The Palisade High School endangered fish hatchery just released around 250 endangered razorback suckers into the Colorado River just as they have in years past. Michael Gross, of the U.S fish and wildlife service, tells me razorback suckers have been swimming around Earth’s waters for approximately 5 million years, meaning they’ve been an integral part of ecosystems for longer than humankind has even existed.

The suckers act as food for animals like bears and eagles while also eating insects and other microscopic animals, controlling those populations. Maybe even more importantly though, according to Michael,

“These razorback suckers are like little vacuums out there, maintaining the water quality, constantly cleaning.”

Michael Gross, U.S fish and wildlife service

The bad news is these resilient living pieces of prehistory who have survived millennia are suddenly dying out. Michael tells me the primary causes are drought and a loss of the fast-flowing water habitats they adapted to over tens of thousands of years. According to the average flow of the Colorado River has declined almost 20 percent since 2000 thanks to things like climate change and global warming, but thanks to the efforts of these Palisade High School students these fish have a chance to make a comeback and adapt to the slower water flows. Young or old, anyone can join the fight to keep Colorado’s rivers and our rare native species alive and healthy.