Sunday, March 7, 2010

Support HB 1188!

Commercial river running contributed $142 million to Colorado’s economy last year and more than 500,000 people enjoyed our scenic rivers. Yet, the ability to provide commercial river running is under threat because out-of-state developers want to prohibit licensed river outfitters from providing trips on historically rafted rivers. The 2010 River Outfitters Viability Act protects Colorado’s tourism industry by clarifying the rights of commercial guides to operate on Colorado’s historically run rivers. The name of this act is "HB 1188" and it is currently at a critical point in its journey through the Colorado State Legislature.

The crux of this case is that some landowners think if they own both sides of a historically floated / rafted / canoed / kayaked, etc... river bank, that anyone passing through on the river is "trespassing". The dispute that started this bill is that a developer on the Taylor River is trying to create a luxury fly fishing- oriented housing complex along the river and he doesn't want people to paddle it anymore, even though people have been paddling said river since long before said developer came to town.

Two "red herrings" have been put out their by the opposition. Language in the bill states that boaters will have the right to make incidental contact with the river bank to portage around obstacles, rapids, etc... Though this right has been enjoyed for centuries by river travelers, the opposition is trying to use it to scare landowners into thinking that under this language commercial rafters will be able to hang out, eat lunch and sunbathe on private property. This is not the case. The law does not support such behavior. River guides are paid to know where they are going and as such make sure via maps that where they stop for lunch is on public land. Commercial outfitters are licensed to operate by the Bureau of Land Management and would have their permits yanked if they did not do this. In addition, portaging with loaded boats is a pain in the neck. People sign up for river trips to float down rivers, not to carry heavy rafts and gear across land. It is in the interest of everyone to make portages as seldom as possible. The only reason this language is even in the bill (and should stay there) would be to protect boaters from unpredictable hazards and obstacles as may appear from time to time due to high water, erosion, fallen trees, and the like accumulation of debris.

The other distracting bit of propaganda being put out there to cut away support for this bill is that this bill only applies to commercial boating outfits, and thus private boaters would not be effected. An article arguing this point was printed in today's Denver Post. Well... if commercial outfitting is banned from floating through private property, do you think a welcome mat will be put out for "Joe Public?" Hell no! This is an shallow attempt to drive a wedge between private and commercial river runners. Commercial outfits teach skills that private boaters later use. Many people can't afford or don't have the interest in assembling their own boats and gear and find commercial trips more attractive, but might at some later point in time go on a private trip. And at countless points in time on the river commercial and private boaters have helped each other out of various sticky situations... for example many a private boater in trouble over the years has benefited from commercial guides' experience and medical training. This is no time to draw imaginary lines between different groups of boaters' interests. We need to come together to protect the right to float from those who want to sell it off to the highest bidder. An injury to one is an injury to all.

This Denver Post article gives you a little more background information. Go and read it:

Here is a list of people you need to call with your support to help get it passed:



YES ON HB 1188 the 2010 River Outfitters Viability Act. Let’s keep Colorado rivers open for business and fun.

Please take a moment and contact Colorado State Senator/s and ask them to support House Bill 1188. Let's pack those voicemail machines and email accounts ... for the future of floating Colorado rivers.

---------------------TAKE ACTION ---------

Colorado State Senators to contact (updated 3/3/10):

( They need to hear from everyone who loves, plays and works on Colorado’s rivers!)

*** Senator Linda Newell 303-866-4846
E-mail: (South Jeffco, Western Araphoe county) Judiciary Comm. member

*** Senator Evie Hudak 303-866-4840
E-mail: (Jefferson county) Judiciary comm. member

*** Senator Morgan Carroll 303-866-4879
E-mail: ( Aurora) Chair of Judiciary Comm.

*** Senator Scott Renfroe 303-866-4451
E-mail: (Weld county)Judiciary comm. member

*** Senator Keith King, 303-866-4880
E-mail: (el paso) Judiciary comm. member

More senators whose votes are also important who also need to hear your voice:

Senator Bruce Whitehead 303-866-4884 E-mail: (Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma, Montrose, Ouray, San Juan, San Miguel counties)

Senator Rollie Heath 303-866-4872 E-mail: Boulder County

Senator Abel Tapia 303-866-2581 E-mail: Pueblo

Senator Gail Schwartz 303-866-4871 E-mail: (Alamosa, Chaffee, Conejos, Costilla, Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Mineral, Pitkin, Rio Grande, Saguache counties)

Senator Paula Sandoval, 303-866-4862
E-mail: ( Denver)

Senator Mark Scheffel 303-866-4869 E-mail: (Douglas, El Paso, Lake, Park, Teller counties)

Senator Shawn Mitchell 303-866-4876 E-mail: (Adams,Broomfield, Weld counties)

Senator Suzanne Williams 303-866-3432 E-mail: Arapahoe County

Senator Ken Kester 303-866-4877 E-mail: (Baca, Bent, Crowley, Custer, Fremont, Huerfano, Las Animas, Otero, Pueblo counties)

Sample Letter to Senator and phone script:

Dear Senator _______:

(identify yourself, Coloradan and river enthusiast, Out of state visitor who loves to raft in Colorado with your family and friends)

Please Vote Yes on HB 1188, the Colorado River Outfitters Viability Act, we need your help to keep Colorado’s Rivers open for business and fun! I hope I can count on your vote for the future of river recreation in Colorado. River running is an important sector of the tourism and outdoor recreation industry.

(Add a personal note: why do you and your family enjoy river rafting? and if river rafting is shut down in Colorado you’ll take your vacations and weekend trips and money elsewhere)

Sincerely, ____name


For more information and background on the Colorado River Outfitters' Association please visit:

Additional action info at:

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