Not every conservation success story has a clear “moment of victory” – sometimes, success is a long, slow process and only later can we look back and realize just how far we have come.
That is exactly the case with the recent designation of the upper Arkansas River as Colorado’s newest Gold Medal Trout water. The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission announced in January the new reach of 102 miles – running from just outside of Leadville down to Parkdale above the Royal Gorge. This new listing single-handedly doubles the extent of Gold Medal river miles in Colorado.
At one time such a designation would have been unimaginable, as the Arkansas suffered from the legacy of mining pollution and major transbasin diversions. But over the years, collaborations among Trout Unlimited, government agencies, local businesses, and water users have helped make the Arkansas one of Colorado’s great fisheries and most-loved rivers. The Collegiate Peaks Anglers Chapter has been a central part of these efforts and all of us at Colorado TU are proud of what they have been able to accomplish with their partners.
Among the efforts that have gone into the Arkansas River and its watershed are habitat improvement projects, mine cleanup efforts (including ongoing efforts with National TU staff on the Tiger Mine), acquisition of public access including the first-ever Colorado Habitat Stamp project, and development of a cooperative flow management program with water users on the river through which rafting flows in summer and fish habitat flows in fall and winter are maintained. The river truly has been a model for success through collaboration. The new designation is a testament to the success of these efforts over many years.
As our Olympic athletes prepare to compete for the Gold in Sochi, join me in celebrating a Gold Medal victory for one of our own Colorado fisheries – and in thanking the many volunteers, agency employees, local businesses, and conservation partners that have made it possible!
David Nickum, Colorado TU Executive Director