Interview: Nathan Fey, director of #Colorado’s outdoor recreation office, ferries river #conservation and rural economic development skills into his new job — The Colorado Sun

Here’s an interview with Nathan Fey from Jason Blevins that’s running in The Colorado Sun. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

Nathan Fey is the new director of the Colorado Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry.

Fey, who has served as acting director for the past month, is a sixth-generation Coloradan who spent 12 years as Colorado’s regional director for American Whitewater. He grew the national organization’s network of regional paddling groups to more than 20 from four and fostered the development of recreational water rights so communities could build whitewater parks.

Fey, an accomplished kayaker, replaces Luis Benitez, the climber who founded the state’s outdoor recreation office — the second in the nation — four years ago and helped build a growing coalition of state outdoor recreation offices across the country.

Nathan Fey, seen here paddling the Lower Dolores River in an Alpacka raft, is a veteran kayaker who served 12 years as Colorado’s stewardship director for American Whitewater. He is the new director of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office. (Photo courtesy Nathan Fey)

On the opportunities for growing the outdoor recreation economy in Colorado …

“Here along the Front Range, in Larimer, Summit, Boulder, Gilpin, I see an opportunity to learn from how impacted those landscapes have been, particularly on the Arapahoe and Roosevelt National Forests. We are in discussions with a big range of stakeholders to figure out how we can disperse that use, manage it better so that we are not having such a huge footprint on the land. So the opportunity is, one, correcting the mistake, and two, learning from that and being able to implement new strategies, and perhaps new tools, in other parts of the state that don’t have those issues yet, but are interested in growing their rec economy and will potentially have to address overuse or mismanagement in the future. So now we can stay in front of that one.

“On the development side, I look at communities like Nucla, Naturita and places like Craig; their identity and their economy has been one thing and they are on the cusp of transitioning into something new. They’ve got this incredible wealth of public lands and the Yampa River and the San Miguel River, BLM and Forest Service right out their backdoor. There’s an opportunity there to improve public access and safety and use of those places and create an amenity that draws visitors and more money and more investment.

“It’s about recognizing the diversity of landscapes and attributes we have in the state. Everybody thinks of Colorado as being mountains and ski resorts and what’s accessible from the Front Range. We have incredible opportunities in the San Luis Valley with the Great Sand Dunes, but beyond that, it’s climbing in Penitente Canyon and the trail system surrounding Del Norte and the investment that valley is making into improving river recreation. That just hasn’t been on people’s radar. It’s an example of what we are seeing around the state, where we’ve got really high-quality outdoor opportunities but I guess we just haven’t been marketing them or managing them appropriately.”

Colorado executes about-face on Clean Water Act, but not everyone agrees — @WaterEdCO

Colorado Rivers. Credit:

From Water Education Colorado (Jerd Smith):

Colorado is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to significantly alter new Clean Water Act rules proposed by the Trump Administration, saying the new rules will leave thousands of miles of streams with fewer protections than they have had in nearly 50 years.

In comments submitted to the EPA last week, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser called for a halt to any rollback of protections for streams and wetlands, and said the new rules threaten Colorado’s ability to manage safely the waters that originate here in mountain headwaters and which eventually flow to 19 other U.S. states and Mexico.

“We don’t hate everything that is in the new rule,” Weiser said, such as the affirmation that states need to control their own waters and ongoing protection for farmers. “But these comments reflect critical concerns that need to be addressed.”

Weiser’s actions represent another major shift in Colorado’s relationship with the 1972 Clean Water Act (CWA).

In 2015, shortly after the Obama Administration approved a controversial expansion of the CWA, Colorado’s then-Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, a Republican, sued to stop the rules, along with 11 other states, winning an injunction that remains in place.

Now, under Democrat Weiser, the state has reversed course, pulling out of that 2015 lawsuit and seeking to stop the Trump Administration from dismantling key parts of the CWA and removing what they believe are important protections.

Dozens of environmental and policy groups in Colorado, fearful that the new rules will wipe out more wetlands and negatively impact thousands of small streams and aquatic areas which are crucial to the state’s watersheds, support Weiser’s actions. Among them are Trout Unlimited, Conservation Colorado, the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP).

