Forever Our Rivers is excited to announce grants totaling $169,591 to support the restoration efforts in the Dolores, Escalante, Verde and Gila rivers spanning Colorado, Utah and Arizona. Restoration will focus on removing thick stands of invasive trees and bushes.
Invasive species wreak havoc on river systems. Some plants, like tamarisk, form dense thickets and grow to 20 feet. They bring fire danger to the river because their growth includes high levels of dead leaves and branches. And that’s not all! They make themselves at home by aggressively colonizing. Their leaves deposit salt above and below the soil, making it difficult for native species to survive.
Tamarisk is not the only problem; Russian olive, tree of heaven, Siberian elm and many more species absorb large amounts of water, create dams that block water flow and destroy native vegetation. Plus, thickets of invasives make it difficult for recreationists to access the river.
Without native species, a river runs down a slippery, unhealthy slope that reduces its ability to function and deliver ecosystem services properly. What does that mean? Well, to start, both water quality and quantity decline.
Plus, native species, from bugs to butterflies, fish and frogs, even elk and beaver cannot survive or breed without their appropriate, native food and nesting sites.
More than 4,988 acres across these Colorado River tributaries have been treated and thousands of the nasty invasive plants have been destroyed due to a long-standing partnership between Forever Our Rivers, the Walton Family Foundation and Conservation Legacy.
Ann Johnston, the executive director of Forever Our Rivers Foundation, aptly observed, “Restoration is a process that happens over time, almost always extending beyond the timelines of individual projects. That is one reason this award is so important”.
Included in the grant award are funds for strike teams. These teams check out the four river areas annually to see how things are going. “One of the most important tasks for strike teams is to collect data about previous years’ noxious plant treatments and native regrowth,” said Johnston. “Think of the strike teams as nature detectives, collecting the past data, identifying which treatments are most successful and altering processes going forward to reflect that.”
On-the-ground restoration is accomplished by RiversEdge West of Grand Junction, CO, Grand Staircase Escalante Partners of Escalante, Utah, and in Arizona, the Friends of the Verde River and Gila Watershed Partnership.
Celebrating Commitment to Excellence in Leadership, Finances, and Mission-Driven Initiatives
In a remarkable achievement, Forever Our Rivers Foundation has secured accreditation from the esteemed BBB Wise Giving Alliance. This recognition, granted in July 2023, underscores the organization’s dedication to upholding high standards of board oversight, financial integrity, results reporting, and transparent fundraising appeals. This milestone signifies that Forever Our Rivers has not only met but exceeded the criteria for accreditation, establishing itself as a reliable and efficiently managed nonprofit entity.
The BBB Wise Giving Alliance, distinguished as the sole comprehensive charity evaluator in the nation, plays a pivotal role in aiding donors’ decision-making processes. When a charity bears the BBB WGA accreditation, donors can place their trust in the organization’s ethical and responsible practices. Unlike other charity monitoring bodies, the BBB WGA’s stringent standards delve deeper and extend beyond legal requirements. The evaluation process involves an in-depth examination of 20 holistic BBB Charity Standards, collaborative engagements with charity officials to rectify any identified shortcomings, and meticulous quality checks to ensure the accuracy of the final report. The outcomes of this process are made accessible to the public at Give.org, offering transparency and informed decision-making.
Art Taylor, president and CEO of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, emphasizes the integrity of the evaluation process, stating, “The public can be assured that every charity evaluation is completed with careful, objective analysis of charity information.” Taylor continues, “By achieving accreditation, Forever Our Rivers Foundation has earned public trust having demonstrated its commitment to sound governance, transparency, and achieving its mission.”
Ann Johnston, the executive director of Forever Our Rivers, expressed elation about the accreditation, affirming, “We’re thrilled to receive this recognition.” She underscores that this accomplishment validates the organization’s unwavering dedication to maintaining rigorous standards and employing donations judiciously. Moreover, Johnston highlights the far-reaching impact of this recognition: “Accreditation demonstrates that we have high standards and use donations wisely. Ultimately, that translates into healthier wetlands, rivers, and streams.”
