Gov. Bill Ritter announced today an agreement has been reached between commercial rafting outfitters and private property owners along the Taylor River. The compromise clears the way for sponsors of 24 competing ballot measures to withdraw their respective proposals from the November ballot, averting an expensive and divisive election fight.
The Governor had asked two outfitters, Three Rivers and Scenic River Tours, and the owners of the Jackson-Shaw property, in May to find a mutually agreeable solution to their dispute.
Gov. Ritter thanked the parties for their hard work and willingness to find common ground. "To reach this accord, both sides had to make difficult concessions, and I appreciate their willingness to do so," the Governor said. "Today's agreement marks an important step toward opening a dialogue between landowners and rafters. My hope is that this dialogue will then lead to a fair and efficient dispute-resolution process for the future.
"Colorado's rivers are essential to all Coloradans, not only for the vital drinking and agricultural water they carry, but also to our overall economy and quality of life," said Gov. Ritter, who is an avid fly-fisherman. "Anglers, rafters and private landowners may all have separate and unique interests, but they all share a common Colorado interest that is bound together by doing what's best for our children and the future of our state.
"I also applaud the decision of the sponsors to withdraw their ballot initiatives," Gov. Ritter added. "The decision of these parties to withdraw these ballot measures was courageous and puts the interests of all Coloradans above their individual interests."
Said Lewis Shaw, chairman and CEO of Jackson-Shaw Co., which owns the Wilder on the Taylor fishing reserve: "We are pleased to announce a resolution to the dispute on the Taylor River involving commercial rafting and private fishing property. Gov. Ritter has offered much-appreciated guidance to both parties to reach this settlement privately, avoiding possible contentious legislative initiatives or impositions. The agreement permits rafting companies Three Rivers and Scenic River Tours structured access through the private Wilder Ranch property while respecting each parties' positions for their mutual enjoyment of this beautiful natural resource."
"Over the years, Colorado's property owners and rafters around the state, working on a case-by-case basis, have found ways to accommodate each other," said John Leede, president of the Creekside Coalition, which represents about 600riparianlandowners across Colorado. "We believe this long-standing approach has served Colorado well by balancing the needs of various interests. Our ballot issues were introduced to protect against legislative and ballot proposals from the commercial rafting community that we believed were one sided and would have disrupted the delicate balance between rafters, fisherman and property owners across the state. We are appreciative of the Governor's leadership in resolving this issue and we will continue to participate constructively in future discussions around these issues."
The withdrawal of the ballot measures also clears the way for the creation of a task force that will propose a dispute-resolution process to address future conflicts on Colorado rivers.
Gov. Ritter will convene a task force of stakeholders to develop a proposal for resolving conflicts among landowners, anglers and the boating public. The task force will be charged with developing a framework for resolving disputes on Colorado rivers on a stretch-by-stretch basis as those disputes arise. This approach recognizes that disputes vary from place to place and that a one-size-fits-all strategy is unlikely to succeed.
The task force will be led by the Department of Natural Resources and the Governor's Office. The task force will include representatives from landowners, commercial and recreational river users, local government officials and law enforcement, which has historically been tasked with intervening in such disputes.
The task force will be asked to deliver a report outlining its proposal to the Governor by Dec. 31.