NOAA: The Endangered Species Act turns 40

Colorado Pike Minnow
Colorado Pike Minnow

From NOAA:

This year we celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). President Nixon signed the ESA into law on December 28, 1973. Congress understood that, without protection from human actions, many of our nation’s living resources would become extinct.

Endangered species—in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

Threatened species—likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future.

There are approximately 2,100 total species listed under the ESA. Of these species, approximately 1,480 are found in part or entirely in the U.S. and its waters; the remainder are foreign species.

Species diversity and environment health are part of the natural legacy we leave for future generations. Each plant, animal, and their physical environment are part of a much more complex web of life, where the removal of a single species could cause a series of negative events affecting many others. Endangered species serve as a sentinel, indicating larger ecological problems that could alter ecosystem functions. The ESA is both a mechanism to help guide our conservation efforts and a reminder that future generations deserve the opportunity to enjoy the same great benefits from the natural world.

We Will Continue the Work We Started

Today the ocean is a very different place than it was 40 years ago. Thanks to the ESA, we now understand many of the threats faced by marine and anadromous species and are bringing them under control. The populations of many listed species are increasing, aided by our recovery efforts and time. Still, the populations of many species continue to decline and many more species are being listed. NOAA Fisheries scientists are developing the next generation of ocean observing systems, which will give us Increased awareness of what’s going on in the ocean, adapt our management, and respond to challenges of a changing climate. We will continue developing new technologies and management approaches, and our work with national and international partners, to ensure the ESA remains effective in an interdependent, rapidly-changing world.

More endangered/threatened species coverage here.

The Windy Gap Firming project moves closer to implementation #ColoradoRiver

Chimney Hollow Reservoir site -- Bureau of Reclamation via The Denver Post
Chimney Hollow Reservoir site — Bureau of Reclamation via The Denver Post

Here’s a guest column written by Jim Pokrandt that is running in the Sky-Hi Daily News:

The Windy Gap Firming Project (WGFP) intergovernmental agreement (IGA) is in final form but has not been totally wrapped up because two important preconditions have not been completed, General Counsel Peter Fleming reported to the Colorado River District Board of Directors at its October meeting.

Like the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement between Denver Water and the West Slope, the Windy Gap Firming Project IGA is a package of mitigation enhancements that would be part of the Windy Gap Firming Project once it is permitted for the Municipal Subdistrict of Northern Water by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

The preconditions for the River District’s execution of the agreement are that the United States (1) makes a satisfactory finding that the WGFP can be operated consistent with Senate Document 80 — meaning no impact to the United States’ obligations to the beneficiaries, including West Slope beneficiaries, of the Colorado Big Thompson (C‐BT) Project, and (2) adopts an enforceable provision recognizing that if the River District does not challenge the WGFP permitting decision, that it does not waive any legal rights regarding federal decisions involving the same or similar legal issues.

Fleming anticipated that that these conditions will be satisfied in the context of Reclamation’s final record of decision on the WGFP, which is expected in the first part of 2014. In the meantime, Fleming said the River District has worked extensively with Grand County on matters related to the WGFP and the operation of the C-BT Project — including the Grand Lake Water Clarity Agreement and the upcoming initiation of the WGFP Carriage Contract negotiations.

With respect to the Grand Lake clarity issues, Fleming reported there have been several meetings with Reclamation and Northern to help ensure that a workable solution can be reached to meet the Grand Lake water quality standard. An important goal in that regard has been to avoid a stalemate over a massively expensive “fix” that could require a separate congressional authorization and appropriation.

With regard to the WGFP carriage contract negotiations, the River District has assisted Grand County in efforts to secure the best possible negotiating position in Reclamation’s negotiation process.

Fleming said the River District believes Grand County’s specifically identified role in Senate Document 80 entitles the county (and its advisers) to a more involved position in the negotiations than Reclamation’s standard “sit and‐observe” role for members of the public in its contract negotiation process.

Another goal is to ensure that the Windy Gap water that Grand County is entitled to use pursuant to the IGA can be stored in Granby Reservoir for no charge or at a very affordable rate.