Forever Our Rivers, headquartered in Colorado with offices in Crested Butte, Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction, is dedicated to enhancing river health across Colorado, Arizona and Utah through community-inspired projects. Through its grant programs and partnerships, Forever Our Rivers protects rivers for the benefit of both ecosystems and the communities that depend on them.
The recent accreditation bestowed upon Forever Our Rivers by the BBB Wise Giving Alliance serves as a testament to the organization’s unwavering commitment to excellence. This recognition not only solidifies Forever Our Rivers’ reputation as a well-managed nonprofit but also reinforces its capacity to effectively fulfill its mission. Through transparent practices, fiscal responsibility, and a resolute dedication to river health, Forever Our Rivers continues to shine as a beacon of hope for rivers.
Nestled amidst the pristine landscapes of Colorado, the small town of Marble boasts not only breathtaking scenery but an incredible small business owner and river steward, Jaime Fiske.
“I’m passionate about connecting people with the great outdoors through our business, SUP Marble. Despite concerns about overcrowding and environmental damage, I believe that with proper education on safety and respect for nature, our landscapes can thrive,” she states.
Jaime co-owns SUP Marble with her mom, Cyndi. Renowned for her passion for stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), yoga and commitment to connecting everyone to their waters, Jaime has become a true river champion. From advocating for equitable access to Beaver Lake in Marble, partnering with Forever Our Rivers, teaching students at Marble Charter School and sharing her SUP skills with the community, she has made a lasting impact on the region.
Discovering the River’s Magic
For Jaime, connection with water began at an early age when she started swimming lessons. She was competitively swimming by the time she was eight years old. Raised in a family that appreciated nature’s beauty, Jaime’s love for the environment blossomed into a lifelong passion. Her parents moved to Marble in 1996 and Jaime fell in love with the lakes and rivers of the Crystal River Valley.
About 15 years ago, Jaime discovered the joy of SUP in La Ventana, Baja California, on the waters of the Sea of Cortez. Since then, she has ventured to and settled in the West, exploring rivers and lakes with her SUP skills. While on the vast ocean, she found the waves and unpredictable movements challenging, being pushed in various directions. Even though she had a lot of fun with that challenge, her passion has shifted to floating down rivers, where she finds solace in the unidirectional flow. Although the rivers can still be unpredictable, Jaime has developed an intimate connection with them, learning to read their currents and becoming one with the water. “In recent years, my bond with rivers has grown stronger. Everything feels better on the water. When I’m out on the river, I experience a profound sense of peace, happiness, and excitement,” Jaime expressed. “Riding the rivers fills me with so many positive emotions.”
Advocating for Our Lifelines
Driven by her determination to make a positive impact, Jaime wholeheartedly embraces the role of a river steward. Her commitment to river safety, restoration and sustainable practices has only grown stronger over the last couple of years. Sharing her experiences, she mentions participating in cleanups at Beaver Lake in Marble with her parents and picking up trash from the Crystal and Roaring Fork Rivers while fishing alongside her husband. Despite the progress made, Jaime knows there is still much to be done, and she eagerly anticipates continuing her efforts to benefit the well-being of our rivers.
Looking ahead, Jaime has aspirations to volunteer with RiversEdge West, where she hopes to learn about and actively remove noxious weeds from the riverbanks. Moreover, she encourages others to join in river clean-ups, weed removal and trail building with local organizations like the Roaring Fork Conservancy and the Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers. For those seeking a deeper connection with the lifelines of our communities, Jaime suggests delving into books like “The Emerald Mile” or “Where the Water Goes.”
SUP Marble: Voyage to Tranquility
In a quest to share their love of water and promote wellness, Jaime and Cyndi created SUP Marble in 2018 to share a “Voyage to Tranquility” in the Crystal River Valley. SUPing has become increasingly popular, and Jaime sees an opportunity to leverage this sport to make a positive impact on the rivers she cherishes. Their mission is to educate recreationists on water safety and the importance of sharing the water with the fish and wildlife that need rivers to survive.
