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Colorado's public lands are faced with new challenges but water and land management depend on working together. Read about the relationship between water and land in Colorado and how Coloradans are converging to restore Colorado's public lands in the Spring 2018 issue of Headwaters magazine.

Browse articles and find a flipbook of the magazine here.

Connecting the Drops

connectingdropslogo4.1Bringing you the reporting you crave over the radio airways with extras and archives on our website. Visit the audio archives or listen to the latest story on the connection between Colorado's forests, watersheds, and forest fires:

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Water Education Colorado

In Fall 2010, Water Education Colorado widens its scope to explore conflicts between both land and water-based recreational users. Inspired by the 2009 legislative attempt to clarify commercial boating rights on Colorado's streams, this issue of Headwaters reports on that issue and more. As recreation in Colorado approaches a $10billion per year industry, the voices of those stakeholders are increasingly involved in water resource decision-making.  We explore both how recreation is included in project planning and management, and which user groups are favored over others, through examination of recent attempts at wilderness designation, the challenge of boating on Colorado's heavily managed streams, the processes land and water managers use to enhance or limit recreation, and of course, the conflict between private riparian landowners and the floaters traveling by (or through) their property.

Read featured articles below, or view the magazine online.

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Recreation in Colorado

By Joshua Zaffos

 With 300-plus days of sunshine a year and a diverse geography of plains, mountains, canyons and rivers, Colorado has a distinct advantage when it comes to luring people outside. More than 75 percent of Coloradans-not to mention tourists from out of state-participate in some outdoor recreational activity every week, in locales ranging from urban greenways to wilderness areas, according to Colorado’s Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, known as SCORP.

Colorado’s relationship with the outdoors is partially responsible for the state’s current standing as the fittest in the nation-or “least obese”-as declared in June by the Trust for America’s Health. The financial benefits attributed to recreation are also telling. “Active recreation”-bicycling, backpacking, climbing, snow sports, paddling, trail running, hunting and fishing-contributes $10 billion a year to Colorado’s economy, according to the most recent assessment by the Outdoor Industry Foundation, completed in 2006. And the broader spectrum of recreation and tourism in Colorado is credited with generating $21.5 billion in sales in 2007-while agriculture was at $7.2 billion-out of statewide receipts totaling $450 billion, according to a 2009 report commissioned by the Front Range Water Council.

“Colorado, no matter how you look at it, is ahead of the game when it comes to getting people outdoors and recreating,” says Scott Babcock, strategic planning program manager for Colorado State Parks.

Read more: Recreation in Colorado

Going With the Flow

Water management adapts to include recreation

 By George Sibley

With additional reporting by Jayla Poppleton

 As the story goes, a group of private boaters had put in for a two- to three-day trip down the Dolores River in southwestern Colorado. Forecasts for releases from the McPhee Dam upstream were favorable, and the group had everything timed and loaded. But the water didn’t last, and the group found themselves stranded down a river, without a river. Whether a true tale or urban legend, the prevalence of this campfire story has dogged boaters on the Dolores River for years.

On a river considered by American Whitewater to be an icon of the West, second only to the Grand Canyon as a uniquely southwestern, multi-day float with high-quality rapids, unpredictable flow management has led to a steadily declining boating industry. Although some of that decline can be attributed to the “dry 2000s,” whitewater recreation on the Dolores has effectively shrunk by 75 percent from what it was during the “wet 1990s.”

“People come from all over the world to float the Dolores,” said Nathan Fey, director of American Whitewater’s Colorado Stewardship Program. “If they could better predict flows it would have far-reaching benefits to the area.” The Colorado River Outfitters Association reported that in 2008, with 868 commercial users on the Dolores, direct expenditures in local communities were nearly $100,000, with a total economic impact of $246,000.

Read more: Going With the Flow

Fighting for the Right

By Jerd Smith

With additional reporting by Jayla Poppleton

To float or forbid: the controversial line between public access and property rights on Colorado’s streams

No trespassing signs posted along Colorado’s streams and rivers signal boaters that they are about to cross through controversial waters. Some are crisp and formal; others are scrawled in spray paint on aging plywood. The message to boaters is the same: keep off the premises.

At times the simple visual message has been accompanied by aggressive action. Boaters say they have faced firearms pointed in their direction and watched bullets skip across the water. Commercial raft guides have witnessed a client hooked in the cheek following an intentional cast by a guest at a private fishing resort. Kayakers have gotten caught in barbed wire they believe was erected maliciously.

At the same time, ranchers say boaters have unnecessarily cut fencing they use to keep their cows in. Fishermen staying at riverside resorts have complained about boats disrupting fish pools. And private landowners have called outfitters’ clients obnoxious.

Such conflicts have cropped up across Colorado, from the Arkansas River to the Yampa, from South Boulder Creek to the Taylor River. At their core, each questions how a public resource-the state’s hallmark rivers and streams-can be used by the public while protecting the property rights of those whose lands run alongside, and under, the streams.

Read more: Fighting for the Right

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