Will Large-Scale Commercial Rafting Hurt Colorado Trout Fishing?

Relaxing before dinner - AZRA Grand Canyon Raf...

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No question that there will be winners and losers — even among fly fishing guides and lodges — if Colorado’s HB 1188 is signed into law. Many see it as a victory for those who want as much access as possible to the state’s pristine trout waters. Others, like Steve Roberts, whose family has owned and operated Harmel’s Ranch Resort in Almont since 1958, envision a non-stop flow of rafts taking advantage of resources they have spent lots of time and money protecting and developing.
In this morning’s Denver Post, Roberts describes the potential impact to lodge operations based on navigable rivers: “We have put more than $100,000 into improving trout habitat along our three-quarter-mile stretch of the Taylor River, and we restock the trout every year. That means our efforts at preserving our little patch of paradise also have paid off for the whole river.”
On the other hand, on February 7 the Denver Post offered editorial support for the new bill, citing a lack of clarity in current law and the size of the rafting industry: “Whitewater recreation is a popular pastime in Colorado, as well as big business. In 2008, wilderness outfitting brought in $142 million, according to the Colorado River Outfitters Association. Last year, about 486,000 people took to the state’s rivers for recreation. Given its popularity, you might think the law would be settled on the issue of rafting, but it’s not.”

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