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June 2020 RACC Member of the Month: Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership

In an ongoing effort to promote our local businesses and organizations, the Ridgway Area Chamber of Commerce is proud to introduce our June 2020 Member of the Month:
Uncompaghre Watershed Partnership 


Who are the staff of the organization?

Tanya Ishikawa is the communications director of the Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership (UWP), the Ouray County-based nonprofit focused on protecting and improving the economic, natural, and scenic values of the Upper Uncompahgre River Watershed. Scientist Ashley Bembenek of Alpine Environmental Consultants is the technical coordinator. Both are part-time contractors supervised by a working board of directors, who contribute a thousand hours each year to UWP projects.

Please tell me about how the nonprofit was founded and how it is funded.

UWP was created in spring, 2007, when regional groups and concerned citizens applied for a watershed-planning grant. In 2013, UWP became a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to understanding, restoring and protecting watershed resources. UWP’s projects are completed though partnerships with a grassroots coalition of citizens, nonprofits, local and regional governments, and federal and state agencies. Funding comes from grants (44% in 2019), fundraising through the Ridgway RiverFest (29%), donations and memberships (25%), and other events such as the Fly Fishing Film Tour (3%).

How will the cancellation of this year’s Ridgway RiverFest impact you?

As UWP’s biggest fundraiser annually, it was not an easy decision to cancel RiverFest due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The nonprofit will not only miss that funding this year, but also having fun with the community and sharing watershed information this June. Still, UWP has been successfully fundraising, securing grants and building reserve funds in recent years, so its work should not be impacted in the short term.

What are some of UWP’s accomplishments?

UWP completed three watershed restoration projects in 2018 in the mountains above Ouray, that improved water quality and aquatic habitat by reducing metal concentrations flowing from abandoned mine sites. Other accomplishments include a Ouray Hydrodam sediment release study, annual educational outreach to thousands of elementary schoolers, and publishing the area’s first-ever watershed handbook: see handbook at

What are your current activities?

UWP is preparing for collaboration on two mine remediation projects, one in Governor Basin and another at Atlas Mill. The nonprofit is trying to match funding raised for river habitat improvement to a worthwhile project. Plus, the UWP board will be completing a three-year strategic plan this fall, so will be asking for community input this summer.

What events are you still able to do this summer?

UWP volunteers just planted eight tree seedlings in Rollans Park as part of its Adopt-A-Park efforts with the Town of Ridgway, and will be doing an annual cleanup at the park on June 13. Board member Mary Menz will guide a wildflower hike into the San Juan Mountains on July 25. Then, UWP will help organize the Love Your Gorge volunteer work day at the Ouray Ice Park on Sept. 12, with funding from the Frank L. Massard Trust.

Besides events, how can people get involved with UWP?

People can sign up to UWP’s email list to learn about projects and keep informed about local water issues, and sign up to be a volunteer to learn about how to help with projects such as water sampling, event setup/takedown, and education and outreach. Go to: (subscription link is near top right on page).

What do you value from being a Ridgway Chamber member?

The free listing and discounted ad in the annual Visitors Guide helps UWP reach visitors and promote events. The nonprofit can also promote events and activities through announcements on the chamber’s website and e-blasts. Plus, support of the chamber allows it to create programs like the Youth Career & Volunteer Fair where nonprofits and local businesses can connect to local students.

For more about the Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership, go online to,, email , call 970-325-3010. For information about other nonprofits in Ridgway, go to