Melinda Kassen is a longtime Colorado water attorney who now serves as general counsel to the TRCP. “Our constituents, hunters and anglers specifically, are about the most pro clean water of any constituency you could have. They want those habitats to be protected and clean and still there,” Kassen said.

Some water utilities and agriculture groups, however, are backing the 2019 proposed rules, though they believe more clarity will help make the act easier to administer.

“It’s huge for us,” said Taylor Szilagyi, spokeswoman for the Colorado Farm Bureau. “It’s not perfect, but generally we’re very supportive of it.” Szilagyi said the newly proposed rules remove much of the uncertainty that farmers have been forced to deal with over the years, including whether their irrigation ditches and canals are subject to the act.

The Colorado Water Congress, which represents some 400 water utilities and farmers and ranchers, also backs the proposed rules, anticipating they will make the water project permitting process faster, more predictable and less costly for members.

“The CWC is concerned with the predictability and certainty of whether a water body is subject to the Clean Water Act and in reducing costs and delays in obtaining CWA permits. The changes reflected in the proposed rules are generally welcome, but additional clarification is required…to achieve fully the predictability and certainty our members seek,” the Colorado Water Congress wrote in a letter submitted to the EPA on April 15.

The CWA has been legally hamstrung for years over murky definitions about which waterways fall under its jurisdiction, which wetlands must be regulated, what kinds of dredge and fill work in waterways should be permitted, what authority the CWA has over activities on farms and western irrigation ditches, and what industries and wastewater treatment plants can discharge to streams.

Administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA, the CWA is credited with making U.S. waters some of the cleanest in the world. But it has also been, at times, fiendishly difficult to administer, in part because the U.S. is home to widely different geographies.

Go to the East or Midwest, and massive rivers, such as the Ohio and Missouri, are filled with barge and shipping traffic and are clearly “navigable.” That was the term early courts used to determine how water would be regulated. If a stream was navigable, it was subject to federal law.

But Colorado and other Western states rely on shallow streams that don’t carry traditional commercial traffic. The United States Geological Survey estimates that 44 percent of Colorado’s streams are intermittent, meaning they are sometimes dry, and 24 percent are ephemeral, meaning they can be dry for months or years and appear only after extraordinary rain or snow. Just 32 percent of Colorado streams are classified as being perennial, meaning they flow year round.

Under the new rules, only perennial and intermittent streams, or those deemed navigable, would be regulated, meaning that thousands of miles of streams in Colorado and other Western states would no longer be protected under the law.

Arriving at definitions that apply consistently across the country has been a tortured, and some believe, unsuccessful process. Still, by 2008 the EPA had arrived at a set of policy definitions, known as the 2008 guidance, that established better standards for defining when a stream was perennial, when it was intermittent, and when it was ephemeral. The same was true for better guidelines for wetlands. But significant inconsistencies within that guidance, due to conflicting legal opinions, remained, opening the door for the Obama Administration to simplify the act, and in doing so, include more waters and wetlands under the act’s protection.

Within months, industry groups successfully sued to stop the 2015 rules from being implemented.

The big question now is where to go from here. The Colorado Water Congress would like to see the newly proposed 2019 rules remain in place, with additional work done to clarify key aspects and obtain more consensus among the competing interests, according to Executive Director Doug Kemper.

Colorado is hopeful the EPA and Corps will, at the urging of many states, go back to using the 2008 guidance, rather than adopting the much looser guidance now being proposed. But few believe that will happen under the Trump Administration.

As a result, environmental groups expect they will be forced to sue to stop the new rules from taking effect, just as industry groups sued to stop the 2015 Obama Administration rules from being implemented.

“We will be part of the fight to try to stop any rules that leaves the duck factory and the prairie potholes of the central Midwest and headwater streams across the West and elsewhere unprotected,” Kassen said.

“But what we really need is change that can withstand political swings. The 2015 rules did not assuage critics, and it did not build lasting change,” she said.

Weiser isn’t ready to say whether Colorado would join a new lawsuit challenging the 2019 proposed rules.

“This regulatory system requires a difficult balancing act that addresses a range of interests and is mindful of the role of federal and state authorities,” he said. “It is really important that the Corps of Engineers and EPA take their time and think about the relevant issues and develop an approach that can last.

