Community Conservation on Slate River
Updated: Dec 19, 2019
In 2018, the Crested Butte Land Trust (Land Trust) and the Town of Crested Butte (Town) put their best foot forward to form a working group of local community stakeholders to collaboratively discuss the future management of the Slate River.
The Slate River Working Group (SRWG) consists of 17 local community members that include business owners, private homeowners, and water-based recreation groups. The purpose of convening this working group was to address the rapidly increasing recreational pressures from river users on a Great Blue Heron rookery that is located immediately off the riverbank and the increasing occurrences of trespassing when floaters exited their craft on the river.
After several meetings and public open houses, a consensus was reached and an adaptive management plan was implemented. The summer of 2019 marked the first season with the management plan in effect and the stakeholders anxiously waited for the results of the plan with high anticipation. One key component of the adaptive management plan was a voluntary no-float period from March 15th to July 15th. The SRWG’s major success of the 2019 summer season was the human presence, river intern position who was employed by the Land Trust. Cheryl Cwelich graciously filled this role and did so with pride and excitement.
Cheryl’s presence at the river put-ins on the Slate had an enormous impact on river behavior this summer. Her friendly personality allowed her to approach floaters in a personable manner to educate them on proper ethics and acceptable behavior while they floated as to not disturb the herons and respect private property. The Slate River cuts through one of the most diverse wetlands in the state. A floating experience on the Slate is unique for that reason and should be respected as such. In addition to the diversity of wildlife that utilizes this area; the meandering nature of the river mostly caters to paddlers with an intermediate level of experience and largely excludes the recreational tuber that is looking to have a lazy river type of experience with their six packs of cold beverages. Cheryl’s knowledge as an experienced kayaker and passion for the remarkable landscape and diversity of flora and fauna in the Slate River corridor made for the perfect combination in her presence on the river.
Finding a solution between sustainable recreation and conservation is not an easy task and compromise is often necessary. Getting interested parties to step out of their respective silos to think holistically about an issue can certainly be challenging. However, facilitating this collaborative approach with passionate people is proving to be effective in providing an exceptional recreational experience while also keeping the best interests of both wildlife and landowners at the forefront of the process.