New film highlights how the future of conservation depends on collaboration with private, working lands

Santa Fe, NM – On Monday, January 10, 2022, 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 from the cascading effects of development and climate change. This is a story of hope in the face of mounting crises 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.”

Fish and the flame film with banded peak ranch
CPW aquatic biologist Jim White in a scene from the new film “The Fish & the Flame,” about efforts to save the rare San Juan cutthroat trout, which which will be screened online on January 10th.

“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 Haarmann 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 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 Ranch 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 January 10, 2022 at 5pm MST, will be followed by a Q&A with White, Haarmann, Allison, Stotts, and producer Page Buono. Registration is required. Visit


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Louis Wertz
Western Landowners Alliance

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fish and the flame film event

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