When people think about conservation in New England, verdant forestland or meadows teeming with wildlife might come to mind. But for Norm Sims, of Winchester, N.H., and Julia Khorana, of Stow, Mass., conservation is a little more fluid. Sims and Khorana, along with other AMC members, are the unsung heroes of whitewater conservation in New England. They’ve volunteered countless hours working on agreements with hydropower companies that promote paddling and sustainable fishing and that protect water and wildlife. AMC Outdoors caught up with Sims and Khorana to talk about their connection to the water.
What’s your favorite river to paddle in New England?
Khorana: The Swift River in the White Mountains.
Sims: The Deerfield River in Massachusetts, for whitewater, and the Connecticut River, for flatwater.
What conservation projects are you currently working on?
Khorana: I am scheduling 2017 dam releases. I’m also involved with projects on the Deerfield and Connecticut Rivers.
Sims: I’m working with AMC trails staff on a new hiking trail from the Connecticut River to New Hampshire’s Mount Monadnock. I’m involved again in the relicensing of seven hydropower facilities on the Connecticut and Deerfield rivers.
What got you into whitewater conservation?
Khorana: Soon after I started paddling, I became active with [AMC’s] Interchapter Paddlers Committee. These meetings brought paddlers from all of the AMC chapters together, and it was clear from our discussions that we were missing opportunities throughout New England because of access issues and lack of recreational dam releases.
Sims: My introduction was in 1988, during the relicensing of hydropower dams on the Deerfield River. Since those successful negotiations, I served 12 years on the AMC Board of Directors, though my conservation interests extend far beyond whitewater alone.
What keeps you engaged?
Khorana: The exhilaration and adventure of paddling whitewater, enjoying the changing seasons, and seeing different wildlife. To be outdoors on a river takes you to a different place. Facilitating opportunities for others to have these healing experiences is what interests me.
Sims: In effect, we can make new whitewater. If climbers could create mountains, they would. Through the federal hydropower relicensing process, we can get new whitewater runs, especially on bypassed reaches, such as Monroe Paddlers Committee. These meetings brought paddlers from Bridge on the Deerfield, or Bellows Falls and Turners Falls on the Connecticut.
Why is whitewater conservation important?
Khorana: People protect what they love. Ensuring there are opportunities for people to enjoy and grow their appreciation of our rivers will foster new river lovers and future conservationists.
Sims: Rivers have been abused by centuries of industry and pollution. We’ve made huge strides toward restoring rivers and the quality of water and recreation that’s available. Rivers are renewable. If we treat them right, they can be restored and used again in appropriate fashion.
Check out more of AMC’s conservation initiatives.