Name a Western North Carolina river, and it’s likely that Kevin Colburn ’98 has played a role in its conservation. Colburn has negotiated for rivers and streams for 12 years as part of American Whitewater, a stalwart advocate for the preservation and protection of waterways throughout the United States. Now national stewardship director of the Cullowhee-based nonprofit, Colburn joined the organization when he was just 25 years old.
It’s a path that began at UNC Asheville, where he focused on environmental studies and founded the UNC Asheville Paddling Club. These days he’s working on the forest planning for the Nantahala National Forest, which could lead to new river protections under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. He’s also building grassroots support for getting “a pretty big roster” of waterways in Montana designated as National Wild and Scenic Rivers.