On Sept. 17, representatives from the Western Slope Conservation Center (WSCC), Colorado Canyons Association (CCA), River Restoration Adventures for Tomorrow (RRAFT), and the Cross-Watershed Network (XWN) met up at the Cottonwood Grove campsite on the banks of the Lower Gunnison River near Delta to establish a common vision for future collaboration in the Gunnison Gorge and Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area (NCA). These organizations work to provide educational opportunities, support river restoration projects, recruit volunteers and conduct citizen science along Western Colorado landscapes with a variety of partners including the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and community organizations.
During this visit, participants honed in on organizations' strategic planning efforts, showcased project field sites during a float through the Gunnison Gorge NCA and a walkabout of the Paonia River Park and culminated in a prioritization of opportunities for future collaboration. WSCC watershed coordinator Julia Bowman noted that "this cross-visit gave our organizations the opportunity to learn from each other's respective stewardship, advocacy, and outreach successes so that we might apply approaches to our own projects while also finding ways to increase our inter-organizational partnerships."
As a result of this visit, "I'm freshly energized to keep doing good work for our rivers and the communities that depend on them," notes Alex Johnson, executive director of the WSCC. "We have big challenges for the future of our watersheds, but we will only successfully address them if we do so together. Thanks to the cross visit, I'm confident that will, indeed, be the case."
The Cross-Watershed Network (XWN) is an initiative working in the southwest to convene conservation groups across broad landscapes. The cross-visit program is a new incentive program to encourage groups to have field-based "cross-visits" to promote better problem solving, increased partnership and understanding. This cross-visit along the Gunnison River was one of three proposals in the southwest that was awarded financial and planning assistance in 2016.
The XWN received funding from the Walton Family Foundation, the Gates Family Foundation, and Conservation Legacy through the AmeriCorps VISTA program to support this cross-visit. Dinner was exquisitely catered by Mary George from the Cirque in Paonia.