Commercial rafting is at risk in the state of Colorado. SUPPORT HOUSE BILL 10-1188!
A landowner along the Taylor River near Gunnison has informed a commercial rafting outfitter, Scenic River Tours, that they are not allowed to pass by his land with their rafting trips. He has declared the river that goes through his land “private waters.” SRT has run rafting trips there for over 20 years. This bill protects the rights of commercial rafting outfitters to run historically rafted sections of river in Colorado that pass through private land.
A similar circumstance in 2000 put a rafting outfitter near Lake City out of business because the company did not have the funds to fight the private landowner in court. This could be repeated across the state of Colorado if this bill does not pass.
If this bill does not pass, it would put rafting companies across the state at the risk of being “shut down” by private landowners who did not want rafting trips to pass through their land.
From the Colorado River Outfitters Association Fact Sheet on the issue:
Commercial river running contributed $142 million to Colorado’s economy in 2008 when more than 500,000 people enjoyed our scenic rivers. Yet, the ability to provide commercial river running is under serious threat because out-of-state landowners using their wealth want to prohibit licensed outfitters from providing trips on historically rafted rivers. The 2010 River Outfitters Viability Act protects Colorado’s tourism industry by clarifying the rights of commercial guides to operate on Colorado’s historically run rivers.
• Commercial rafting contributed $142 million to Colorado’s economy in 2008 while providing river trips to more than 500,000 people.
• Out-of-state landowners are trying to close Colorado’s rivers, even though those same rivers belong to the people of Colorado and have been commercially rafted for more than 20 years.
• Raft guides must comply with all state and federal laws and regulations related to river outfitting or they will lose their license to operate.
• Current state law is unclear regarding the ability of commercial outfitters to float through private property.
• A newcomer purchased property to subdivide into ranchettes on the Taylor River near Gunnison and is threatening expensive legal action against commercial river outfitters, who have been providing river trips on the stretch of river for more than 20 years.
• Another out-of-state landowner drove a small commercial outfitter out of business on the Lake Fork near Lake City under similar circumstances in 2000.
• Commercial outfitters, the guides they employ, and the local economies that they support are at risk if wealthy out-of-state landowners successfully prohibit them from floating on Colorado’s rivers.
What the Bill Does and Does Not Do
• Establish that licensed outfitters, floating on historically commercially floated rivers cannot be charged with civil trespass if they make accidental contact with the bed or banks of Colorado’s rivers, or portage around hazards that would put their passengers at risk.
• Makes no changes to the rights that private boaters currently enjoy.
• Clearly protects landowners from liability if a rafter is injured while passing through their property.
• Does not change the ability of landowners to construct facilities on their properties
Consequence If Not Approved
• The ability of Colorado’s $142 million river rafting industry to operate on Colorado’s rivers would be put at serious risk.