More Windy Gap coverage here and here.

‘The [Colorado Water Plan] needs your input’ — Hannah Holm #ColoradoRiver

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013
Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm):

How will Colorado share the Colorado River? How much irrigated land will be dried up to slake the thirst of growing cities? How far should the state and local governments go in requiring residents to conserve?

These are some of the questions that will be addressed in Colorado’s statewide water plan, which is currently under development. Back in May, Gov. Hickenlooper ordered the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to develop a draft plan by Dec. 10, 2014, which is to be finalized by Dec. 10, 2015…

Both the CWCB and the Basin Roundtables are now seeking public input on the plan. There’s a survey link at the end of this article for you to provide general input, and future articles and surveys will address more specific issues.

First, though, let’s consider this basic question – why does Colorado need a water plan?

The Governor’s Executive Order notes that the gap between the state’s developed water supplies and growing urban demands could exceed 500,000 acre feet by 2050 (an acre foot is about enough for 2-3 families for a year at current usage rates). The biggest gap is anticipated in the South Platte River Basin, home to Colorado’s largest cities. A central challenge for the water plan is to fill the gap in a way that matches Colorado’s values. That’s a tough nut to crack.

The easiest way for cities to fill that gap is by taking it from agriculture, which currently accounts for about 85% of the water consumed in the state. But there’s a heavy price to pay for continuing to rely on that approach. A state water supply study released in 2010 projected a 15-20% decline in irrigated acreage statewide by 2050, with a 22-32% decline in the South Platte Basin over the same period. “Buying and drying” of agricultural water rights has already devastated some rural communities, and most stakeholders agree that this should be minimized in the future.

If not from agriculture, then where? East Slope Roundtables have been arguing for the need to preserve the option to develop additional West Slope water supplies. West Slope Roundtables point to environmental and economic impacts already felt from the roughly 500,000 acre-feet/year already transferred across the divide each year. More than 60% of the natural flows of the Upper Colorado River above Kremmling, for example, are diverted to the Front Range, impacting both Grand County building permits and gold medal trout streams.

Another concern is that increased depletions from the Colorado River and its tributaries would increase the risk of failing to meet legal obligations to downstream states. If downstream flow obligations are not met, water rights junior to the 1922 Compact between Upper Colorado River Basin states (Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming) and Lower Colorado River Basin States (Arizona, Nevada and California) on how to share the river could be curtailed. If that means cutting off urban taps, it could set off a mad scramble for senior agricultural water rights on the West Slope.

Of course, neither drying up irrigated agriculture nor putting another straw into the Colorado Basin would be necessary if urban users reduced their consumption sufficiently. But how to achieve that isn’t easy either. Updated fixtures and education campaigns are a good start, but conserving enough to eliminate the need for other water sources would likely be impossible without the broad application of land-use and landscaping restrictions that may not be politically palatable.

There are no easy answers to the state’s large-scale water challenges. Creative solutions are needed to find more “win-win” solutions, with less of a need for losers – but hard choices may still need to be made. The more people that contribute their insights and opinions, the better the chances are that the final plan will fully reflect Colorado’s water values.

To begin contributing your insights to your Basin Roundtable and the CWCB, fill out this quick survey:

If you want to get a little more background first, check out the new Colorado Water Plan website at

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

John Fleck: Interesting piece on water quality implications of some of the farm bill language

Durango: City Parks and Recreation is proposing a new plan to rope in tubers below Oxbow Park

Proposed management plan area -- City of Durango via The Durango Herald
Proposed management plan area — City of Durango via The Durango Herald

From The Durango Herald (Chuck Slothower):

A management plan under discussion by city of Durango officials would bar inner-tubers from launching from Oxbow Park in north Durango and require river floaters there to use paddles and wear life vests. The proposed restrictions come in response to a rising chorus of complaints from riverfront property owners who say they’re tired of tubers trespassing on their property, often urinating and leaving trash along the way. The restrictions would apply to a 1.2-mile stretch of the Animas north of the 33rd Street put-in to Oxbow Park and Preserve.

