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Published on avril 10th, 2017 | by Kayak Session https://www.kayaksession.com/img-current-issue/upload-your-video.png

American Whitewater news – Scouting The New Political Canyons Ahead

By: Kevin Kolburn (Article published in KS#61, Spring 2017)

Your mind grasps for information when you roll into a rapid blind. Every pixel, every sound, pours into your senses as you literally make sense of what lies ahead. Time seems to slow as you flag hazards, and highlight lines first of safety, then of opportunity. All the while time is unrelenting and in each moment you fine-tune your chosen line, even as you commit to it. This is true of any situation defined by rapid change. In case you’ve been lost in the Amazon River’s headwaters for a few months, I should tell you that the United States has a new president and a bunch of new lawmakers, and with that comes rapid change. Just what that change might mean for American rivers is yet to be seen, but we have some beta for you.

First, keep an eye on clean water. It looks like the new United States Administration and Congress want to scrap the Clean Water Rule, which ensures the Clean Water Act applies to all streams and wetlands that flow into rivers. In its place we expect a less protective policy that could allow unregulated pollution to be discharged into headwater rivers and streams, including whitewater rivers. The 1972 Clean Water Act restored countless rivers that caught fire, turned colors, or sickened communities. Going back to the polluted 1960s could make paddlers sick, and upset the sensitive balance that is a rivers’ web of life. We will be asking paddlers to defend the Clean Water Act when it is reconsidered in Washington DC.

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Second, your public lands and rivers might not be yours for much longer. Once considered a crazy fringe movement, efforts to give away large portions of Americans’ federal lands to be developed has become mainstream. It is now part of the majority party platform, and is proposed in current legislation. While the Administration has voiced concerns and even opposition to the idea, pressure from Congress could be persuasive. Public lands ensure paddlers have excellent river access, scenery, water quality, and camping and we aim to keep it that way. We are working with climbers, skiers, bikers and others at Outdoor Alliance to be vocal champions of public lands and rivers. You can sign a petition and stay in the loop here: www.ProtectOurPublicLand.org

Third, decisions on energy development will affect rivers. The new Administration and Congress have indicated a desire to ease regulations on energy development on public lands and across the board. This could mean green-lighting the construction of new proposed dams, or hindering the potential removal of existing dams. It could mean new pipelines, oil drilling platforms, or surface coalmines in sensitive areas that are important for paddlers and river health. Turning a blind eye to the realities of climate change as some in the US Administration have done could have major implications for the world we inhabit as well as the rivers we paddle.

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Lastly, some current land and water protections might be rolled back – however, new protections could be granted. The Obama Administration recently protected a chunk of public land in Utah in a new National Monument called Bears Ears, which borders the popular multi-day run on the San Juan River. That move and others like it are under intense scrutiny by the new administration and Congress meaning we might see unprecedented efforts to eliminate protections for rivers like the San Juan. At the same time a number of bi-partisan Wild and Scenic River bills like “Wild Olympics” in Washington State, are making their way through Congress that have been in the works for years. Will Congress pass them? Will the President sign them? We sure hope so and will be calling on paddlers to voice support to ensure our waterways stay protected.

Few lawmakers have seen the things we have seen. They have not watched wild fish spawn or felt the energy of a river in spring freshet. They have not seen paddlers fill local restaurants with laughter and business. They will not know how important healthy rivers are – unless we tell them, or better yet, show them. Right now paddlers in China, Ecuador, Africa, and around the globe are teaching local citizens to paddle, taking them rafting, and helping to build a recreation economy. In doing so we are spreading our love of rivers and giving economic and political weight to paddle sports and wild rivers. The United States is not alone. Every country in the world is changing, continuously finding their own balance between recreation, environmental action, and economic progress. We encourage paddlers to actively help their political representatives navigate this time of change by showing them a line that protects rivers.

By: Kevin Kolburn (Article published in KS#61, Spring 2017)

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