection of the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, Jackson Wild Film Festival, Santa Fe Film Festival,  Durango Film Festival and others.  

The free virtual film screening, on Jan. 10 at 5 p.m. MST, will be followed by a Q&A with White, Haarmann, Allison, Stotts, and moderator Page Buono. Event registration may be found at  the following link: