Land & Water Conservation Fund saved for the short term — The Wilderness Society

Here’s the release from The Wilderness Society (Max Greenburg):

Congress struck a deal on Dec. 18 to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund for three years—a hard-fought win after The Wilderness Society and our members spent months asking lawmakers to rescue the program.

Temporary reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was passed as part of a federal appropriations bill that will fund our government for the coming year.

This small victory for LWCF probably could not have happened without the rallying cries of our supporters and those in the conservation community who sent countless messages to their members of Congress over the past six months. Thank you!

“The three-year extension and increased funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund included in the bill, while falling far short of the permanent reauthorization the program deserves, is a good place to start that vital work,” said Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society, in a statement. “Local communities will now see the impact of a revived LWCF that will need bipartisan champions to guarantee a long term solution for this critical program.”

The short-term renewal of LWCF is unequivocally a positive development that gives more time to America’s most important parks conservation program. While we are still seeking permanent reauthorization and full funding for LWCF, this step forward shows once again the importance of speaking out for the wildlands we care about, even in the face of daunting odds.

Months of hard work by our members got us here

For months, our members helped us tell Congress and President Obama how important the Land and Water Conservation Fund is to you and your communities. This helped build bipartisan support in Washington D.C., even though a few entrenched anti-conservationists stood in the way.

The 50-year authorization for the fund, which takes money from offshore oil and gas royalties and invests it in conservation projects across the nation, lapsed on Sept. 30. Under any other Congress, LWCF would have been renewed due to the fact that it enjoys broad support and has been very effective in protecting wildlands without relying on taxpayer money.

But, partly due to obstructionist tactics used by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, the task of renewing the project became a major feat. Ultimately, Bishop let the fund expire without giving it a hearing. This was part of a larger effort, backed by special interests, to lock up more federal lands and sell them off for mining, drilling and other development.

Over the fall, as our supporters tweeted and sent comments, more and more leaders from both sides of the aisle answered the call of the people by pledging their support for LWCF. President Obama even used his weekly radio address to call on Congress to renew the program. All of those steps led to today—and with your continued help, they will eventually lead to permanent funding and reauthorization.

LWCF protects wildlands without relying on taxpayers

Created in 1964, the Land and Water Conservation fund takes royalties from offshore oil and gas leasing and gives those funds to the government to purchase land for parks and open spaces. The program has touched virtually every county in the nation—funding roughly 41,000 projects in all, ranging from the Grand Canyon to historic battlefields to local recreation centers.

While it has been a huge success, the Land and Water Conservation Fund’s potential has never been fully realized because Congress habitually raids the program’s trust fund to pay for unrelated projects, leaving vulnerable landscapes in limbo and diminishing opportunities for Americans to enjoy the great outdoors. This year, the program was dealt its cruelest blow yet, when Congress allowed it to expire. Today’s victory means we have a fighting chance at restoring it to its rightful place.

Full reauthorization still needed for time-tested fund

Though we just got some good news on LWCF, it is vital that we remain vigilant to ensure that the program is extended past the new 2016 expiration date and permanently funded. By voting to fully reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Congress would ensure that future generations have access to healthy green spaces, parks, trails and places to watch wildlife. To get them to that point, we will need your voices to stay loud.

Stay tuned for more news on this effort and how you can help us get it over the finish line.

Click on the thumbnail below to explore highlights of “LWCF treasures”:


Research paper: Western water and #climatechange — Ecological Society of America


Here’s the abstract (Michael Dettinger, Bradley Udall, and Aris Geogakakos):

The western United States is a region long defined by water challenges. Climate change adds to those historical challenges, but does not, for the most part, introduce entirely new challenges; rather climate change is likely to stress water supplies and resources already in many cases stretched to, or beyond, natural limits. Projections are for continued and, likely, increased warming trends across the region, with a near certainty of continuing changes in seasonality of snowmelt and streamflows, and a strong potential for attendant increases in evaporative demands. Projections of future precipitation are less conclusive, although likely the northern-most West will see precipitation increases while the southernmost West sees declines. However, most of the region lies in a broad area where some climate models project precipitation increases while others project declines, so that only increases in precipitation uncertainties can be projected with any confidence. Changes in annual and seasonal hydrographs are likely to challenge water managers, users, and attempts to protect or restore environmental flows, even where annual volumes change little. Other impacts from climate change (e.g., floods and water-quality changes) are poorly understood and will likely be location dependent.

In this context, four iconic river basins offer glimpses into specific challenges that climate change may bring to the West. The Colorado River is a system in which overuse and growing demands are projected to be even more challenging than climate-change-induced flow reductions. The Rio Grande offers the best example of how climate-change-induced flow declines might sink a major system into permanent drought. The Klamath is currently projected to face the more benign precipitation future, but fisheries and irrigation management may face dire straits due to warming air temperatures, rising irrigation demands, and warming waters in a basin already hobbled by tensions between endangered fisheries and agricultural demands. Finally, California’s Bay-Delta system is a remarkably localized and severe weakness at the heart of the region’s trillion-dollar economy. It is threatened by the full range of potential climate-change impacts expected across the West, along with major vulnerabilities to increased flooding and rising sea levels.

