The Dolores River Protection Campaign is a TCA Priority Campaign. Learn more here.
The Dolores River region in Colorado is well-known for its scenic beauty, ecological value and biodiversity, and incredible recreational opportunities. It has three Wilderness Study Areas and the river has been found “suitable” for Wild and Scenic designation. Conservation of this ecosystem is critical to supporting climate resilience, and yet the region is experiencing negative impacts from climate change, drought, and heavy use, causing low water levels and declining fish populations. Dolores River Boating Advocates (DRBA) has been working to protect this landscape for over a decade, and is a primary leader in efforts to permanently protect 162 miles of the Dolores River below McPhee Dam and up to 500,000 acres of surrounding public lands.
Protection efforts have tended to be divided between the southern and northern regions. Advocates have been pushing for a 68,000-acre National Conservation Area designation for the southern portion since 2010. In 2022, Senator Bennet introduced the Dolores River National Conservation Area and Special Management Area Act, cosponsored by Senator Hickenlooper. Representative Boebert introduced companion legislation in the House. The legislation was reintroduced in both chambers in 2023. DRBA, as the local leader in the southern region, has continued to support this legislation. At the same time, the Dolores River Coalition, which includes local residents, outdoor recreation advocates, and conservation organizations, and is led by DRBA, has launched a broader National Monument campaign for permanent protection for the entirety of Dolores River Canyon Country in Colorado, including lands outside of the scope of the legislation.
Moving forward, DRBA will continue to coordinate the Coalition and conduct outreach to the Ute Tribes and other Tribes in the region to understand their values, priorities, and interests in participating in this conservation effort. The Coalition will also work to formalize a national monument proposal and map that is vetted with local Tribes and community leaders, elected officials, and recreation groups. Funding from The Conservation Alliance will support the DRBA’s coordination and management of the Coalition and its leadership role in moving this campaign forward.