One provision under consideration states that “all river craft shall be propelled in this section by a paddle.” Another says, “downstream tube float trips shall not be permitted to launch from the (Oxbow) property.”

The provisions appear to leave tourism-driven commercial raft guides largely unaffected while targeting inner-tubers, who, in many cases, are local high school or college students…

Two volunteer advisory boards, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and the Natural Lands Preservation Advisory Board, are considering the rules. They will meet again in December before forwarding recommendations to the City Council sometime in early 2014…

Tubers, along with rafters and paddle-boarders, often put in to the river north of 33rd Street. It’s a languid stretch of river, leading some bored or tired tubers to find landfall on the river’s banks before they arrive at the 33rd Street put-in. The problem is the stretch of river from Oxbow Park to 33rd Street is entirely lined by private land…

Residents can email public comments at

More whitewater coverage here.

CSU: Northern Colorado Flood Recovery Assistance and Resource Fair Dec. 16 #COflood

Plume of subtropical moisture streaming into Colorado September 2013 via Weather5280
Plume of subtropical moisture streaming into Colorado September 2013 via Weather5280

Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Jennifer Dimas):

Colorado State University Extension is hosting an informational meeting for farmers, ranchers and landowners affected by the recent floods. A wide variety of information regarding technical assistance for recovery will be presented. The meeting will be useful for landowners and agricultural producers with flood-related damage to infrastructure – land, soil, pasture, fencing – and related concerns.

The Northern Colorado Flood Recovery Assistance and Resource Fair will be held from 1 – 4:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 16, in the McKee Building at The Ranch, Crossroads Boulevard and I-25, in Loveland. The event is free and open to the public; no pre-registration is required.

Information on debris removal, soil, pasture and land reclamation resources, and water quality will be presented. There will be a plenary session as well as time to visit one-on-one with local representatives, including:

• USDA/Natural Resources Conservation Service
• Colorado State University Extension
• Rocky Mountain Farmers Union
• Local Food Shift Group
• Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment
• Local governments
• Suppliers and service providers

For more information contact Keith Maxey, CSU Extension-Weld County,
(970) 304-6535 ext. 2075 or

51st State Initiative: ‘If anything, I actually think it built up walls’ — Mark Ferrandino

51st State Initiative Map via The Burlington Record
51st State Initiative Map via The Burlington Record

From The Greeley Tribune (T.M. Fasano):

Let the dialogue begin about solving the problems of Colorado’s urban/rural political divide. Or not. After the 51st state initiative failed in Weld County on Nov. 5 by 56 percent to 44 percent, Weld commissioners Sean Conway and Barbara Kirkmeyer said the effort to secede from Colorado started dialogue around the state regarding rural counties’ needs not being considered by lawmakers in the Denver-metro area.

“If the entire effort was to send a message, message received,” Conway said. “I think we have kick-started a very important dialogue that I look forward to participating in as we move forward. We’re not going away.”

Colorado House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, though, has a different opinion.

“If anything, I actually think it built up walls,” Ferrandino said in a phone interview from Denver. “I have known Sean for a while. He’s always welcome in my office, but doing this type of stuff doesn’t build bridges. It puts up walls. Saying, ‘We just want to be a different state,’ doesn’t say, ‘We want to work together to find the right policies for this state.’”

Ferrandino said Denver legislators won’t shut out rural Weld officials because of the 51st state effort. But, he added, “there’s a group now who are seen I think by some as more out of touch, especially when Commissioner Conway is the one pushing it and then his county doesn’t even vote for it. I think he’s out of touch with his own voters. If he’s supposed to be advocating for his constituents and he’s supposed to have a pulse on his constituents, then you would think he’d be able to get more support than that. He should talk to some of his other constituents who voted against his measure.”

Ferrandino added that having a meaningful discussion is important and he vows to be part of that, but he believes the 51st state issue was perceived by many across the state as “throwing a tantrum.”

“That’s not the right process,” he said. “We have a process in place, and we should use that process. I’m glad to see that it didn’t pass because we have a fundamental belief in our democratic process. You organize and you work to elect people who will agree with you. You don’t just say, ‘We’re going to take our toys and go home.’ I think it is a small group of people who are not happy with what’s going on and trying to make political hay out of it.”


