Environmental coalition honors water activist


Carbondale water has a friend in Ken Neubecker. The 55-year-old Carbondale resident was named Conservation Activist 2007 last week by the Colorado Environmental Coalition (CEC).

The award was presented in Denver at the group's annual Rebel with a Cause gala dinner. Three hundred people were in attendance, including Gov. Bill Ritter, U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, and U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter. The eponymous Rebel with a Cause award went to Denver-based nature photographer and author John Fielder.

"Ken has been a tenacious voice for Colorado's rivers and wild places for more than 20 years," said T.J. Brown, the Front Range field director for the CEC. Neubecker was picked over 30 other nominees from the CEC's 90 member organizations.

The current vice president of Colorado Trout Unlimited, Neubecker founded the Eagle River Watershed and Trout Unlimited chapters in Eagle and Granby. Recently he has worked to protect the Roan Plateau as the environmental representative on the Colorado River Basin Round Table, a state-appointed planning group that advises state agencies on matters pertaining to the river basin. Set up by House Bill 1177 (the Colorado Water for the 21st Century act), nine such round tables exist in river basins throughout the state, operating on a total annual budget of $40 million.

"I helped draft the environmental impact statement for the oil and gas development on the Roan Plateau, along with about 75,000 other people," quipped Neubecker on Tuesday. "When the BLM turned in a management proposal that was completely different from what we expected, I wrote the protest letters."

When he's not fighting to keep Colorado waters clean, Neubecker works as a land surveyor for an engineering firm in Glenwood Springs. He holds 1870s surveyor Ferdinand Hayden as one of his mentor/heroes and even named the Roaring Fork and Eagle Valley chapter of Trout Unlimited after "that other surveyor-not (John Wesley) Powell."

"Hayden was the first to survey this entire area, between here and Yellowstone, in a scientific way at least," said Neubecker. "He was also the first to locate and document and the Mount of the Holy Cross in the Holy Cross Wilderness. Spanish conquistadors looking for gold had mentioned seeing a mountain with a crucifix shaped by couloirs, but no one knew for sure if it was a myth until Hayden."

"Ken is a thoughtful advocate for non-consumptive needs and advises the other (Colorado River Basin Round Table) councils. He informs and educates so they learn to work within the system. It's invaluable work," said Becky Long, water caucus coordinator for the CEC.