Larry Robinson/The Daily SentinelA Palisade High School student gives a razorback sucker a kiss Friday before releasing the fish into the Colorado River as part of the Palisade High School’s hatchery program’s fish releases. Palisade released 370 razorbacks suckers — including the 1,000th in the program’s history.

Many of the fish released, as always, received smooches before being released into the river, as is PHS Endangered Fish Hatchery tradition.  “Our fish release days are always kind of bittersweet. We definitely grow attached to our fish like our pets, so we’re excited to release them, but at the same time, we’re going to miss seeing them every day,” said Palisade Fish Hatchery Teacher Patrick Steele. “We know this is what we’ve been working all year for. The whole purpose of this is to help to recover this population of endangered razorback suckers. When you get to this point, it’s exciting.”

Jeff Corwin, Emmy award winner, biologist, wildlife conversationalist and famous for Disney Channel’s “Going Wild with Jeff Corwin”, talks Friday about the importance of the states’ wildlife services and how important their work is for future generations before Palisade High School released its 1,000th fish during a release of razorback suckers into Colorado River as part of the school’s hatchery program. Photo Larry Robinson-The Daily Sentinel

Friday’s razorback sucker release marked the culmination of four years of conservation education for some Palisade seniors, such as Kale Potter, who witnessed and participated in the program’s growth over his time in high school.

“It takes a lot of dedication to go down there, perform what needs to be done, do all the dirty tasks and do the fun tasks. It’s just a good mixture of both,” Potter said. “It’s really helped me have a wider view of what goes on in the river and the ecosystem that surrounds the Grand Valley and how we help the ecosystem grow by releasing these endangered suckerfish.”

The release event was attended by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Mountain-Prairie Region Deputy Director Anna Muñoz as well as leaders from the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program, tribal partners, and community members.

Also in attendance was Jeff Corwin, a prominent biologist and wildlife conservationist who has hosted wildlife programs for the Disney Channel, Animal Planet, ABC, Discovery and the Travel Channel since the late 1990s.

 

 

 Kiera Stephen, part of Palisade High Schoo’s hatchery program, smiles while juggling a slippery fish during the release of Razorback Suckers into Colorado River, including PHS’ 1000th total fish released as part of the school’s hatchery program on May 3, 2024.  Photo Larry Robinson-The Daily Sentinel

For Corwin, who has spent decades aiming to educate the public and especially young people on the power of conservation, witnessing the work of the Palisade Endangered Fish Hatchery Program filled him with pride. This feeling of pride is why he traveled from his home in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to witness this event.

“I’m incredibly proud of the students at Palisade High School because I think they’re exercising their environmental stewardship muscles, they’re exploring their world as scientists, and an experience like this is profound because it clicks that lightbulb on,” Corwin said. “I’ve always believed that you can’t protect what you don’t love, and you’ll never love it if you don’t get to meet it. I’ve met so many students that are going to become scientists, fish biologists, ecologists because of this incredible program where they get to be a partner in saving an endangered species.”