Top U.S. tornado videos of 2015 — #COwx

Raw Video of Tornado in Kiowa County, Colorado near Eads 5/9/15:

Simla, CO Tornadoes – June 4, 2015:

June 5, 2015: Kit Carson Co., CO Cyclic Tornadic Supercell:

NISP: “These studies are complex, requiring significant resources and specialized expertise” — Eric Wilkinson

From BizWest (Dallas Heltzell):

“Participants in NISP began work on studies required by the National Environmental Policy Act in 2004,” said Eric Wilkinson, general manager of the district known as Northern Water. “These studies are required to look at all facets of the project to clearly define the project’s impact on the environment as well as ways to avoid, minimize or mitigate those impacts. These studies are complex, requiring significant resources and specialized expertise. That is evidenced by the nearly 12 years and approximately $15 million that the participants have invested to date.

“Most studies have been completed but some require additional time, thus the reason for the extension,” said Wilkinson on Wednesday in a prepared statement. “The project participants have supported, and continue to support, a thorough NEPA process to assure the Final Environmental Impact Statement is comprehensive, complete, and defendable. Participants are working diligently to assure this extension has minimal effect on the beginning of project construction.”

The Corps said it still has more than a dozen tasks to complete, including study of the voluminous number of public comments it received when a draft version of the EIS was released in June. That document prompted a chorus of official complaints. The federal Environmental Protection Agency wrote a 20-page letter in September contending that the Corps’ draft EIS lacked sufficient information to adequately predict the project’s potential impacts or compliance with provisions of the Clean Water Act. The Fort Collins City Council, acting on its staff’s recommendation, voted unanimously to oppose NISP in its current form. City officials in Greeley, which is not a NISP participant, said the reduced flows would force that city to spend $10 million on extra water filtration, and its Water and Sewer Department wrote that the Corps’ water-quality analysis was insufficient and not in compliance with NEPA.

Larimer County commissioners, however, passed a resolution in support of NISP…

About a dozen cities and towns and four water districts have signed up to buy water from the project if it wins final approval from the Corps.

Supporters see the project as crucial to keeping up with the growing demands of development, industry and agriculture along the Front Range, as well as capturing rainfall and snowmelt in wet years that otherwise would flow out of the state.

Opponents have said it would drain water from the Poudre as it flows through Fort Collins, limiting opportunities for recreation that include tubing, whitewater kayaking and fishing,

Northern Water’s boundaries include about 880,000 people living on 1.6 million acres in portions of Boulder, Broomfield, Larimer, Weld, Logan, Morgan, Sedgwick and Washington counties.

Map of the Northern Integrated Supply Project via Northern Water
Map of the Northern Integrated Supply Project via Northern Water

Interior: Drought in the #ColoradoRiver Basin Insights using open data

Screen shot December 18, 2015 from Interior
Screen shot December 18, 2015 from Interior

Say hello to this cool new website from the US Department of Interior. It uses and Open Data to tell the story of the long-term drought in the Colorado River Basin.

“…this is a new time and Denver Water is a different organization than back in the day.” — Mike King

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

After nearly six years on the job, Mike King is leaving the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.

The Montrose native who has headed the department since Gov. John Hickenlooper came into office in 2010 announced Thursday that he was trading in that job for one some Western Slope folks might find, well, somewhat interesting.

He’s to be the new director of planning at Denver Water.

In his new job, King is to oversee Denver Water’s long-range planning for treated and raw water supplies, demand and supply management, water rights, environmental compliance, watershed management and climate change preparations.

“As the son of a West Slope water lawyer and a Wayne Aspinall Democrat, this is a new time and Denver Water is a different organization than back in the day,” King said. “They’ve been moving in the right direction, and I look forward to helping them get there. They’re about as progressive as any agency I can imagine, so it’s all good.”

King added, however, that people should watch what he does and hold him accountable for it.

Hickenlooper, who said he’s still looking for a replacement, praised King for all the work he’s done during his administration, including helping to devise a statewide water plan and working on compromises on oil and gas drilling practices.

During his time on the job, King also helped Hickenlooper merge the department’s parks and wildlife divisions, and helped devise Colorado’s roadless rule with the U.S. Forest Service.

“Mike brokered the oil and gas task force, helped create the state’s first-ever water plan and recently launched Colorado Beautiful, the most ambitious trails and recreation expansion in a decade,” Hickenlooper said. “His ability to balance industry and conservation concerns is unparalleled.”

Several groups have praised King for the job he’s done leading the department.

“During that time, he oversaw important natural resource projects,” said Pete Maysmith, executive director of Conservation Colorado. “We have appreciated Mike’s sophisticated understanding of these very complex issues and support on environmental priorities, such as protection of the Roan Plateau, negotiation of a strong sage grouse plan and advocacy on behalf of the in-stream flow program.”

King, who has worked at the department for about a decade under several executive directors before becoming one himself, said he was pleased with what he’s accomplished, but that it was time to move on.

“I put my heart and soul into it and moved the ball,” he said. “We’ve done incredible things with the water plan, the Rio Grande cooperative agreement, and watched Denver Water reach agreement with the Colorado River cooperative, so we’ve made some incredible progress on water.”

Denver Water Collection System via Denver Water
Denver Water Collection System via Denver Water