G50 Boat Ramp: Bridging Gaps and Enhancing Access with Conservation 

With funding from Forever Our Rivers, a new boat ramp offers easy access to the Gunnison River in Colorado. For those who don’t know, nearly one-third of kids live in poverty on Colorado’s Western Slope. Usually, this cascades into a lack of time in nature and its life-enriching benefits, making our hearts sad. Thankfully, a new boat ramp will be a game-changer for the people of Delta, Montrose and Olathe. After all, the rivers are for all of us.

And for those skeptics worried that a new boat ramp might harm the environment, don’t worry! Native trees and shrubs were planted along the river banks, creating a beautiful new area ideal for leisurely walks, picnics, birding and a genuine connection with nature. Plus, local volunteers were entrusted with the responsibility of looking after this spot, giving them the knowledge of how to keep it in tip-top shape.

Bridging Gaps for Underserved Communities

The strategically located boat ramp project along G50 Road, just 3.5 miles from Delta’s town boat ramp, expands accessibility to new demographics. Prior to the installation of the new boat ramp, river users accessed the Gunnison River from the Confluence Park boat ramp in Delta. However, the next legal exit point downstream was a whopping 14 miles away. While this might sound like an adventurous day out for some, it could be overwhelming and unsafe for those with less river experience. The creation of a shorter float with official put-ins and take-outs now allows families and beginners to enjoy a safer river experience. And hopefully, as they experience and enjoy the river, they will fall in love with and care for it.

Not into floating? The improved access area is a great place for walks, lunches, reading, drawing or other outdoor activities you might enjoy along a river. This transformation is thanks to dozens of students from Paonia and Delta middle schools and community volunteers. They helped cultivate and plant cottonwood and plum trees, as well as alders and willows. As the new plants grow, it will become increasingly special for birdwatching. Which, by the way, is just as good for you mentally as being on the water! More volunteers are always welcome, so if you want to help the new cottonwood and willows survive, reach out to some key players in this project—Libby at Colorado West Land Trust (CWLT) or Jake at the Western Slope Conservation Center (WSCC). 

“The new G50 Boat Ramp project is a great example of generating greater recreation access to nature while enhancing wildlife habitat. We look forward to the collaboration of bringing more folks of all ages together to enjoy the river and help with restoring the native plants,” exclaims Libby, program manager at CWLT.

Collaboration Is Key

The property on which the picnic area and boat ramp are is owned by Delta County and protected with a conservation easement managed by CWLT. “Restoring riparian ecosystems is extremely important for sustaining rivers and wildlife in western Colorado. The G50 project provides an excellent opportunity to connect the community to the Gunnison River and help re-establish vital habitat”, said Jake. Knowing this land could do so much more for people and wildlife, WSCC, along with CWLT and the county, got to work.

A Lasting Impact

The G50 Boat Ramp and Habitat Improvement Project, fueled by funding from Forever Our Rivers, is sure to have a positive impact on the community. As more people come to know the Gunnison River, more people will learn to cherish it. How’s that for jump-starting some environmental love? We are so proud of these local organizations. They successfully demonstrated the power of collaboration, conservation and community. We definitely love that!

Delta County is planning a ribbon-cutting ceremony celebration this spring. While the date is yet to be determined, stay connected with these organizations—info below. Or contact Delta County if you’d like more details.


If you’re interested in supporting other projects like the G50 Boat Ramp, please give today.

Follow the Western Slope Conservation Center on Instagram and Facebook. Follow Colorado West Land Trust on social, too—Instagram and Facebook.

Surviving the Chill: The Marvels of Cold-Weather Stream Life

During winter, rivers and streams are often thought of less as we’re holed up in our homes, cozy under blankets next to a roaring fireplace. However, magic is happening out there. In the frigid embrace of below-freezing temperatures, bodies of water transform into icy landscapes, presenting a challenging yet opportunistic environment for plants and wildlife. 

