Clean water drives Colorado tourism and business — Taylor Edrington

The Holy Cross Mountains from the air with fall colors in the foreground via Summit County Citizens Voice
The Holy Cross Mountains from the air with fall colors in the foreground via Summit County Citizens Voice

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Taylor Edrington):

There truly is no better feeling than stepping into a beautiful, high-mountain stream or river in Colorado on a quest to fool one of its inhabiting trout. It’s a surreal surrounding — with the crisp, clean air, the clean, cool water and the rugged landscapes that make up our playground as an angler in Colorado. I have been exploring Colorado’s backcountry fly fishing opportunities my entire life, and have made it my mission to help other outdoor enthusiasts experience Colorado’s phenomenal trout streams.

As a Colorado business owner, and as a sportsman, exploring Colorado’s Gold Medal trout streams and all they offer is priceless. However, these bodies of water are at an increased risk because of confusing decisions from the Supreme Court about the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.

Fortunately, there is a rule being proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers that clears the muddied waters and ensures we have rules in place to protect the waters that supply drinking water to nearly three out of four Coloradans. These agencies are in the process of taking input from the public right now on how to improve the Clean Water Act.

I support the efforts to clarify the Clean Water Act because I’ve seen firsthand that healthy headwaters and streams — and our outdoor way of life — depend on clean water. For sportsmen, this proposed rule is critical. In addition to reducing flooding, filtering pollution, and recharging underground aquifers, clean, productive wetlands and headwater streams here in Colorado provide essential habitat for fish and wildlife.

Beyond inspiring aesthetics, outdoor recreation is also big business, contributing over $686 billion to our national economy annually. Here in Colorado, hunting and fishing alone is a $1.5 billion industry, contributing $150 million in state and local taxes each year and employing nearly 19,000 Coloradans. That means this rule also matters to our economy.

Recently I was guiding a group from Williams Lake, British Columbia, Canada, on my home water —the Upper Arkansas River in Bighorn Sheep Canyon. We enjoyed a typical day on Colorado’s longest Gold Medal River — plenty of fish to the net, beautiful surroundings, the sounds, the smells, the essential Colorado fly fishing experience. During the day we discussed the recent Mount Polley disaster near their hometown.

The Mount Polley Mine tailings pond dam breached in that crisis, releasing 17 million cubic meters of slurry into the local watersheds. This disaster destroyed all watershed habitats in the nearby area, drinking water sources and much more.

While we were discussing the tragedy, I realized that all too often we take clean water for granted. Properly managing our watersheds requires vigilance, and it starts with a restored Clean Water Act.

Yet, instead of working for clean water, some members of Congress are actively trying to scuttle the EPA’s and Army Corps’deliberative process. I urge our U.S. senators to stand up for the 10,000 miles of streams and 2,000 lakes we have in Colorado that are at risk.

I personally spend countless hours fly fishing throughout Colorado. My business depends on the great resources this state has to offer. Restoring the Clean Water Act is the right thing to do, to protect what we have.

Taylor Edrington is the owner and president of Royal Gorge Anglers Inc., in Canon City.

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