“If we end up moving back to the 2008 rules, which we would urge, I would hope it would be lasting because the extent of litigation and uncertainty around these rules isn’t healthy for anybody,” he said.

Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, via email at or @jerd_smith.

April Long Appointed To Water Quality Commission — Aspen Public Radio

Roaring Fork River back in the day

From Aspen Public Radio (Zoe Rom):

Governor Jared Polis appointed Long to the commission last week. She’ll continue serving as Aspen’s stormwater manager and clean river program manager. Long first started working for the city in 2008.

The commission helps develop standards for water quality for groundwater and lakes, rivers and streams in Colorado.

Pending confirmation in the Senate, Long will serve until February of 2022.

2019 #COleg: #Colorado Senate Transportation and Energy Committee passes [SB19-181, Protect Public Welfare Oil And Gas Operations] 4-3 after 12 hours of testimony #KeepItInTheGround #ActOnClimate

Wattenberg Oil and Gas Field via Free Range Longmont

From The Greeley Tribune (Tyler Silvy):

The Senate Transportation and Energy Committee passed [SB19-181, Protect Public Welfare Oil And Gas Operations] on a 4-3, party-line vote after 12 hours of testimony from the public, government officials and industry officials…

The Colorado Senate Transportation and Energy Committee convened the first hearing for Senate Bill 19-181, dubbed Protect Public Welfare Oil and Gas Operations.

The bill would make a variety of changes to oil and gas law in Colorado, including the following:

  • It would change the mission of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission from one of fostering oil and gas development to one of regulating the industry. It also changes the makeup of the COGCC board.
  • It would provide explicit local control on oil and gas development, opening the door for local government-instituted bans or moratoriums, which have previously been tied up in court battles because the industry has been considered one of state interest.
  • It would change the way forced or statutory pooling works, requiring a higher threshold of obtained mineral rights before companies can force pool other mineral rights owners in an area.
  • Testimony during the committee hearing ran the gamut, including state officials, industry officials, business interests and residents, and it was expected to go well into the night…

    Talking about the rallies beforehand — both pro-181 and anti-181 groups — as well as the overflow rooms necessary for all of the attendees, [Carl] Erickson said the scene was wild…

    Dan Gibbs, executive director of department of natural resources; and Jeff Robbins, acting director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission; both came out in support of the legislation.

    So, too, did Erin Martinez, who survived a home explosion in Firestone that killed her brother and her husband.

    “With proper regulations and inspections and pressure testing, this entire tragedy could have been avoided,” Martinez said in closing.

    The Senate Transportation and Energy Committee opened the hearing with testimony from Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, the measure’s co-sponsor, according to reporting from The Denver Post.

    As he told The Tribune on Sunday, he said during the hearing that the Tuesday hearing was the first of several — with six total to come.

    “At the forefront, objective of this bill is to ensure that we are protecting the health and safety and welfare of Coloradans, the environment, wildlife, when it comes to extraction of oil and gas across the state,” said Fenberg, D-Boulder, according to The Post.

    Governor Polis Announces Water Appointments

    Aspen trees in autumn. Photo: Bob West via the Colorado State Forest Service.

    From email from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources:

    Governor Polis has announced three new board appointments to the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

    · Gail Schwartz of Basalt, Colorado, representing the Colorado River basin
    · Jackie Brown of Oak Creek, Colorado, representing the Yampa-White River basin
    · Jessica Brody of Denver, Colorado, representing the City and County of Denver

    In addition, the Governor appointed Russ George as the Director of the Inter-Basin Compact Committee in addition to five gubernatorial appointees.

    · Aaron Citron
    · Mely Whiting
    · Robert Sakata
    · Patrick Wells
    · Paul Bruchez

    “I’m excited to work with these appointments,” said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director of the Department of Natural Resources. “Their collective experience is unmatched.”

    Gail Schwartz has spent over two decades serving Colorado in both appointed and elected office. Jackie Brown brings a diverse background in natural resources and is a leader in the water community as the current Chair of the Yampa-White-Green basin roundtable. Finally, as General Counsel for Denver Water and formerly with the Denver City Attorney’s Office, Jessica Brody brings both municipal and environmental law experience.