Plants:

When the cold sets in and ice blankets the water’s surface, vegetation along rivers and streams starts winter dormancy. Many plants retreat into a state of suspended animation, conserving energy by losing leaves until the thaw of the spring. But, beneath the frozen surface, their roots continue to sustain life by holding onto water and waiting for warmer days. The submerged plants decompose, providing food for aquatic life during winter months.  

Deep in the river beds, bacteria and other decomposers take advantage of the lower oxygen levels and begin to clean house. Leaves and other organic materials that fell in the Fall start breaking down into new sediment. This sediment will ultimately feed new plant growth life as the seasons change and warm up again.

Wildlife:

For wildlife inhabiting the frigid landscape of frozen streams and rivers, adapting to winter’s icy embrace becomes a matter of survival. Aquatic species such as fish become sluggish, slowing their metabolism to conserve energy in the face of limited food. Trout seek out deeper pools where the water remains relatively unfrozen, providing a refuge against the cold. The cool part about cold-blooded fish like trout, salmon and pike is they can adjust their body temperature to the environment in which they live. Therefore, even at low temperatures, their bodies allow them to swim easily, even if they are a little slower. 

Amphibians and some insects, on the other hand, may hibernate in terrestrial habitats surrounding the water bodies, awaiting the warmer temperatures of spring. They employ various strategies, from burrowing into the soil to seeking refuge in decaying vegetation, to endure the harsh winter conditions.

The icy cold:

While winter poses challenges for both flora and fauna, the ice itself plays a crucial role in maintaining aquatic ecosystem health. Ice acts like an insulating layer, protecting the water beneath from extreme temperature fluctuations which could ultimately harm aquatic life. In some areas, where cold enough, the frozen surfaces of streams and rivers can offer more room to roam as they become winter highways for certain species. Animals like coyotes, foxes and elk can travel more efficiently in search of harder-to-find food or suitable shelter. 

Truthfully, we think rivers and streams are just as, if not more, beautiful in the winter than in the summer. It’s captivating to think about the adaptability of nature during this time. It’s also important to remember that while most river projects and activities happen in the warmer months, the winter should not be forgotten. Important changes happen then, too. It’s essential to recognize and appreciate the resilience of plants and wildlife that endure and thrive amid frosting conditions. It’s up to all of us to keep our rivers healthy in every season so that when winter circles back around, plants and wildlife that depend on our rivers are set up to thrive.

Ideas to help rivers in the winter:

  • Avoid excessive use of de-icers and salts.
  • Conserve water. 
  • Avoid clearing vegetation along riverbanks. 
  • Support conservation organizations like Forever Our Rivers.
  • Practice responsible winter fishing.
  • Report and clean up pollution.

A Community-Minded Partnership That Matters

The Western Slope of Colorado overflows with breathtaking natural beauty, where pristine rivers wind through picturesque landscapes. In this paradise, a committed team of professionals at SGM have been working tirelessly for 37 years to protect invaluable water resources and the communities that depend on them. Forever Our Rivers is proud to partner with SGM, an engineering, consulting, and surveying firm to champion healthy rivers and safeguard the Western Colorado way of life.

SGM’s Dedication to Water and Community

SGM, headquartered in Glenwood Springs with regional offices scattered across the Western Slope, is deeply ingrained in the communities they serve. It’s one of the reasons we love their partnership so much! They play pivotal roles in engineering projects that impact our daily lives, from the roads we drive on to the water we drink. Their expertise lies in providing comprehensive environmental and water resources engineering services, crucial for supporting complex water development projects across Colorado.

What sets SGM apart is its team of dedicated experts, including engineers, scientists, surveyors and GIS specialists. From planning to implementation, SGM actively engages with water users and communities, building relationships to address project needs effectively. Even more is the fact they live where they work. They know firsthand what is happening with our rivers and water and are experiencing it right alongside all of us.

