Friends of the Yampa meets to discuss future of river, group |

Friends of the Yampa meets to discuss future of river, group

Ben Taslitz, left, and Antonio Marxuach enjoy a sun-drenched conversation along the Yampa River on Friday afternoon.
Brian Ray

If you go

What: Friends of the Yampa meeting in conjunction with the Colorado Environmental Coalition to discuss river updates and information, the future of the organization and film premier, "Hotel Charley: River of Doubt."

Where: The Community Center

When: 6 p.m. Monday. Cost is free

and open to all, but Friends of the Yampa will be accepting suggested donations.

— The Yampa River’s local stewards know the time has come to organize to protect the state’s last major free-flowing tributary of the Colorado River drainage.

“It’s come to the point that the threats are adding up,” said Kent Vertrees. “Between population demand, drought, water quality and the Front Range needs, we need to organize a broad-based watershed group that can keep a pulse on what’s occurring on the Yampa from the top of the drainage to the bottom.”

Vertrees, who serves as an at-large appointee on the commissioned 26-member Yampa/White River Basin Roundtable, hopes to educate and to generate discussion and grassroots organization at a 6 p.m. meeting Monday at the Steamboat Springs Community Center.

Hosted by Friends of the Yampa in conjunction with the Colorado Environmental Coalition, the public meeting has a four-fold purpose.

Vertrees said he wants to present updates on the Bureau of Land Management’s current Resource Management Plan revisions to express the need for people to comment on the revisions from “a river-based, recreation and environmental angle.”

Lee-Ann Hill of the Colorado Environmental Coalition understands just how crucial the time frame is for the public comment period that ends May 16.

“Steamboat is in a unique position in that the lands all around us will change management from 15 to 20 years ago – we could see profound changes,” Hill said. “It’s important for people to get involved, because the only opportunity to participate in how these lands will be managed, between now and 20 years, is right now.”

A key management subject in the revisions that Hill and Steve Smith of the Wilderness Society will discuss is the BLM’s recommendation that sections of the Yampa be eligible for protection under the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

John Husband, field manager at the Little Snake Field Office, encouraged those interested to become familiar with the BLM’s preferred courses of action in the plan’s revisions. In terms of the Wild and Scenic designation, Husband pointed out the BLM’s preferred Alternative C option selects three suitable sections of the Yampa west of Craig. Vertrees also will provide updates from the Roundtable meeting last week concerning the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s Yampa Diversion Project – a proposed 200-mile pipeline to divert the Yampa from a reservoir built near Maybell to a lake near Denver International Airport.

Another purpose of the meeting is to discuss what kind of local organization will focus its efforts on the Yampa’s protection and conservation.

Vertrees described Friends of the Yampa as, “a loose-knit, recreation-based group that’s run the Yampa River Festival for the last 27 years.” While the group has been involved in restoration projects and improvements, Vertrees wants to determine if the area’s user groups should unite under 501(c)(3) non-profit status.

“We have all these different groups, but there’s not a single, cohesive clearinghouse of information that drives them, has a board of directors and is capable of seeking funds and grants for scientific reviews, improvements and water quality projects,” said Vertrees, pointing to the Roaring Fork Conservancy as an example.

Organizers also will use the meeting as a way to get river-runners “amped up” for the boating season with the premier of expedition kayak film, “Hotel Charley: River of Doubt.”

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