Sometime in early 2016 Jonathan Bowler and I started talking about John Wesley Powell and the future of the Colorado Basin. Quickly, we saw the opportunity for a project, the 150th Anniversary of John Wesley Powell’s first journey, the Colorado River Exploring Expedition, down the now-named Green and Colorado Rivers. So excited, we drafted a letter to the Secretary of the Interior dated April 25, 2016:
“May 24, 2019 will be the 150th anniversary of Major John Wesley Powell’s journey into “The Great Unknown,” an event that ultimately led to the formation of the Department of the Interior. Powell’s journey down the Green and Colorado Rivers filled in the Unexplored Territory on our nation’s maps. The expedition lives on in the stories of river users throughout the country, but the greater impact is one that is less discussed. Powell’s inquiry into the limits of development in the arid lands of the West formalized U.S. Science and led to the formation of the United States Geological Survey, Bureau of Reclamation, and Bureau of Ethnology (later becoming part of the Smithsonian Institution). Important to this anniversary, the lands mapped by Powell remain in the stewardship of the Department of the Interior 150 years later.”
“We are hoping to use the anniversary of the first Powell expedition as an avenue to analyze and refocus attention on the potential of western lands as a national trust and the role of the Department of the Interior and other Federal Agencies in Western development, public land planning, and the value of natural sciences.”
And so the Sesquicentennial Colorado River Exploring Expedition (SCREE) began.
I sit in my office 30 days before we launch, taking a moment to think of how much we have done and changed in the time since that first letter. From the kernel of an idea, we now have to appreciate all of the support we have for this project. To the private donors, the companies who have donated time and equipment for our expedition: including Aire, Down River Equipment, Ceiba Adventures, Yeti, Cataract Oars, Goal Zero, Big Agnes, Chaco and Chums; and most importantly individuals who helped with permitting and logistics, we give thanks. Additional big thanks to our private, academic, state and federal supporters: University of Wyoming Geography Department, Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources, Wyoming Geographic Alliance, University of Wyoming College of Arts and Sciences, and USGS. This project would not be at the cusp of launch without you.
We also want to acknowledge the USGS-Youth & Education in Science (YES) Program for their partnership; specifically helping us build a platform for showing how science can be exciting while still providing important information for the management of our national resources.” It is important for future scientist to see how their work is relevant to society’s needs and challenges. We hope SCREE contributes to that narrative. I do not want to speak for Powell, but I think the Second Director would see the importance of using this point in time in the Arid West to think about the future of the region.
See you on the river.