Grassroots River Conservation: A Call to Action

Rivers. Free-flowing, clean rivers. They are the backbone to our nation and the arteries of our local communities; and they are worth protecting. During a time of political instability, when the quality of the air that we breathe, the water that we drink, and places we play in are threatened, we need to find the courage to stand up and protect our rivers – our common unity. American Whitewater, your dedicated river conservation and recreation representative, has been doing just that, here in Colorado and around the nation.

From hosting local river cleanups, to representing river enthusiasts in public land management plans, to directly engaging Congress in D.C. – American Whitewater is taking a bi-partisan, dynamic approach to protecting our nation’s rivers. However, the success of our efforts depends on one key ingredient – you. We need everyone to get involved, show up, and let policy-makers know that you are passionate about rivers and their place in our community. A community that stems from a shared awe of rivers, a shared interest in paddling, fishing, and exploring, and a shared goal to preserve these rivers for future generations.

The future of our rivers, and the communities they fuel, depend on grassroots conservation efforts now, more than ever. As the EPA is facing a 25 percent budget cut, our Public Lands system is being dismantled, and Congress has weakened important stream protection laws. An afternoon spent cleaning up your local river, an evening attending a public input session, five minutes to call your State representatives, these are all small things you can do that will have a big impact on your community and your rivers.

Here’s what American Whitewater is doing to protect the interests of river enthusiasts and our community nationwide, and how you can get involved:

Clean, Healthy Rivers

St. Vrain River Cleanup in Lyons, Colorado. More than 50 people came out to float the river and walk the shoreline, picking up trash along the way. Photo Credit: John Putnam

River cleanups are iconic of all things grassroots, community, local. Like-minded people coming together to take care of the rivers that their livelihoods depend on.

You’d be surprised by what kind of things get stuck in the water and deposited along the shore – brought there by floods, wind, and humans. A broken washing machine pushed over the bank. Remnants of crashed and abandoned cars. Crushed beer cans, plastic water bottles, candy wrappers, forgotten clothes, the ever-present cigarette butt… The list goes on, and you can probably think of something else to add.

Every spring, American Whitewater teams up with our local partners to host a local river cleanup. This year, with the help of our partners at Avid4 Adventure and the CAN’d Aid Foundation, American Whitewater organized a river cleanup in Lyons, Colorado. We found bed frames, lawn chairs, barbed wire, rusty metal, and tons of small plastics—and sadly—we only dented the surface. Stay tuned for information on American Whitewater’s 2018 river cleanup or let us know if you want to start a river cleanup in your area!

While river clean-ups help to restore rivers on a local scale, American Whitewater is also working at the federal level to ensure that our rivers receive the protections they deserve. We’ve directly engaged with Congress to express our concern over the repeal of the Stream Protection Rule and the Clean Water Rule. Meanwhile, we continue to advocate for better protections for rivers on Public Land, like in the Gunnison, Yampa, Colorado, and Arkansas River Basins in Colorado.

Public Land Management Planning Efforts

Did you know that 43 percent of paddling is on Public Lands? That’s 10,481 miles of floatable rivers and creeks. Rivers are the beating heart of our nation’s Public Lands, and local communities have a role to play in protecting and managing these areas.

In the midst of the Public Land Heist and congressional efforts to cut off resources to Public Land departments, we need more community engagement than ever. Public engagement in these planning efforts is vitally important in protecting our Public Lands and achieving management practices that benefit the communities who rely on these areas for recreation, a robust tourism economy, and a healthy lifestyle.

Between Congressional efforts to privatize Public Lands and the Presidential Executive Order threatening National Monuments, American Whitewater and our partners at the Outdoor Alliance are working hard to protect the interests of the public in these decisions. In January, we generated thousands of public comments on the Public Land Heist and delivered them directly to members of Congress – today, with your involvement, that’s the kind of grassroots support we need to leverage.

Browns Canyon National Monument on the Arkansas River. Photo credit: Leland Davis

While we are actively fighting to keep Public Lands in public hands, there are a couple things that we need your help with. 1) We need you, members of the public, to sign THIS petition to protect our National Forests, National Parks, and BLM lands from being sold off to private and state interests, and 2) We need you to participate in land planning efforts to show politicians and Public agencies that you care about protecting our nation’s Public Lands. Don’t know of a public input opportunity near you? Check out the BLM’s e-planning website for updates on Public Land Management Plans, and opportunities for public involvement.

Contact Your Representatives

Something that you can do on your own time, doesn’t take more than a few minutes, and can make a big difference – is contacting your representatives. Your representatives want to hear from you, their constituents, and if enough people speak up to protect our rivers we will have the power in numbers. Not only will this effort directly impact the outcome of key political decisions, American Whitewater will be able to amplify your voice as we meet with Congress to protect whitewater resources.

Now, what should you tell your representatives when you contact them? Tell them what your favorite National Monument is and that access to the places you love to paddle depends on their ability to protect our Public Lands. Tell them that the recreational experiences you enjoy most depend on strong environmental protections, like the Clean Water Act and the Stream Protection Rule. Tell them how your local community depends on a robust tourism economy, and that Congress needs to give more consideration to the U.S. Outdoor Industry when it comes to privatizing Public Lands and exploiting our natural landscapes.

To make it easier for you to directly email your representatives and voice your opinion on these key issues, American Whitewater has set up a web portal. This will also help us keep track of who is concerned about what – so that we can best represent the interests of whitewater paddlers and river enthusiasts here in Colorado, and around the nation. You can also call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and they will connect you with your political representatives.

Floating the beautiful Dolores River during the coordinated recreational releases this spring. Photo Credit: Evan Stafford

We can’t let policy makers ignore the fact that the Outdoor Industry generates $887 billion annually in consumer spending and directly supports 7.6 million American jobs, or that 145 million Americans participate in outdoor recreation every year, or that Public Lands should stay in public hands. We can’t let policy makers ignore the fact that you care. We can achieve this by continuing to rally public support, directly engaging our political representatives, and amping up our local efforts to protect clean, free-flowing rivers.

From defending important river protections at a Federal level, to negotiating recreational releases on the Dolores River in Colorado, to advocating for the inclusion of strong recreational data in key management plans throughout the West, to hosting local river cleanup events in towns like Lyons, Colorado – American Whitewater is standing up for our rivers this year, just like we do every year.

Stay up-to-date on American Whitewater’s efforts through our website and our social media platforms. Better yet, you can directly support our work to keep our rivers clean and free-flowing by becoming an American Whitewater member today.

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