From its headwaters in the Rocky Mountains, the Colorado River flows almost 1,500 miles, across deserts and through the Grand Canyon to Mexico and into the Gulf of California. Along the way, it supplies water to more than 35 million people and to industries, municipalities and 4 million acres of agriculture.
The river has been the subject of myriad contests about its use and has been the basis for a tangle of lawsuits, legislation, contracts and compacts.
The Law of the Colorado River seminar will address the numerous areas of law and policy affecting management of the Colorado River and the communities that depend on it.
“There is much to be gained from picking up the soil, examining it, turning it over in our hands, and creating a tangible connection with the West's primary source of water; a benefit that can never be truly recreated within the four walls of a classroom." - Taggart Mosholder, Colorado Law student
“Environmental factors such as poverty and racism are toxics that mold quality of life. Environmental justice and its interaction with well-being is the crux of the public health problem I want to tackle in my career.” - Justin Manusov, Colorado Law student
“I have a boundless love of the West, from the polychrome mesas of the Southwest to the winding mountain creeks of the Rockies, and I dream of finding a career where I can fight for those places that I love.” - Clare Miller, Colorado Law student
The centerpiece of the class is a two-week rafting trip through the Grand Canyon, which will allow law students to get a fresh, visceral perspective on the river.
At CU Boulder, a seminar called The Law of the Colorado River will address the numerous areas of law and policy affecting management of the Colorado River and communities that depend on it. The centerpiece of the class is a two-week rafting trip through the Grand Canyon, which will allow law students to get a fresh, visceral perspective on the river.
The seminar is both a class and an experiential opportunity for future attorneys to become leaders in water, public land, energy, wildlife and American Indian law. It is taught by Sarah Krakoff, the Raphael J. Moses Professor of Law. Her areas of expertise include American Indian law, natural resources and public land law, and environmental justice.
“The reason I wanted to do this class and include rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon,” Krakoff said, “is because you can trace almost every natural resource, environmental and social justice issue that affects our region—from the Rocky Mountains to California—to issues that affect the river.”
The seminar includes material, presentations and hands-on experience with experts in other disciplines, including conservation biologists, climate scientists, anthropologists, geologists and hydrologists.
During the semester-long class, students meet with people from nonprofits who advocate for different kinds of concerns along the river, including tribal interests, conservation protection, and endangered species. While on the trip, students will meet with park service employees to learn about the programs related to the river. One such program is species reintroduction, which will take place at one of the side canyons where they’ll camp along the way.
“You can tell the whole natural resource legal history of our region through that river,” Krakoff said. “This course brings all that together. The raft trip is the culmination of all that learning. Students will literally be traveling through the source of all those issues. It will be an amazing capstone to their semester long classroom learning.”
To fund the Law of the Colorado River seminar, a crowdfunding campaign has been launched to send 19 students on a two-week raft trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. They need to raise $40,000 and Colorado Law Dean Anaya is matching all gifts, dollar for dollar, up to a total of $18,000 through March 1.
Find out more about the crowdfunding project and read more student quotes at the Law of the Colorado River crowdfunding webpage.
“I don’t want this opportunity to be a financial barrier for students,” Krakoff said. “It shouldn’t be income-dependent to take a transformational class like this.”