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Wins and Losses for Eastern Colorado Rivers

Posted: 09/12/2023
By: Kestrel Kunz

American Whitewater is formally objecting to the Bureau of Land Management’s proposed Final Plan for the Eastern Colorado Field Office. The planning area includes the majority of the Arkansas River and its key tributaries like Grape Creek. As part of the planning process the BLM is required to conduct a thorough review of which river segments are free-flowing and possess at least one Outstandingly Remarkable Value. These river segments should then be protected by the agency as eligible Wild and Scenic Rivers. However, in a practice that American Whitewater opposes at the national level, the BLM conducted an unnecessary “suitability” study on these rivers and is proposing to release many of them from protections. 


Fortunately, in response to American Whitewater’s comments since 2016, the BLM has retained protections for all four sections of the Arkansas River, acknowledging the river’s significant recreation value and the benefits the river provides to Colorado’s economy and communities. The plan emphasizes the importance of the Voluntary Flow Program but also sets a pathway for collaborative efforts to identify permanent protections for river flows. American Whitewater worked to ensure that there is robust language in the plan for acknowledging and protecting flows for recreation. 


Downstream near Cañon City, the BLM failed to retain protections for Grape Creek and has proposed to manage Grape Creek under more general provisions in the plan. Grape Creek provides both challenging creek boating and offers a scenic floating opportunity that is becoming more and more popular. The creek has also been acknowledged for its outstanding scenery and wildlife. Despite this, the BLM removed it from future protections. 


On August 29, American Whitewater met with BLM staff to make the case for Grape Creek and request that all rivers originally found eligible as Wild and Scenic be protected in the plan. We anticipate a response to our objections in the coming weeks and will ensure that the river community is alerted to any progress that we make.

Photo credit: Mountain Buzz


Kestrel Kunz

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