Help Protect Crested Butte Area Rivers and Creeks under Wild and Scenic Act
By: Kestrel Kunz
The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests (GMUG) are conducting a Wild and Scenic River Eligibility Evaluation as part of the current Forest Plan Revision process. While the Forest Service is mandated to conduct an Eligibility Study as part of the Plan Revision process, this opportunity only happens every 15-20 years and we need to ensure that the Study is comprehensive and robust. We need YOU to share your love and knowledge of these rivers with the Forest Service! We've put together an easy-to-use tool for you to submit comments here. Please consider personalizing your comments and take the time to review the Forest Service's Story Map of the Eligibility Evaluation.
Eligibility determination is the first step towards designating a river under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and there are currently no Eligible river segments in the GMUG National Forests. To qualify, Eligible rivers must be free-flowing and possess at least one Outstandingly Remarkable Value (ORV). ORVs can include recreation, scenery, geology, culture, botanical, wildlife, etc., and the values must be regionally or nationally unique. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act affords some of the strongest protections for rivers and their surrounding landscapes and we must take advantage of this important policy tool. Nobody knows these rivers better than the paddling community and we need to share our knowledge with the Forest Service!
The Forest Service’s Draft Eligibility Study was released on February 19 and it fails to recognize numerous river segments that are free-flowing and have outstanding paddling opportunities. To review which paddling segments are within the GMUG boundary, see Outdoor Alliance’s mapping tool. The Forest Service determined Oh Be Joyful creek and its tributaries to be Eligible and recognized paddling as an Outstandingly Remarkable Value for segment 1B - this is a win! Oh Be Joyful is one of Colorado’s most popular challenging creeks, bringing new residents to the Gunnison Valley and bringing in visitors from across the country. In addition, short segments of the San Miguel River between Placerville and Pinon were found Eligible with Recreation ORVs - also a win. However, the Forest Service has missed numerous rivers and creeks in their Evaluation that have high quality paddling opportunities and are free-flowing. Paddlers don’t just come to Crested Butte for Oh Be Joyful - they come to paddle Daisy Creek (i.e., Poverty Gulch), the Slate River, and the Upper East River. Intermediate paddlers flock to the Lower Taylor River and those looking for awe-inspiring views travel farther upstream to the Taylor River above Taylor Reservoir. More adventurous visitors hike their boats miles into the Dark Canyon to paddle Ruby Anthracite Creek and the mainstem Anthracite, one of the more unique and remote paddling adventures in Colorado. In the Uncompahgre Forest, paddlers travel to the headwaters of the Uncompahgre and the headwaters of the San Miguel for high-challenge and incredibly scenic paddling experiences. As paddlers, we need to help the Forest Service understand the unique experiences that all these rivers have to offer to those of us seeking tranquility and adventure.
In your comments to the Forest Service, we encourage you to include the following:
• Thank the Forest Service for determining Oh Be Joyful Creek Segment 1B to be Eligible and for recognizing its paddling ORV and for determining Segments 1 and 2 of the San Miguel River to be Eligible with a paddling ORV.
• Encourage the Forest Service to expand the Eligibility Study to include ALL free-flowing rivers with at least one ORV
• Encourage the Forest Service to reference American Whitewater’s National Whitewater Inventory when conducting Eligibility Studies
• Share your paddling experiences on the GMUG’s rivers, including details such as the character of the river, personal stories, why you love to paddle the river, if you travel a far distance to paddle the river, and any additional knowledge about the river’s scenery, geology, and any other attributes.
• Remember to thank the Forest Service for considering your comments and for all their hard work
We only have until March 22 to submit comments on the Draft Eligibility Study - so please act now! Follow this link to check out the Forest Service’s Wild and Scenic Story Map and online comment tool and read the full Draft Eligibility Study here. You can also email your comments directly to Brittany Duffy, the acting Forest Planner.
Finally, American Whitewater is soliciting photos for each of the river segments in the GMUG. Having a robust inventory of the GMUG’s rivers will help us advocate for their protection in the Forest Plan. Please send photos with photo credit, river name, rapid name, and any other useful information to email@example.com.
Photo of Matt Haughee by Josh King: Big Woody falls on Daisy Creek