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Help us Celebrate our Southern Rockies Program Success!

Posted: 11/29/2023
By: Kestrel Kunz

As the year comes to an end, we have a lot of successes to celebrate for our rivers in the Southern Rockies region. We could not have accomplished this much without the support from people like you! Thanks for helping us achieve all the below milestones this year. Here are some regional highlights from American Whitewater's three pillars: Protect, restore, & enjoy! 


  • In September, we achieved additional Wild and Scenic River eligibility protections in the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests. Directly in response to our efforts, the Uncompahgre Gorge and the Taylor River Canyon will receive protections along with Oh Be Joyful Creek, Anthracite Creek, and many other high mountains streams. 

  • We celebrated new Wild and Scenic River eligibility protections on the Tonto National Forest in AZ, including classic AZ creeks like Christopher and Tonto Creeks and the Salt River. 

  • The M.H. Dutch Salmon Greater Gila Wild and Scenic River Act, poised to protect over 440 river miles in New Mexico, is making another round through Congress. The bill passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee this July with bipartisan support. We are still working hard to find pathways to get this bill signed into law considering the difficult dynamics in the House of Representatives.

  • We led multiple presentations, meetings, and letters to federal agencies ensuring the integrity of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and that artificial dams for native fish restoration do not impede our nation’s remaining free-flowing rivers. 

  • We supported a community stakeholder group discussing the feasibility of a Wild and Scenic designation and supporting river protection measures on the Crystal River. Our work provided connections with experts in a variety of river protection fields and fact based information on Wild and Scenic Rivers. 



  • The Southern Rockies Program team joined our colleagues at Outdoor Alliance in our nation’s capitol this fall to advocate for sustainable outdoor recreation and healthy rivers. American Whitewater staff collectively had over 40 meetings with key congressional offices and administrative leaders. We asked for improved low head dam policies, better management of Cataract Canyon, elevated the importance of river recreation in large scale Colorado River Basin management, and advocated for our federal legislative priorities. 

  • Last year we updated you about the extensive and detailed comments we provided to the Colorado Water Conservation Board on their draft update to the Colorado Water Plan. Released in January of this year, the final plan incorporated 50% of our comments. In March, the Board voted to fund us to work with consultants to better identify risks to river recreation for future updates to the state plan.

  • Building on our efforts on the low head dam prioritization tool, we started talks with other NGOs, state and federal agencies, and river restoration practitioners about building a coalition to select and remove or modify those structures around the state that are creating the largest hazard to public safety and impact to aquatic environments. 

  • We have worked with members and industry partners to write op-eds, make 6 oral comments, and sign on to letters to the Colorado River Drought Task Force asking them to make bold recommendations that would ensure Colorado’s rivers are resilient and healthy despite a reduced water supply.



  • In March, we filed an amicus brief with our partners at Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and the Colorado Rafting Outfitters Association on the Hill vs. Warsewa case, which sought to get clarity on Colorado’s ambiguous river access laws. Unfortunately, the case was dismissed, however American Whitewater is working hard to find paths forward for improved legal river access in Colorado. 

  • This summer, we kicked off a partnership with the Forest Service to make much needed river access improvements in the Taylor River Canyon. We anticipate having design plans for stairs and raft slides at Todd’s Slot River Access by the spring of 2024 and construction in 2025. 

  • We submitted multiple comment letters to Colorado Parks and Wildlife in response to their attempts to bar the use of boats and vessels at all state wildlife areas. Our comments lead to continued paddler access at all but three boat ramps within State Wildlife Areas.

  • We were grateful to celebrate another Gore Fest with you all this August with friends, good flows, and a silent auction and membership prize drawing that brought in a tremendous amount of support for American Whitewater. 


This year, we have also invested in our Southern Rockies Program staff. Hattie Johnson and Kestrel Kunz are now co-leading the region, as the Restoration Director and Protection Director, respectively. With this programmatic shift, we have doubled our fundraising capacity and made our team stronger than ever. If you are able, please help us leverage this growth by making a donation to American Whitewater this holiday season. 


Kestrel Kunz & Hattie Johnson

Photo by Logan Myers

Kestrel Kunz

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