Championing River Health: SGM’s Notable Projects

SGM has a track record of protecting our rivers and watersheds, including projects aimed at improving water quality. Notable endeavors include developing the 2015 and 2022 Colorado Basin Implementation Plans, funded by the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), the Grand Valley Watershed Plan Update funded primarily by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) 319 Nonpoint Source (NPS) and the Grand Valley Drainage District, and the Upper Rio Grande Watershed Assessment funded by the CWCB, Rio Grande Watershed Emergency Action Coordination Team and the CDPHE. They’ve also provided technical expertise for pre- and post-fire hydrology and hydraulics to inform watershed-based planning efforts and Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) Program projects, especially in the wake of Colorado fires like East Troublesome, Grizzly Creek, Pine Gulch, 416 and Lake Christine.

Moreover, SGM is a leading water/wastewater firm in Western Colorado, helping municipalities and special districts provide safe drinking water while supporting water efficiency and conservation.

Prioritizing Community and River Conservation

The efforts of SGM positively impact local communities and the environment in multiple ways. Their involvement with organizations like the Middle Colorado Watershed Council addresses critical challenges facing the Colorado River. They also encourage local volunteerism, actively participating in clean-up initiatives and water festivals that educate children about the importance of the water they drink and the rivers they play in.

SGM’s core values are deeply rooted in community-mindedness. They understand the significance of their Western Colorado roots and invest their time, energy and resources in supporting the communities they serve.  We’re lucky to have their strong focus on the Western Slope.

The Power of Partnership: Forever Our Rivers and SGM

SGM’s partnership with Forever Our Rivers embodies the spirit of cooperation and collective action. Angie Fowler, PE, Water Resources & Environmental Sector Leader at SGM, emphasizes, “We jumped at the opportunity to be involved with Forever Our Rivers due to their mission to help watersheds thrive. Partnerships like this allow SGM to combine resources for the betterment of our rivers and communities.”

With organizations like SGM partnering with us, the future of Colorado’s rivers is brighter than ever. The collaborative efforts are a testament to the fact that, together, we can protect and preserve the lifeblood of our communities, ensuring that these magnificent rivers continue to flow for generations to come.

Happy New Water Year!

Photo by Jennifer Blazis Photography

Have you ever found yourself by a river thinking, “Wow, this year, the river seems to be so much higher!” But what does “this year” really mean in the world of water and why should you even care about this concept known as a water year?

What’s a Water Year?

First things first, a water year isn’t your regular January-to-December kind of year. Nope, it’s a bit different. A water year begins on October 1st and ends on September 30th of the next year. Feels like a strange concept, right? But there’s a good reason for it—a scientific one! True water action starts in the fall, not in January, and precipitation that falls later in the year, combined with summer rain makes up the water year. Scientists use water years to keep track of how much water falls from the sky (in the form of rain or snow) in specific areas like the headwaters of the Colorado River. This information is used in determining how it is used or protected.

Why Does It Matter?

Now, you might be wondering why you should care about water years. Well, water is super important! It’s not just for drinking; it helps our crops grow, keeps our rivers flowing and supports wildlife like beavers, trout and elk. So, understanding how much water we have is crucial for all sorts of things, from farming to angling and rafting. It is also crucial to know the stream flows in order to protect the environment.

Measuring Stream Flows

Okay, here’s the fun part! During a water year, scientists use all sorts of sophisticated gadgets to measure how much water is in our rivers and streams. They use devices like flow meters and rain gauges to figure out how fast streams are flowing and how much water they carry. It’s basically embarking on a watery detective mission! 

Why Rivers and Streams?

They might just look like gentle, flowing ribbons of water, but they’re essential. They’re like nature’s plumbing system, carrying water to where it’s needed. They are measured to make sure there’s enough water for people, animals and plants to survive.

So, there you have it—a water year is like a special calendar for keeping tabs on Mother Nature’s waterworks. It helps us make smart decisions about how we use water and take care of our environment. Pretty cool, right? Next time you’re near a river or stream, you’ll know a little secret about how we keep track of water all year round.

Tributaries to the Colorado River get a funding boost 

Photo by Omar Salmon

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.

Forever Our Rivers Receives Accreditation from BBB Wise Giving Alliance

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.