Making Policy Progress in Colorado
The Colorado based stewardship team had the pleasure of working with a team of graduate students from the University of Colorado’s Masters of the Environment program in 2021. We set them up with the task of investigating the feasibility of a state run wild and scenic river protection program in Colorado. The state only contains one river protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Cache la Poudre. Colorado has hundreds of miles of rivers that are both wild, free-flowing and in need of protection in light of decreased river flows, impacts from historic wildfires and increased demand. With this in mind, a river protection program with more local oversight and flexibility for those with existing water rights could lead to durable protections for a greater number of the rivers and creeks that we all love.
The team, Sarah Hamming, Sarah Heller, and Jack Sheehan, dove deep in literature to learn about the history and workings of the WSRA, other state programs and other mechanisms for protecting water in Colorado. With solid background knowledge, they reached out to dozens of water users, conservationists, tribal representatives, and other experts in Colorado’s water community.
They produced an in-depth white paper laying out three options for mechanisms to protect rivers and justification of advantages and disadvantages of each. From that research they selected their recommended option and produced a proposal for the AW team to utilize in advocating for better river protection programs in Colorado. Please take a look at both documents and let us know what you think!
Thanks to the far reaching stakeholder outreach of the students, the concepts have already been the topic of discussion in river conservation circles and will hopefully spark bold changes for the valuable waters of our headwaters state.