Panel considering whether river section worthy of wild-and-scenic designation

A section of the Colorado River between the Loma boat launch and Utah is one of the last areas of contention for a group examining possible designations of wild and scenic rivers in western Colorado.

A committee of stakeholders is to meet today to see whether members can agree on recommendations to the Bureau of Land Management, which is considering the status of the waterways as it examines the resource-management plan for the Grand Junction Regional Office.

All the waters are considered to be eligible for designation, but committee members are divided over whether they should clear the next hurdle of suitability for designation.

The stakeholders committee has so far declined to recommend any of the waters to be suitable for wild-and-scenic designation, but last-minute disagreements are focused on the Colorado and the Uncompahgre streams.

Designation of the Colorado River stretch just upstream from the Utah border could have implications for water development in Colorado, said Richard Connell, who represents landowners through the Mesa County Farm Bureau.

Some agreement has been reached on the lower Colorado.

That stretch of the river is in a kind of limbo as it runs through the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, but only the land beyond the river’s 100-year floodplain is included in the conservation area.

For now, the BLM is managing the river as though it did have the federal protection of the land on either side.

It appears that the only way to realize full protection without recognizing the so-called “orphan lands” as suitable for protection is from Congress, Connell said.

“The environmental community would like to have some assurances of legislation and that those lands be open for future discussions if legislation doesn’t occur,” Connell said. “We understand their point of view.”

It’s up to Congress to designate wild and scenic rivers, but the president also can act on designations without congressional action.


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