Communities Evaluate Wild and Scenic as Tool to Protect the Crystal River

Crystal River, CO

Crystal River, CO | Delia Malone

A couple of months ago communities along the Crystal River in Colorado gathered in Redstone, CO and Carbondale, CO to discuss the appropriateness of a Wild Scenic Designation to protect the river from new dam and trans-basin diversion projects. 

Four panelists with experience working to designate Wild and Scenic Rivers in Colorado and throughout the country spoke about various aspects of the law, challenges faced in designation, and recreational, ecological, economic benefits of designation.  For more on the meetings check out this article written by Brent Gardner-Smith.

Colorado is home to some of the nations most spectacular rivers that support world class trout fishing and whitewater boating yet only one- the Cache la Poudre- is protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. For comparison, New Jersey has five Wild and Scenic Rivers.  One of the biggest barriers in Colorado for Wild and Scenic Protection is a misunderstanding of the law.   

The Crystal River certainly meets the criteria of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and was found eligible for designation by the Forest Service in 2002.  It is one of the longest and last undammed rivers in Colorado flowing through one of the most beautiful valleys in the state. 

To get a sense of the beauty of the Crystal River you must watch this video by the talented Pete McBride.

The forums that took place a couple of months ago did not mark the beginning of a Wild and Scenic Campaign for the Crystal River.  Rather, it was the beginning of a process to explore whether the Wild Scenic Rivers Act is an appropriate tool to protect the river and to determine if the community supports moving forward.  A decision to protect a river in perpetuity is and always will be a local decision. 

American Rivers believes that the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act is still one of the best and most proven tools to protect the recreational, environmental, agricultural, and cultural values of the rivers that are so important to our country.  If the communities that surround the Crystal River choose to work towards making the  River Colorado’s second Wild and Scenic River, American Rivers would welcome the opportunity to help in anyway we can to establish that legacy.