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Comments Needed By Nov. 26 to Secure Protections for West Slope Rivers (CO)

Posted: 11/09/2021
By: Kestrel Kunz

In August, we announced the release of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison Draft Forest Plan. This plan will guide the management of over 3.2 million acres and thousands of river miles, including high-quality paddling streams like the Upper East and the Taylor rivers. The current plan is over 38 years old and is severely outdated. For many, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to effect change on our public lands and we need the paddling community to act now by submitting comments to the Forest Service. 

 

The plan revision process provides a critical opportunity to protect rivers as eligible for Wild and Scenic River status. The Forest Service must evaluate all named rivers on the forests for eligibility. Eligible rivers must be free-flowing with at least one outstanding value, such as recreation, scenery, geology, scienific research, and many others. These eligible Wild and Scenic Rivers are provided administrative protections to protect their free-flow character and their outstanding values.

 

The Forest Service is required by law to consider public comment when revising the forest plan and it’s especially important for the Wild and Scenic eligibility evaluation. Paddlers and river enthusiasts have a unique and personal relationship with many of the forests’ rivers and it’s up to us to tell the Forest Service why these places deserve protection. Due to robust public comment in 2019, the Forest Service added Anthracite Creek and 3 other streams to the eligibility inventory, but there are still many outstanding and free-flowing rivers that need to protected. 

 

American Whitewater has been working tirelessly throughout the plan revision process to ensure that the forest's rivers receive adequate protection and management direction. Below, we have provided suggested talking points for your comments to the Forest Service. You can use this super easy action form here to submit your comments to the Forest Service, but please personalize your comments! It makes a huge difference. 

 

You can also submit comments directly to the Forest Service here: https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public//CommentInput?Project=51806



Talking points: 

  • We support the inclusion of the 118 miles of eligible rivers in the Draft Plan, including all of the Oh-Be-Joyful Creek segments, the Anthracite River, and the San Miguel River.
  • Many rivers are left out and need to be considered as eligible Wild and Scenic Rivers. Rivers that are free-flowing and have outstanding paddling opportunities include the Upper Taylor River (above the reservoir), the Taylor River (below the reservoir)*, the Upper East River, the Slate River, Daisy Creek, Ruby Fork of the Anthracite, the Uncomahgre Gorge, the Uncompahgre River (quality quickie), and keystone gorge of the San Miguel River. 
  • In addition, paddlers recognize the imminent need to protect healthy watersheds and we ask the Forest Service to consider every river that is free-flowing and has at least one outstandingly remarkable value, of which there are many on the Forest. 
  • The Forest Service is legally mandated under the 2012 Planning Rule to include plan components (desired conditions, objectives, standards, and goals) to guide management of eligible rivers. The Draft Plan falls seriously short by only including 3 desired conditions and 1 standard and needs to add significantly more plan components. 
  • The definition of the Recreation Outstandingly Remarkable Value (ORV) needs to be expanded to acknowledge the high-quality paddling, fishing, and other opportunities that occur on the Forest’s rivers.

 

*Rivers that are below or in between reservoirs can still be considered free-flowing. Certain river segments can even have small low-head dams or diversions within the segment. 

 

Lastly, share a photo, personal experience, or a story about a river(s) that you love in the Forests! The personal relationship we have with rivers 

 

Kestrel Kunz

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