White River Best Wild Places - Part II

By Aaron Kindle Finishing the tale from yesterday's post - White River Best Wild Places - Part I

Day three we headed downstream to examine the impacts of oil and gas development and to see some of the little known wild gems of the lower White.  We began on Piceance Creek road, the center of most energy development in the basin. We saw a large pipeline being constructed, many oil and gas facilities and rigs, and a few streams that have been altered from both grazing and energy development.  Fortunately, we had the pleasure of bringing Scott Warner along for this portion of the trip. Scott is a member of the newly formed TU chapter in Steamboat and has hunted the lower White for 15 years. He offered lots of perspective, explained how energy development had changed the area, and told us hunting stories.














Here I took the chance to explain our efforts regarding energy in the basin including the Sportsmen’s Conservation Vision that I recently submitted to the BLM. The document was created in hopes of helping the BLM craft the appropriate stipulations and other safeguards for energy production to ensure the permanent existence of hunting and fishing on BLM lands in the basin. It calls for a prudent and common sense approach to development and offers guidance for developing in a responsible manner that is compatible with land and stream conservation.

As the tour continued, we traveled high onto the Cathedral Bluffs and had the chance to gaze down into Lake and Soldier Creeks. These two creeks hold some of the last remaining pure populations of cutthroat trout in the lower White River Basin. One can tell why these streams hold the elusive creatures – they are pristine, mostly unroaded, and undisturbed by most people. TU is working on several fronts to keep these creeks and others like them in the basin protected and restored where necessary.

The last morning we wrapped up the trip with some small creek fishing for Colorado River Cutthroats on a small tributary to the White River. In only a couple hours we all had caught several fish and I was even lucky enough to land a big cutthroat/cutbow after some thoughtful coaching from Kirk Deeter and Chris Herrman.














We ended the trip by visiting a ranch where Chris has been working on an easement. We met with the ranch manager, a Rio Blanco County Commissioner, and a fishing guide. After listening intently to their perspectives and ideas about how to move into the future in the basin, a sense of both satisfaction and melancholy came over me. While I am happy about our work in the basin and the success we are starting to find, it is always hard to leave such a great area and to say goodbye to great folks dedicated to keeping wild places wild. The White River Basin is a great wild place. May it always stay that way.

Look for more from Field and Stream in the coming weeks about the tour.

Best regards, Aaron Kindle       akindle@tu.org