SUP Marble offers paddleboarding experiences, showcasing the beauty of the waterways and encouraging people to connect with nature responsibly. Through SUP rentals, classes, private lessons, and small events, Jaime also promotes mental and physical wellness, knowing that spending time outdoors is good for your health.
The Ripple Effect of Jaime’s Work
Jaime’s unwavering dedication and hard work have sparked a series of positive changes for Marble and its surrounding areas. Her efforts have not only strengthened people’s connection to rivers but also ignited inspiration for action, whether it involves donating to organizations like Forever Our Rivers, actively participating in restoration efforts, or seeking education about the rivers and wildlife that depend on them. “In one of our breakfast SUP events outside of Carbondale, we had an entire conversation about beavers! We talked about how they impact the area, their history and how they will shape the future of our watersheds. Of course, we also talked about the fun facts like their orange teeth and how their fat helps them float,” she said. “Then, after the event, we were sharing podcasts about them with each other. The learning continues!”
By blending her passion for paddleboarding with wellness and the outdoors, Jaime has reached a broader audience, instilling a sense of environmental responsibility. She has shown that regardless of background, each individual can become a river steward and contribute to a sustainable future for generations to come.
Fighting For the Future of Rivers
Jaime’s story exemplifies the transformative power of passion, dedication and collaboration. Her love for the rivers in the West has led her to become an outstanding river steward, inspiring her community and beyond to join the fight for them. Through SUP Marble and her partnership with Forever Our Rivers, Jaime has showcased how one person can make a remarkable difference and inspire more people than you realize.
Jaime continues, “Once people feel comfortable SUPing on lakes, they like to step into the larger challenge of floating down rivers. I hope to connect with even more people and guide them on how to do it safely while inspiring them to protect these precious waters. As the temperatures of rivers warm due to climate change, moving into this space will connect and teach people about the importance of supporting rivers during this change. Hopefully, they will see how warmer waters do not support native trout and the species that rely on them like bald eagles and osprey and be moved to help.”
As more people meet Jaime, the ripple effect of her work will continue to flow. She’s nurturing a region where people are healthy and safe and the rivers will thrive.
July 25th is just around the bend, and guess what? It’s Colorado River Day! Time to celebrate the incredible natural wonder that is the Colorado River, a lifeline that quenches the thirst and fills the bellies of millions of folks across the country.
Picture this: a majestic river originating way up high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, embarking on a 1,450-mile adventure through seven states that ends in Mexico’s Gulf of California in Mexico. Quite the journey, right?
Now, here’s a fun fact for you trivia lovers. The Colorado River didn’t always rock its current name. Nope! On July 25th, 1921, Congress decided to ditch the “Grand” and embrace the new identity as the Colorado River. And that’s why we gather on this special day to show our appreciation for this invaluable resource flowing right through the heart of the American West.
You might be thinking, “Well, I’m not one of those people relying on the Colorado River for my daily H2O fix”. Fair point. But pause for a moment and think about some of the delicious winter fruits and veggies you eat during the frosty months. Produce like leafy greens, apples, stone fruits, and tomatoes owe a debt of gratitude to this mighty river. Farms depend on the Colorado River to keep their thirsty crops hydrated when the winter drought hits. You can’t deny the impact this waterway has had on your taste buds.
But wait, there’s more! The Colorado River is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts—fishing, rafting, kayaking and hiking. If you’ve ever visited the West and dabbled in any of these activities, you’ve felt the river’s embrace firsthand. It’s a haven for adventure seekers and nature lovers alike.
And, let’s not forget about our fellow river-dwellers—the wildlife! The Colorado River is a bustling metropolis for thousands of species. However, it’s not all smooth sailing. Challenges like low flows, drought, and rising temperatures have created quite the rapids for some of our critters out there. We’re here to share three that are impacted by the Colorado River that we’d like to keep around.
