fishNo good deed goes unpunished, the Aspen Skiing Company is learning.

Despite having bent over backwards to work with liberal activists groups on climate change, wilderness management, even marriage equality, Skico finds itself in a very messy feud with the national environmental group, American Rivers.

Auden Schendler, Aspen Skiing Company’s vice president of sustainability, summed up the ridiculousness of the spat in the Aspen Times.

 The recent attacks are against “Aspen Snowmass and its ‘hydrofracker allies’” (seriously?) who want to “privatize rivers that run through public lands.”

That was Schendler’s “seriously” comment, not ours, but we’re with him on this one.

It appears that American Rivers believes that water rights means water for everyone and every thing except for the holder of those rights, and is angry about Skico’s support of the Water Rights Protection Act that U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner plans to sponsor this session.

Schendler explains:

But the bill in question would simply stop an odd and unprecedented Forest Service rule (since retracted) that would have required ski resorts operating on public lands to transfer their privately held water rights to the Forest Service without compensation, undoing 150 years of Western water law and throwing the region into legal chaos. (The request by the Forest Service is akin to a federal agency asking you for your car and house. Just like your personal property, water rights are paid for and owned.)

American Rivers maintains that the water instead belongs to the fishies and other wildlife, particularly an endangered species of a bug, mouse, or weed, to-be-named-later.

Not pulling any punches, Schendler called out American Rivers for exploiting water rights legislation as well as the conflict over the proposed Castle Creek hydroelectric project as fundraising mechanisms.

American Rivers, an almost $14 million organization, certainly raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, fighting the Castle Creek project. Indeed, the cause was worthy of funding, both for supporters and opposition. But why did this nonprofit focus on Castle Creek and not show similar concern about any of the other highly endangered rivers around Aspen such as East Snowmass Creek, Lincoln Creek, Brooklyn Creek, New York Creek or Hunter Creek, all of which are swept dry or almost dry? What about protecting the Roaring Fork, the upper reaches of which dry up every year, from Front Range interests with future plans to divert another 20 percent (which will certainly dry the Roaring Fork through the center of town)?

Shouldn’t water-focused nonprofits care about all waterways, not just the high-profile ones that raise the most money for the organization? … But it seems to have found Aspen so lucrative that fairness goes by the wayside.

Slanderous attacks, wild accusations and material misstatements might bring in the money, but they don’t solve problems. And organizations that take this approach should not receive your dollars. Instead, you should support any number of organizations in Colorado that prioritize conserving and protecting water over fundraising and dialogue and solutions over slings and arrows.

We are not aware of any environmental organization that puts its planet-saving mission above fundraising efforts to line their own pockets. But it’s a nice thought.