The big question now is: What can be done to get Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and the Democratic-dominated legislature to be more attentive to the concerns and needs of rural Colorado?

“We understand that some rural areas still feel under-represented and are not being heard. We remain committed to listening more and working with local communities all across Colorado,” Gov. Hickenlooper said in an email response Friday.

Eric Brown, director of communications for the governor, said Hickenlooper will continue to reach out to Weld County and other rural areas.

“The vote in Weld County doesn’t change our intent to continue talking to residents there or in other counties,” Brown said. “The governor held community meetings this fall on the eastern plains, in southern Colorado and on the Western Slope — and he’s been in Weld County four times in the past two months.”

Conway said the county commissioners began the journey in June with the recognition that the political divide exists, and it’s not going away.

“I think we’re going to be at the Legislature in January looking for ways to do this. We’re going to be engaging with our state legislators who, quite frankly, have been AWOL,” Conway said.

Even though 56 percent of the voters (more than 36,260) voted against the 51st state, Conway takes solace in the fact that 44 percent (28,107 yes votes) wanted a change.

“Clearly, there’s frustration out there that needs to be addressed,” Conway said. “Do we really think the governor would be saying, ‘I’m going to come to Weld County more often. That I’m going to listen more. That I’ve got to lean in more. I’ve got to have more of a dialogue here,’ if we hadn’t had this discussion? I doubt it.”

The Divide Goes Beyond Denver

If you ask Conway, the political divide between rural and urban areas isn’t just about the Denver-metro lawmakers. Conway called out Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley, as being part of the problem.

“I think we accomplished a lot in the last few months in terms of opening up this dialogue, getting attention at the state capitol, getting the attention of legislators, including some of our own legislators in Weld County who were, quite frankly, part of the problem,” Conway said. “When you have a Dave Young, who votes against oil and gas bills that are absolutely paramount to Weld County. I want to see if he’s going to listen more. Is he going to engage more? I couldn’t get a meeting last year during the legislative session with Rep. Young. Is he going to become an active participant in this dialogue? Does he recognize there’s a problem out there?”

In response to Conway’s comments, Young said he’s had numerous interactions with Conway.

“I’m a little disappointed that he would say that he tried to set up a meeting with me and that he couldn’t get it done,” Young said. “I met with all five commissioners, at their request, after the flooding occurred to really get a sense of what was going on in the county and tell them what I was working on. I make myself extremely available. He has attended my town hall meetings that I’ve had. I’m a little surprised that he would say that I’m unavailable.”

Young said his job is to represent the people in his district.

“There are other representatives who represent other parts of northern Colorado that are primarily rural. My district, I don’t know if you really can call it urban but I don’t think it would be called rural,” Young said. “I know from lots of conversations with people in my district that we’re very sensitive to the issues of rural folks. Our economy in Weld County is driven primarily by agriculture, and that we need to really look out for the concerns of the ag community. Certainly, we’ve gotten economic benefits from the energy sector, as well, and oil and gas. I’m trying to work pretty carefully with them as well to make sure that we balance the needs of our economy and the need to make sure people’s health and safety are protected.”


Kirkmeyer said a positive thing that came out of the 51st state initiative was the Phillips County plan which would set representation throughout the state based on geography rather than population.

“That is something we will continue to work on and push,” Kirkmeyer said. “This is just the first chapter.”

The Phillips County plan would base either the state House or Senate representation on area instead of population, similar to Congress in which the House of Representatives is based on population, but the Senate has two senators from every state no matter the population.

“We look forward to working with those counties who put this on the ballot. We have been working on this Phillips County idea, which came out of this,” Conway said. “Without this discussion, we would never have come up with this Phillips County idea. I think that’s gaining momentum. Quite frankly, I think that potentially could be the solution out there. We’ll see as we proceed forward.”

Ferrandino said it’s his understanding that based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision, the Phillips County plan would be unconstitutional.

