March 2018 Conservation Partner Project Beneficiary

AMERICAN RIVERS: A PUSH FOR 5000 MILES OF WILD, AND COLORADO'S SECOND WILD AND SCENIC RIVER

Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership Backcountry Conservation Areas
Photo: Richard Rhinehart

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ABOUT THE CONSERVATION PARTNER:

American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers and conserves clean water for people and nature.
Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and an annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 275,000 members, supporters, and volunteers.

QUICK PROJECT FACTS:

Colorado is made up of many fantastic rivers. Just when you think you’ve found your favorite place to hike or fish or paddle, a new river reveals another secret fishing hole or cascading waterfall. In Colorado, rivers flow from the mountains to the vast plains and through desert canyons. Put simply, they are the soul of Colorado.

Yet only one river in Colorado is protected by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Cache la Poudre. Not all rivers are eligible for Wild and Scenic designation, as they must demonstrate they have especially remarkable values that are worthy of protection. Thankfully we still have the opportunity to add another pristine river to the list — Deep Creek in Eagle County.

Overview of the issue

Deep Creek flows from the Flat Tops and Deep Lake through one of the state’s most spectacular and rugged canyons before it joins the Colorado River just above Dotsero. Deep Creek was the only river of many to be found “suitable” for Wild and Scenic designation by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service.

WHAT ARE WILD AND SCENIC RIVERS?

The National Wild and Scenic Rivers System was created by Congress in 1968 to preserve certain rivers with outstanding natural, cultural and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations. The Act is notable for safeguarding the special character of these rivers, while also recognizing the potential for their appropriate use and development. It encourages river management that crosses political boundaries and promotes public participation in developing goals for river protection.

12,000 miles of rivers currently enjoy Wild and Scenic River protection – rivers like the Middle Fork of the Salmon, Rogue, Chattooga, Tuolumne, and New. But many rivers are still at risk. Today, less than one percent of America’s rivers are wild and free. We have more work to do to save our last, wild rivers.

What is the Wild and Scenic Designation?

A Wild and Scenic designation by Congress preserves a healthy, flowing river in its current condition. No new dams are allowed, and inappropriate development is prohibited. A quarter-mile protective buffer is established for public lands along the designated stream, and a management plan is developed to guide protection of the special values, or Outstanding Remarkable Values, that were identified as the purpose of the designation.

Designation does not prohibit development or give the federal government control of private property, nor does it affect existing valid water rights. It also has no effect on interstate water compacts. A Wild and Scenic designation can be thought of more as an insurance policy that will protect the river and current uses from future changes that would harm its free-flowing character and special values. Until Deep Creek is officially designated as Colorado’s second Wild and Scenic River, the Forest Service and BLM will manage Deep Creek as described in their new management plan to ensure the protection of its values.

What protections would the Wild and Scenic designation entail?

Deep Creek Wild & Scenic designation protects the integrity of its unique landscape and its associated values of geologic, ecologic and scenic value. Deep Creek lies in a deep, narrow canyon with stunning limestone cliffs that hold the largest complex of caves in the western U.S., including Colorado’s largest and longest caves. Designation will protect a unique ecosystem, including several state and globally rare species, including montane riparian willow carr, narrowleaf cottonwood and river birch, along with two species of bats that are very rare in Colorado.

Private property and existing water rights will always be respected, even with full Wild and Scenic designation. Local land-use regulations will still govern what happens on private land and Colorado’s system of water law will still apply. Current irrigation diversions will be protected and a designation will not interfere with existing grazing allotments. The many types of recreation currently enjoyed in and around Deep Creek, from hiking and hunting to four wheeling and snowmobiling, will also not be affected.

5,000 MILES. 5,000 STORIES. ONE UNIFIED VOICE FOR OUR RIVERS

American Rivers is bringing together grassroots partners, individuals and businesses in a united campaign for wild rivers, in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 2018.

Their goal is to protect 5,000 miles of new Wild and Scenic Rivers and one million acres of riverside lands nationwide.

As part of this effort, they are sharing stories of America’s rivers and the people who love them. By collecting 5,000 personal stories from people across the country and presenting them in film, social media and other channels, they will celebrate how rivers connect us all.

As a result, they will send one clear and unified message to our elected leaders: Our rivers are worth saving.

READY TO PUT CONSERVATION FIRST?

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