First is the little brown bats. Now, these guys aren’t typically known for their direct Colorado River connections, but they’re insectivorous heroes found in forests, woodlands, and even urban areas. They rely on water bodies like rivers, lakes, ponds, and streams for drinking and foraging purposes. Without sufficient water, the diverse insect buffet dwindles, and the bat population suffers. We’d like to keep them around to help balance out those pesky bugs that annoy us often in the summer months.
Next on the list is the cutthroat trout, a fish native to the Colorado River Basin. They’re all about clean, cold water with a side of gravel or rocky substrates for successful reproduction. A healthy river means a variety of aquatic insects, invertebrates, and other fishy delights for these trout to eat. The river also serves as a vital migration corridor, allowing cutthroat trout populations to mingle and explore different sections of the river system.
Last but not least, let’s talk about the Yuma clapper rail, an amazing bird on the endangered species list. These fine feathered friends rely on marshes, wetlands and riparian areas along the Colorado River for their habitat. The rail loves dense emergent vegetation like cattails and bulrushes, found in areas along the river. These lush spots provide the perfect environment for the rail’s favorite delicacy—the aquatic and semi-aquatic invertebrates. Bird lovers everywhere dream of catching a glimpse of this henlike beauty.
So, as July 25th approaches, let’s take a moment to reflect on the immeasurable ways the Colorado River nourishes us and our wildlife. No matter where you are in the States, this lifeline of the West impacts us all. Thankfully, organizations like Forever Our Rivers step up to the plate, working tirelessly to restore and protect the river’s health. It’s a shared responsibility—one that we should cherish and safeguard for present and future generations all across the United States.
Cheers, friends! Here’s to the Colorado River, a force of nature that keeps on flowing, connecting us all in its watery embrace. Wishing you a happy Colorado River Day on July 25th!
In the West, all communities depend on rivers for clean drinking water and crops, not to mention boating and fishing. Rivers are a way of life and a beautiful source of inspiration. But, we’re sure you already know this.
Amy, our corporate partnerships manager, had a touching experience a little over a month ago that really demonstrated how important rivers are—to everyone.
“I was volunteering for the Roaring Fork Conservancy, picking up trash along the Colorado River. An unhoused man watched me working for just a moment, then immediately stepped in to help,” she said. “He mentioned that he didn’t like to wake up next to all the trash and that it made him sad to see rivers treated like that. The rivers were a safe space for him, a beautiful one at that. He continued to state how the rivers are for all of us, and that we should treat them with respect. I had to admit, I 100% agree with him”.
Together they spent an hour picking up trash. “To see someone constantly on the go, who doesn’t have stable housing, giving his time to clean up our rivers touched my heart. We all need to judge a little less and love a little more. Perhaps we can all learn something from that,” she mentioned.
Together we’ve had a conservation impact of $2.2 million dollars—thank you, friends—with over 5,000 acres of riparian habitat restored. We’ve supported neighbors in need with educational trips on the Gunnison and Colorado Rivers, funded a new boat ramp in Delta, and helped construct beaver dam analogs at the headwaters of the Taylor River to reconnect wetlands and floodplains. Plus we’ve sent crews out to four tributaries of the Colorado River where they will spend 31 weeks removing invasive species and nurturing native habitat for hundreds of species. And we are not done yet! There are many more projects in the works and we look forward to watching the impact grow.
Outside of work, we’ve got plans! Ann, our executive director, is already systematic about collecting and reusing water as her shower warms up. This year, she will celebrate National Rivers Month by fully transitioning to native flowers in her garden. She removed her last few non-natives last fall and is looking forward to seeing the new blooms, and water savings, this month. “My mom is always hoping she can influence people to ‘natify’, a word she coined several years ago,” Ann states, smiling. Ann shares her love of native plants and trees. “Not only am I using little to no water, but I’m creating habitat for bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and bats. Native plants make my pollinator and birdwatching better!”
