Dolores River Canyon Country Protection Campaign

Photo: Cody Perry / Amber Clark
Dolores River Canyon Country Protection Campaign
Dolores River Boating Advocates

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 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 working with local stakeholders on a National Conservation Area designation for the southern portion since 2010. In 2022, Senator Bennet introduced the 68,000 acre 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, is working on a broader effort for permanent protection for the entirety of Dolores River Canyon Country in Colorado, including a National Monument in Montrose and Mesa Counties to the north of the NCA legislation.

Moving forward, the coalition will work to formalize a national monument proposal and map in the north that is vetted with local Tribes and community leaders, elected officials, recreation groups, and other stakeholders. Funding from The Conservation Alliance will support the DRBA’s coordination and management of the Coalition and its leadership role in moving this effort forward.