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Public Comment Due for Arkansas River Sept. 20! (CO)

Posted: 09/10/2019
by Kestrel Kunz

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is in their final stages of revising the Resource Management Plan for the Eastern Colorado Field Office, which encompasses the Arkansas River Corridor from Leadville to Cañon City and includes Grape Creek. The Management Plan, which hasn't been revised since 1996, sets the blueprint for how our rivers are managed and which protections they are afforded. The BLM depends on the public - folks like yourself - to speak up and tell them why these special places need protecting. Public comments are due September 20 (in just 10 days) and must be submitted online here. 

How does the Management Plan revision process work? The BLM has gone through 4 years of preliminary scoping, stakeholder outreach, and draft reports. Most recently, the BLM released the Draft Resource Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement, which includes a supplemental report on the BLM's Wild and Scenic Suitability findings. This Draft Plan, like most others, presents four different management alternatives for the public to review, including a No-Action Alternative (Alt. A), an environment-focused alternative (Alt. B), a resource-focused alternative (Alt. C), and the preferred option - a combination of Alternatives B and C (Alt. D).   For example, each Alternative would give a different number of river segments protections under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Alternative B would determine 19 different segments as Suitable for Wild and Scenic Designation, whereas Alternative C would determine zero as Suitable, and the preferred Alternative meets somewhere in between with 5 segments. The alternatives take a similar approach to other special designations, such as Areas of Environmental Concern, Special Recreation Management Areas, and restrictions on resource extraction. 

Here are some ideas on how you can write the most useful comments to really make a difference! 

Be sure to make your comments unique and personal. Adding a personal story or photo of you paddling on the Arkansas River or on Grape Creek can go a long way with the decision makers. 

Thank the BLM for what they are doing RIGHT. It's always helpful to give positive feedback first. Here are a few things that we agree with:

  • Arkansas Segments 1, 2, 3, and 4 are determined suitable in the preferred Alternative and the BLM emphasizes working towards permanent protections for flows in the Arkansas River Corridor. This encompasses the mainstem Arkansas River from above Granite to Cañon City and would require the BLM to manage the river to protect it's Outstandingly Remarkable Values and free-flowing condition until Congress makes a decision to officially designate the river. 
  • The BLM has identified a couple Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs) that would help protect some magnificent species in the Arkansas River Corridor, including Bighorn Sheep, raptors, peregrine falcons, and Gold Medal Trout. These include the Arkansas Canyonlands ACEC and the Grape Creek ACEC and overlap with paddling opportunities. 


Tell the BLM how they can do BETTER. Sometimes it can feel impossible to make a difference, but know that the BLM has to read every comment and you will be heard. Here is what we will be telling the BLM: 

  • Although Grape Creek was considered Eligible in both the 1996 Plan and the current assessment, it was found to be not-suitable in the Draft Plan and the BLM is proposing to strip Grape Creek of all interim protections. Grape Creek offers a remote creek boating experience outside of Cañon City with incredibly scenic views and important wildlife habitat. It's unique and without a doubt exhilarating. If you've paddled Grape Creek, or want the opportunity, tell the BLM to protect this special creek through Wild and Scenic Suitability. 
  • The BLM should increase the restrictions on surface occupancy for oil and gas from a 328 feet to 500 feet distance from waterways in the preferred Alternative. Our rivers and creeks are precious and should not be subjected to potential catastrophic contamination from oil and gas extraction. 


But most importantly, just tell the BLM why you love these river segments and why they are worth protecting. The link to comment is here and please reach out to kestrel@americanwhitewater.org if you have any questions! Be sure to submit your comments before the September 20 deadline.  


Kestrel Kunz