Senator Bennet (CO) Introduces Legislation to Protect the Dolores River Canyon
For over a decade, American Whitewater has worked with a diverse and collaborative group to find consensus on how to provide durable protections to the outstandingly remarkable values of the Dolores River while honoring local concerns around the protection of existing water and land uses. Years ago, the group identified a federally designated National Conservation Area as the best means to preserve the Dolores River Canyons, its recreation, wildlife, and scenery. Yesterday, Colorado’s senior senator, Michael Bennet, introduced that legislation. This is an exciting and important step toward permanent protection and is the result of coordination with the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal government; a diverse subcommittee including counties, water managers, conservation groups, and more. Please join us today in thanking Senator Bennet for his commitment to this important river canyon! Ponderosa Gorge Image credit: Rig to Flip.
The legislation would protect 76 river miles and 68,000 acre of public lands in Dolores, San Miguel and Montezuma Counties from McPhee Reservoir to the Little Gypsum Bridge. It has bipartisan and local support from the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Dolores, Montezuma, and San Miguel Counties, American Rivers, American Whitewater, Conservation Colorado, Conservation Lands Foundation, Dolores River Boating Advocates, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Sheep Mountain Alliance, and The Wilderness Society. Check out Sen.Bennet’s website for more information and the full bill text and map.
The Dolores provides for long wilderness-quality river trips; second only to opportunities found on the Grand Canyon. When the river is flowing, river runners can enjoy 170 miles of class II-IV whitewater, impressive virgin Ponderosa pine forests, and slickrock canyons. Native fish and whitewater boating are important and interlinked resources. The proposal includes a mechanism for stakeholder input regarding management of base flows and managed releases below McPhee Dam. American Whitewater has been working with the water managers, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, environmental and recreational NGOs and federal agencies that comprise the Native Fish Monitoring and Recommendation Team, an outgrowth of collaborative discussions that led to the NCA Proposal. This group has been functioning in that capacity, and the proposed legislation would formalize that consultation.