Amy plans to stand up paddleboard and dive back into her photography hobby, starting with rivers as a focal point. At home, she pledges to shorten her showers and reuse vegetable-steamed water for all her plants!
How do you plan to celebrate? One easy way is just to educate yourself. To get you started, we’re sharing five facts we found interesting.
In 1948, to improve riparian habitat in Idaho’s backcountry, Fish and Game captured 76 beavers and parachuted them to a roadless area in the Chamberlin Basin. All but one survived and got right to work.
The Snake River flows through Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. It is famous for Hells Canyon, the deepest river gorge in North America. It’s also one of two rivers in the United States that flows north!
Twenty countries in the world do not have permanent, natural rivers.
The Yellowstone River is the longest undammed river in the contiguous United States, flowing about 692 miles. It starts in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, passes through Montana, and eventually joins the Missouri River.
In 1900, under the cover of night, the Sanitary District of Chicago reversed the flow of the Chicago River, increasing its flow from Lake Michigan and doubling the size of the Illinois River.
Whatever you decide to do, have fun, learn lots and enjoy the rivers! We hope your month is full of many amazing memories. Share your river experiences with us online using hashtags #ForeverOurRivers and #NationalRiversMonth. We’d love to see how you chose to celebrate!
Have you ever experienced a moment when you feel like your head is so full of thoughts that it feels like it’s going to explode? Do you have a difficult time remembering the timeline of your memories? If you live with neurological conditions such as anxiety, depression or even Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), the world feels like that—loud and chaotic—almost all of the time.
Many people think that mental health is all about what’s going on in your brain, but the truth is that it’s also about what’s going on with your body. When you feel good physically it can help you feel good mentally, and vice versa. Many studies demonstrate that spending time in nature helps you feel better. But did you know that spending time along bodies of water, like rivers and streams, can induce a meditative state that makes us smarter, happier and healthier, calmer—and even more creative?
“When I lived in Vail, I used to hike up and journal next to the creeks. It was a traumatic time in my life with the passing of my mom. After that, it was as though my mind became harder to navigate. I was in a dark place. However, I’d sit next to the creek and it’d help soothe me and clear my head,” says CJ, river enthusiast from Glenwood Springs, Colorado. “While all bodies of water are uplifting, the moving water is representative of clearing things out— moving things along. I find peace in that.”
The mere sight or sound of water can induce a flood of neurochemicals that promote wellness, increase blood flow to the brain and heart, and relax us. They can also help take us away from our busy lives for a little while. Plus, they’re beautiful! Whether you’re looking out over a river from a boat or just walking along its banks, there’s something about the way it flows and sounds that helps settle your mind.
CJ was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. After reflecting upon that news, she found it made sense. Throughout her life, her brain felt like a computer screen with too many tabs open. Rivers and streams have always been her happy place but she has felt even more connected to them in the last year since finding out. They bring her peace in the midst of chaos. “I need the rivers and will always follow them. If they cease to exist here, I will go to where they are,” she mentioned.
That’s exactly what has been done throughout history. Our ancestors lived near rivers because they provided water, food, transportation and other necessities for survival. But they also provided something else— peace.
When we are near a river, we can feel at peace with ourselves, our surroundings and the world around us. “It’s about letting your cares flow away,” CJ continues. “When I’m river rafting or paddleboarding, my brain quiets down and all of my thoughts are pushed aside because I have to be present in the moment. I can’t afford not to be.”
When you think about it, rivers are like a metaphor for the health of our minds: if they’re healthy, we’re healthy; if they’re polluted or running dry, we suffer. That’s why keeping rivers healthy and flowing is so important—they’re not just naturally beautiful; they’re also powerful allies in one’s quest for mental health.
I think people living with mental health concerns have a heightened awareness of the benefits nature provides,” CJ concludes. “We need people, and organizations like Forever Our Rivers, to care deeply for our rivers. In this loud, crazy world, we can’t afford to lose another natural resource that provides the benefits of healing, safety and peace.”