“Everyone I talked to and all of our non-partisan legal staff seems to think the court is pretty clear,” he said. “While I understand the idea around it, if you do it based on counties, there are counties that have a few thousand people and giving them more representation might be a worthwhile goal, but the over 600,00 people who live in Denver, who I represent over 10 percent of them, losing their representation is a problem and making them have less of a voice is not a fair way either.”

Ferrandino said there has been division in the state before, but not to the point of trying to form a new state.

“Every state goes through that. Colorado is changing both demographically and politically over the last couple of decades, and that’s going to continue,” Ferrandino said. “Anytime change happens, there are always people who try to stop change and that causes issues.”

John Straayer, a political analyst and political science professor for 47 years at Colorado State University, said the Phillips County plan is a non-starter because of the Reynolds vs. Sims 1964 Supreme Court case that ruled that all districts in any state legislature must be equal in population.

“The case law is very settled on that matter,” Straayer said. “Then there was one specific to Colorado, and it just blows my mind that nobody seems to have looked at it or paid attention to it. That followed Reynolds v. Sims the same year and the case is called Lucas v. Colorado. The peculiar thing for me through all of this is how in the world does this talk about the Phillips plan keeps going and going and going without some very clear recognition that it’s going to fly in the face of settled law, and that law has been settled now for half a century. You can’t do it. It’s unconstitutional.”


Young agrees there are some urban/rural issues to discuss, but he thinks most issues are more complicated than that.

“I’m not sure I saw solutions being brought forward through the whole conversation on the 51st state, but we have issues around water that are of concern to everybody in the state,” Young said. “Agriculture uses 84 percent of our water, and they’re already claiming that there are impending shortages. If agriculture is affected, we’re all affected. It’s a complicated situation that we need to work together to resolve.

“Education is an issue that’s complicated. That cuts across urban versus rural. We’ve got children all across the state in small or large communities that need better access to education and quality education.”

Young agrees that some people don’t feel as if they have a voice at the table, which to him sounds like a communication problem.

“It’s of concern to me when people say they want to be heard, but then they want to isolate or separate themselves from those they expect to have listen to them,” he said. “That doesn’t seem to be an effective solution.”

He added, “I think if you feel like you’re not being heard that you should be working harder to make sure you’re heard, and to me separating or seceding from the state has the opposite effect. I want to say without equivocation that I am certainly willing to work with others, whether they be Republicans or Democrats or other parties, to be part of the process of coming up with solutions. We have to craft solutions that work for all Coloradans.”

Ferrandino said there is a shift in population happening nationwide with more people moving to urban and suburban areas.

“That has implications, but when you look at the Flood (Disaster Study) Committee, it’s being chaired by a Republican (Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley) and Democrat (Young), both from Weld County,” Ferrandino said. “I think people in urban areas understand the issues and try to understand the issues in rural areas, and rural areas try to understand the issues in urban areas. They’re different, and we have to balance both of those. But we’re all one state and we have to look out for the best interests of the entire state.”

Ferrandino believes it’s vital to have an open-door policy and listen to everyone.

“It doesn’t mean you always agree, but everyone has to have the right to have their voice heard,” Ferrandino said. “A lot of people who say we won’t listen never come down to talk to us. It’s funny that Sean says we don’t listen when he’s always welcome to call me and always welcome to come and have a meeting with me, and he has had meetings with me. The best policies are when people sit around the table and discuss things in a meaningful way, that they understand that they’re not going to get everything that they want. A 51st state strategy is about getting everything you want. It’s saying. “We don’t want to compromise.’ It’s kind of like the Republicans in D.C. who shut down the government. ‘We don’t want to negotiate. We want our way or no way at all.’ ”

Straayer thinks the debate will continue between rural versus urban residents.

“The grievances that some folks have felt being slighted perhaps or not having their voice heard adequately in the legislature, I think, that concern will probably continue,” Straayer said. “There will be continued efforts to press the rural message and the rural agenda. The fact of the matter is that the people live on the Front Range and the urban area. That’s where political clout is. I think if the rural areas that lean heavily Republican want to have their concerns addressed more effectively, they’ve got to get more Republicans elected.”

More 51st State Initiative coverage here.