Middle Colorado River Depends on Volunteer Stewardship

The Middle Colorado Watershed Council works with a diverse set of stakeholders who represent municipal, industrial, agricultural, recreational, environmental, land management and educational interests within the watershed between Glenwood Canyon and De Beque Canyon.

“We serve as a critical link between the scientists and federal agencies studying the Grizzly Creek burn scar and the communities that rely on Colorado River water for drinking and irrigation,” said Doug Winter, a Middle Colorado Watershed Council board member. “Our mission is driven by curiosity about our natural world, especially water, and the knowledge that we have a tangible local impact as individuals and as an organization.”

This grassroots, hands-on organization is largely driven by volunteer efforts. Participants help with the annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival, with citizen science and measurements of water quality (particularly the impacts caused by recent fires) and with restoration efforts for improving riparian and fish habitat.

The outdoor screening of the film festival fundraiser was held in September at the recently-completed River Stop at the Rifle Colorado Department of Transportation rest stop. The event planning and implementation represented 300 hours of volunteer time, and earned $11,000 in net proceeds.

“We’re thankful to both the people who came out in person and the ticket holders who participated virtually,” said Paula Stepp, the watershed council’s executive director. “We’re also grateful to all our sponsors. In addition to providing the title sponsorship for the film fest, Alpine Bank is a partner for helping meet matching grant requirements to address the Grizzly Creek fire impacts.”

The film fest audience was invited to tour the educational and interpretive River Stop exhibits. The interpretive center highlights basinwide Colorado River functions, themes and issues as described in the Colorado Water Plan with a focus on local river-related issues that can be visually explored in the immediate environs. One exhibit focuses on the meaning of a watershed and the connections between land and water. Others highlight the water resources, river morphology and ecosystems that depend on the flow of the Colorado River.

Moving forward, Middle Colorado Watershed Council, in partnership with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, will continue to offer targeted programming at River Stop with field trips for students, skills workshops and interactive educational opportunities. Informal visitation by locals and travelers off of Interstate 70 at Exit 90 is another important aspect of River Stop’s educational strategy.

To learn more or to get involved in the evaluation, protection and health enhancement of the middle Colorado River, visit midcowatershed.org.

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