Watershed wisdom: Defining the Upper Colorado River Watershed Group (column) | SkyHiNews.com
Geoff Elliott
Special to the Daily

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Watershed wisdom: Defining the Upper Colorado River Watershed Group (column)

Andy Miller from Fraser asks: How did the watershed group meeting go last Saturday at Mountain Parks Electric? 

The answer is the meeting was most excellent! This fifth community conversation was our next step in the process of creating the Upper Colorado River Watershed Group (UCRWG) and included some 26 participants, about half of whom are new voices joining in. 

We started by reviewing the group's purpose and process as outlined in the US Bureau of Reclamation WaterSMART grant (see http://www.ucrwg.org#questions ), then presented findings from our four community meetings last fall. Included were some interesting demographics (strong representation from local government, business, and youth) and what we now recognize as three primary themes for living here in the Upper Colorado River Watershed:

• Community – folks love our neighborly community, and want to it thrive.

• Quality of life – this is a great place to live, and we want to protect it.

• Education – the future of our watershed and economy will rely on a well-educated community and sustainable tourism.

Participants discussed a draft vision statement for the group: Connecting efforts and educating people in Grand County for a healthy, resilient watershed. 

The consensus is to keep this watershed vision at a high level, and let the new leadership board develop a more concrete Mission Statement with balanced, measurable goals.

Our phase 1 team is beginning to hand the group over to the community and looking for a volunteer board of directors to take the helm. Two or three potential board members may have been there with us Saturday, maybe more, but there's plenty of room for more leaders, as well as technical mentors and folks that can help with funding. We'll have a meeting for potential board members in March where we'll lay out a calendar for the rest of this year, including River Network coaching on watershed board formation, decision making, funding streams, and hiring a top-notch staff.

Saturday's participants also provided feedback and guidance for the new board: The group can be important as long as it supports, but does not duplicate, on-going efforts in our watershed, including Learn by Doing, Irrigators Living in the Vicinity of Kremmling, Middle Park Conservation District, and Basin Roundtable as well as private property owners and local businesses.

Must respect private property rights, including water rights, and we don't need new regulations, EPA or otherwise.

One niche is for the group to help with education, especially adult education that recognizes our community's relationship to the environment and cultivates a balanced view of resource management.

Finally, we started a new watershed map cataloguing on-going efforts that might be supported by UCRWG in some, yet-to-be-determined, way. This could morph into an on-line source for folks to see what's going on in the watershed, how they might help or get help, and what's working to give us a more resilient, WaterSMART future.

If you have projects to share or would like to become more involved, contact us at ucrwteam@gmail.com. Geoff Elliott is project scientist for the Upper Colorado River Watershed Group.