New boating advocate promotes watershed approach

Wednesday, July 31, 2013 11:02 PM
Lee-Ann Hill

Lee-Ann Hill can talk river recreation, ecology and farming with equal ease and enthusiasm, making her a good fit to lead Dolores River Boating Advocates since all three topics make up the sum of the river.

Hill takes over from former program coordinator Jay Loschert , who recently moved from the area.

"Jay did an incredible job, and I'm looking forward to a strategic planning session with the board to see what the next chapter is," Hill said in an interview. "I have a real passion for the river and I want to organize boaters to pursue common goals."

Hill promoted river health and compromise between users while working for San Juan Citizen's Alliance and the Dolores River Coalition. She has a background in ecology and is an experienced boater.

"I've been doing conservation field work and environmental education so I was really attracted to this position. The name Dolores River Boating Advocates really says it all," she says.

Mention a river and Hill turns loquacious as she expertly covers a range of river issues, from rafting flows and boating ethics to native fish habitat and endangered plants and animals.

Her fluvial commentary focuses on sharing the river for recreation, science, agriculture and for overall wellbeing.

"This day and age, compromise is the name of the game. I want to take a farmer boating who might not have ever had the chance or gear to do so. With the low water recently, I see opportunity to provide hiking tours of the lower canyons to educate the public about riparian health, wildlife and river ecology."

She is impressed at the boating community's willingness to sacrifice the timing of rafting flows below the dam to better accommodate the habitat needs of native fish.

"Releasing earlier from the dam mimics more of a natural hydrograph that is more favorable to native fish. A release in early May is not the ideal time for boaters because it can be a lot colder weather so it shows they are taking a larger view of the river's needs."

Advocating for boaters' interests is also a focus of the group. Rafting the lower canyons depends on releases from McPhee dam and reservoir. Working with reservoir managers to provide more predictable rafting flows that are compatible with fish needs will be a priority for Hill.

Native fish in the river indicate a healthy ecosystem, Hill said, as does protecting threatened species in the river basin like the canyon tree frog and kachina daisy. Promoting a healthy environment is good for humans and wildlife, she says, adding that there is room for diverse interests.

"We all have different perspectives and livelihoods that depend on the Dolores River, and the puzzle is to put it all together so we all benefit," Hill said. "Dolores Boating Advocates is a dynamic group. We take a watershed approach to the river and work with various users."

Check out Dolores River Boating Advocates at