Highlights from This Summer’s America’s Great Outdoors Work

It has been an exciting and rewarding summer leading American Rivers’ on–the-ground efforts for America’s Great Outdoors.  While I love living and working in the Southeast, it was great to have the opportunity to travel throughout the country spreading the river and bluetrails message, working with dozens of incredible state and local organizations, and returning to familiar places.  This summer was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity to help shape our country’s conservation agenda. Regardless of whether the administration implements any of our recommendations, the work that we did alongside our great partners across the country have brought rivers and freshwater to the forefront of this initiative.  To find out what we learned at the listening sessions and what we are recommending the administration include as part of AGO check out the policy paper we recently submitted.

There were so many highlights from the summer, it would be impossible to mention them all but here are a few.

Although the Charleston session was focused on forest management, the river community came out in force. I listened to several people talk about the importance of South Carolina’s rivers.  Andy Grizzell and Karen Kustifik talked about a program they are involved in with the City of Columbia where they take under-privileged youth on overnight river trips on the Congaree River Blue Trail.   Their stories clearly moved the agency facilitators in the break-out session and served as a great example of the types of programs the administration should include in AGO.   

The session in Denver was nothing short of inspiring. Secretary Salazar arrived to his home state directly from the Gulf.  He was clearly happy to be home and to talk about something positive.  He focused his remarks on the revitalization of the South Platte River and how healthy rivers have the ability to transform communities economically and culturally.  At one point, talking to a crowd of over 400 he said, “Everybody here agrees that rivers are important right?” I could not have scripted it better.  It was especially cool for me because I grew up fishing the South Platte, guided on the South Platte, and caught my first 20 inch trout on the South Platte.

In Salt Lake City I had a chance to work with the Utah Rivers Council. We focused on Wild and Scenic designation for the Green River.  Currently the Green is facing a 250,000 acre foot diversion to fuel unsustainable development in CO.  If there was ever a river worthy of a Wild and Scenic designation, it is the Green River. It is the wildest and most beautiful river in the upper Colorado River Basin and an international destination for boaters, anglers, hunters, and explorers.

Please check out American Rivers’ recommendations to the administration to find out what we have been doing all summer.  Also it is not too late to participate in this historic opportunity. Tell us your favorite river story and we will be sure to share with the administration.