    “I’m looking forward to working with the newly appointed board and IBCC members to continue implementing Colorado’s Water Plan. They bring valued expertise and leadership to the water community,” said Rebecca Mitchell, Director of the CWCB. “We sincerely thank the outgoing Board members and IBCC appointments for their service. Their dedication has been instrumental on numerous policy and planning efforts, including bringing a diversity of perspectives to Colorado’s Water Plan.”

    Russ George is a fourth generation native of the Rifle, Colorado area and brings a depth of state government and public service. Russ was instrumental in creating the IBCC and basin roundtables.

    “As the first champion of the IBCC and roundtable process, there’s no one better equipped to lead the IBCC. We’re embarking on a future of great opportunity in water, and Russ is the perfect choice to navigate the times ahead,” said Gibbs.

    Dan Gibbs confirmed as Director of the #Colorado Department of Natural Resources

    Dan Gibbs via Twitter

    From The Summit Daily (Deepan Dutta):

    The senate confirmed Gibbs unanimously in a 34-0 vote, with one abstention. Gibbs had already been preparing for the role in the weeks since he resigned as Summit County commissioner, meeting staff and attending meetings to get up to speed on the department’s work.

    The state agencies Gibbs will oversee include the Division of Forestry; Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety; the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission; Colorado Parks and Wildlife; the Colorado Avalanche Information Center; the State Land Board; the Water Conservation Board and the state’s Division of Water Resources.

    Gibbs said he was thrilled to be confirmed, and was already engaged in high-level work, including the seven-state Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency plans that is seeking to create an updated water distribution compact in the West.

    “It’s really amazing being a part of that, and being part of those important conversations happening right now,” Gibbs said. “What we do will have legacy impact on how we manage the Colorado River moving forward. It involves everything from human services to road and bridge to environmental health, I’m learning about a lot of different positions.”

    Along with conserving water, other precious natural resources Gibbs oversees includes Parks and Wildlife, which will be the largest department under Gibbs’ purview with 900 employees. One of his priorities with CPW is to find a more sustainable funding model for the agency aside from hunting and fishing license fees…

    Gibbs, who had served as a Congressional staffer, state house representative and state senator before his eight years as commissioner, said that his experience working at the federal, state and local levels made him realize the unnecessary barriers that spring up between various levels of government. He plans to use his experience to negotiate among the different players and break down those barriers.

    “I want to work to try to demolish those silos isolating them from each other,” Gibbs said. “I want to look at how we manage our land, water and minerals and do what’s best for Colorado as a whole, not just piecemeal management based on federal, state and local ownership. I want a more holistic approach on how we manage and steward on natural resources.”

    Ultimately, Gibbs’ most important responsibility as steward of the state’s natural resources is to preserve them for later generations, so they can experience and enjoy the grandeur and freedom this wild country has to offer.

    “I have two young kids, and every day I wake up thinking about how we can shape natural resources policy not just now, but for future generations,” Gibbs said. “With 80,000 people moving to the state every year, a lot of it depends on how we manage growth, and how to avoid loving our natural resources to death.”

    “More and more women are running their own businesses (and) are taking on leadership on farms and ranches and are taking on leadership in other aspects of (agriculture) as well” — Kate Greenberg

    Kate Greenberg. Photo credit: National Young Farmers Coalition

    Here’s an interview with Kate Greenberg from KUNC (Esther Honig). Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    Honig: You’ve worked with young people as a leader with the National Young Farmers Coalition. Can you talk about ways we could lower barriers that right now make farming for young people pretty difficult?

    Greenberg: This is sort of the nexus of a lot of these challenges. For a lot of young people, whether you’re coming at it from a multi-generational angle, or you’re starting fresh, there are tons of challenges.

    There are enough challenges with just the weather, with the hail storm that can wipe out your entire crop and water. But then you get the challenges of access and affordability, especially around land. The rising cost of land is prohibiting lots of young people from either entering the business or scaling up their businesses. Same is true with access to credit and capital. Financing a farm business is tough, especially when you’re starting out on your own.

    So in my mind we’ve got a ton of things to face but the way I see the world is that they are also opportunities. Agriculture has risen to those opportunities at every obstacle in the past and I’m excited to see how we do so again.