Our Colorado-based Friends Grassroots Network members are among the best in conservation across the western slope, including the Dolores River Boating Advocates, Southwest Colorado Canyons Alliance, Western Slope Conservation Center, San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council, Colorado Canyons Association, Friends of Browns Canyons, and Friends of the Yampa.
With the financial support of the VF Foundation, the Colorado conservation successes continued to shine in 2020–despite the immense challenges that impacted the groups’ stewardship, outreach education, and advocacy.
The VF Foundation's commitment to drive movements for the betterment of people and the planet, and collaborate with partners who believe in social and environmental responsibility, aligns with our vision and those of our Colorado-based Friends:
Dolores River Boating Advocates: Dolores River
The Dolores River Boating Advocates describe themselves as “a conservation group with a boating habit” and they put the “fun” in river conservation. Staff are actively implementing community-based restoration projects along the Dolores River as well as programs that get local youth and families outdoors with hands-on, educational opportunities.
Prior to the pandemic, they hosted dozens of rafting trips for families. Since then, they’ve pivoted to convene COVID-safe volunteer work days to improve access to the upper reaches of the Dolores River and maintain camps alongside it by installing boat tie-offs and signage, clearing willows and doing weed mitigation. The Advocates also published a new Dolores River Boating Guide, which hadn’t been updated since the 1990s.
What’s Next: The group is leading an effort to designate a new Dolores River National Conservation Area to maintain the natural values and public’s access to this special place. They’ve secured bipartisan support from both the San Miguel and Dolores County Commissions.
The Colorado Canyons Association inspires an appreciation for the outdoors with place-based experiential youth education programs and are integrating Spanish speaking guides into their activities. This act of inclusion is a great draw for more kids throughout the region. While many nonprofit groups have experienced changes in programming during the pandemic, the Colorado Canyons Association increased their volunteers from 75 in 2019 to 108 in 2020, with more than 2,700 children and adults participating in their education programs. Their Lands Program Director, Rob Gay, was recognized as the Outstanding Environmental Educator of the year by the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education for his outstanding work adapting their programming for online learning.
What’s Next: The Association has renewed its Assistance Agreement with the Bureau of Land Management to help staff a visitors’ resource desk at the Grand Junction field office, directing people to Colorado’s three premier National Conservation Areas–Dominguez-Escalante, McInnis Canyons and Gunnison Gorge–and to implement on-the-ground stewardship projects this summer and fall.
Western Slope Conservation Center: North Fork Valley
The Western Slope Conservation Center used their fortitude to turn a disastrous resource management plan enacted in 2020 that opens Colorado’s North Fork Valley to oil and gas development into a positive and proactive community-building effort to protect the watershed and the public lands around it from additional drilling.
The North Fork of the Gunnison River is the source for the area’s agro-tourism, family farms and ranches, renewable energy, and outdoor recreation. The Center brought together local farmers, ranchers, vintners, artisans, small business owners, educators, realtors, wildlife enthusiasts, and community members to create the “Keep the North Fork Fruitful” campaign.
The Center does innovative watershed protection work bringing local communities to the river and making on-going improvements to the group's Paonia River Park. Acquired a few years ago from a former gravel pit operator, the Center has methodically reclaimed and restored the land, established native plants, built trails, monitored water quality and habitat, and created a first-of-its-kind community "gateway" to this raftable and beloved stretch of river.
What’s Next: All three of these Friends Grassroots Network members support the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act and the Colorado Wilderness Act, both of which include conservation for sections of the Dolores River, among other places, and are currently making their way through Congress.
Thanks to the support of Conservation Lands Foundation partner, the VF Foundation, our Friends Grassroots Network in Colorado has been able to adjust and innovate through a very challenging year to conserve National Conservation Lands and set themselves up for success in 2021. It’s an exciting time with many more opportunities for inspiring exploration and conservation of America’s public lands.