Dan Omasta and Jennie Noreen have full time jobs. They also just launched a brand new non-profit called RRAFT in their “free time.” RRAFT stands for River Restoration Adventures for Tomorrow. Founded in June 2014, this group is hitting the ground running… or should I say hitting the water paddling. Ultimately the purpose of this organization is to get communities on rivers, learning about healthy watersheds. The possibilities are infinite with many partnerships and issues to work on. They consider themselves to be “a piece of the conservation puzzle,” helping other agencies and even independent scientists gain water access and providing needed education to communities invested in the future of their rivers.

In winter 2013, Dan and Jennie took a trip to New Zealand to be a part of the Blue Duck Conservation Project. Raft guide and conservationist, Garth Oakden of Tongariro River Rafting, helped organize this project to protect the Whio (or Blue Duck), a rare endangered bird, from predators. Inspired by this experience, Dan and Jennie decided to bring some of the lessons they learned on the Tongariro River back home. They’d been tossing the idea of starting a river conservation effort around for years and knew how needed this type of work was in Colorado. With this experience under their belts they felt confident that projects like this were possible and could change the future of our watersheds.

In Colorado, non-native species like Tamarisk and Russian Olive Trees crowd out native species and consume huge amounts of water. There’s also pollution, sedimentation and drought to combat.

So what can you do to help? RRAFT is currently searching for partners and projects. They’re also building their gear inventory, so any rafting equipment or tool donations are much appreciated. They successfully held their first fundraising event last month to cover the cost of filing their 501C3 paperwork. Monetary donations are critical to helping them build their organization, and really ANYTHING helps! Finally, for those of you who want to get out and volunteer, stay tuned for some great projects this fall and in 2015.