JEFF CRANE, principal of Crane Associates, has long been an advocate for Colorado’s rivers. Initially as a hydrologic engineer for land developments Jeff became aware of the ill effects of bulldozing and other well-intentioned but misguided attempts to direct and control the natural course of rivers. These ill- conceived practices caused him to become a committed activist for restoring rivers to their natural function and integrity while meeting the social and economic needs of stakeholders. To provide the necessary planning and implementation expertise to accomplish this much needed work Jeff created Crane Associates which over the past thirteen years has accomplished dozens of such restoration projects.
Trained as a civil engineer at the University of Colorado at Boulder and later as a river hydrologist, Jeff began his career in river restoration in 1996 with a project on the North Fork of the Gunnison River in west-central Colorado, a project which would become a template for the many other community projects which followed.
The North Fork of the Gunnison River had been bulldozed annually by Delta County to protect agricultural land from erosion, a practice which actually had the reverse effect. Each spring the river would break through the new gravel dykes to consume five to ten acres of farmland. Frustrated farmers decided to take matters into their own hands. Jeff attended these initial meetings and volunteered to start an organization that would study these erosion issues and raise funds to correct them. The resulting North Fork River Improvement Association, under Jeff’s leadership, built a coalition of all local river stakeholders: farmers, boaters, gravel miners, irrigation diverters and fishermen. In ten years this community organization raised over $1,000,000 to develop and implement a restoration plan for over six miles of river, reconstruct eight irrigation diversions, remove two in-stream gravel mines, take out an abandoned dam, and create a river park. As a consequence of these actions, aquatic and terrestrial habitats were much improved and better conditions were created for fish migration and safe boating. Additionally, many landowners stepped forward to protect their riverfront land with conservation easements.
To take this local success story statewide, Jeff helped to start the Colorado Watershed Assembly in 1999 and became its Executive Director. The mission of CWA was to support local citizen watershed groups similar to the North Fork River Improvement Association. Under Jeff’s guidance the Assembly is working today with eighty such groups, many of which the Assembly helped to start. During Jeff’s tenure a full range of support services were developed: PR program to build public awareness of watershed issues; leadership training; watershed planning services; training in water quality monitoring; fundraising support; an annual conference; representation before State and Federal agencies to present the concerns and priorities of local watershed groups; weekly constituency newsletter with information on opportunities for funding, jobs, conferences, and training.
Known throughout Colorado for his work at the Assembly and for his personal dedication to the health of Colorado rivers, Jeff has been associated with the following organizations: The Clean Water Network (board member), America’s Great Waters Coalition (was their delegate for the Colorado River Basin in Washington, DC), The Statewide Water Supply Initiative, the EPA’s National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy & Technology and the Colorado Interbasin Compact Committee Public Education, Participation & Outreach Subcommittee. Jeff has collaborated with Nature Conservancy’s Colorado River Basin Program, Western Resource Advocates, Trout Unlimited, Carpe Diem West, American Whitewater, Colorado Water Trust, Colorado Foundation for Water Education, and Colorado Environmental Coalition.
Where river restoration is concerned, Jeff brings vision, energy, and expertise to the job! , advocating control of their flow by other means such as floodplain retention, strategic rock placement, and careful floodplain re-vegetation.
Jeff enjoys river rafting, skiing, bicycling and hiking with his family. Favorite quote: “If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy; if the world were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I wake up each morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world. This makes it very hard to plan the day.” — E. B. White
Let’s try to do both!