by Bill Goosmann and Jay Thompson
Recent articles in the green line got us thinking about how fundamental cooperation is to the health of riparian resources in Colorado.
Rivers conduct their business with no regard for the boundaries laid out by people and political subdivisions. On the other hand, rivers appear to focus their attentions and considerable energies on the barriers intended to divert and control, as well as any ill-considered structures in the vicinity. As a consequence, both problems and their solutions — whether localized and limited or basin-wide — tend to be contentious, sometimes loud, often messy, and fairly expensive.
Couple these conditions with the generally dire and downward-trending funds for natural resource protection at all levels, both public and private, and the need to lower the dust and the din surrounding riparian issues is not only a good thing, it is the smart thing.
Evaluation criteria for natural resource grants are placing ever-increasing importance on the number of participants in a given proposal, especially new partners and situations that involve new relationships. Given the current scarcity of public resources for riparian projects, it is safe to assume that these requirements will continue.
And the politics and power of interest groups — how often do we find ourselves wishing for the good ol’ days when things were simpler, when we could actually get something done? Like it or not, however, the learning curve has been climbed by enough people that there are now sufficient numbers to stop just about anything from getting done, or to make it so painful that it just isn’t worth it.
What’s interesting, though, is that both limited funding and the ability of a few to stop the many seem to force the very approaches that rivers demand — cooperation and collaboration among disparate and distant parties across all scales of geography, levels of government, and sometimes the far reaches of the political spectrum.
Who would have thought about connecting the state department of corrections with a stream restoration project? In the good ol’ days, many ranchers gave little thought to the impacts of grazing practices in riparian areas; now they often serve as the driving force behind riparian restoration efforts. And, really, just how many riparian projects succeed without a well-oiled interdisciplinary team anyway? Fortunately, Colorado is blessed with an army of individuals and organizations that understand the importance of cooperation and collaboration when it comes to taking care of the land. As riparian management becomes increasingly more complex in the future, the contributions of these individuals and organizations will be incalculable.