Reclamation releases blueprint for implementation of Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in 2022: $1.66 billion investment provided to Reclamation annually for next five years

An irrigation canal in the Palo Verde Valley near Blythe, CA. Photo credit: Bureau of Reclamation

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Robert Manning):

The Bureau of Reclamation today submitted its initial spend plan for fiscal year 2022 funding allocations authorized in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to the U.S. Congress. This spend plan represents a blueprint for how Reclamation will invest in communities to address drought across the West as well as greater water infrastructure throughout the country. Reclamation will be provided $1.66 billion annually to support a range of infrastructure improvements for fiscal years 2022 through 2026.

“The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is the largest investment in the resilience of physical and natural systems in American history,” said Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo. “Reclamation’s funding allocation for 2022 is focused on developing lasting solutions to help communities tackle the climate crisis while advancing environmental justice.”

“The Bureau of Reclamation serves as the water and power infrastructure backbone for the American West. The law represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve our infrastructure while promoting job creation,” said Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton. “The funding identified in this spend plan is the first-step in implementing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and will bolster climate resilience and protect communities through a robust investment in infrastructure.”

The FY 2022 spend plan allocations include:

  • $420 million for rural water projects that benefit various Tribal and non-Tribal underserved communities by increasing access to potable water.
  • $245 million for WaterSMART Title XVI that supports the planning, design, and construction of water recycling and reuse projects.
  • $210 million for construction of water storage, groundwater storage and conveyance project infrastructure.
  • $160 million for WaterSMART Grants to support Reclamation efforts to work cooperatively with states, Tribes, and local entities to implement infrastructure investments to increase water supply.
  • $100 million for aging infrastructure for major repairs and rehabilitation of facilities.
  • $100 million for safety of dams to implement safety modifications of critical infrastructure.
  • $50 million for the implementation of Colorado River Basin drought contingency plans to support the goal of reducing the risk of Lake Mead and Lake Powell reaching critically low water levels.
  • $18 million for WaterSMART’s Cooperative Watershed Management Program for watershed planning and restoration projects for watershed groups.
  • $15 million for Research and Development’s Desalination and Water Purification Program for construction efforts to address ocean or brackish water desalination.
  • $8.5 million for Colorado River Basin Endangered Species Recovery and Conservation Programs.
  • Detailed information on the programs and funding provided in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the FY 2022 BIL Spend Plan and materials from recent stakeholder listening sessions are available at http://www.usbr.gov/bil.

    Interior Department Seeks Nominations for Committee to Replace Derogatory Names

    A Colorado pikeminnow taken from the Colorado River near Grand Junction, and in the arms of Danielle Tremblay, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife employee. Pikeminnows have been tracked swimming upstream for great distances to spawn in the 15-mile stretch of river between Palisade and Grand Junction. An apex predator in the Colorado, pikeminnows used to be found up to six feet long and weighing 100 pounds. Photo credit: Lori Martin, Colorado Parks and Wildlife via Aspen Journalism

    Here’s the release from the Department of Interior:

    The Department of the Interior announced today that it is seeking nominations for members of the new Advisory Committee on Reconciliation in Place Names. The committee will identify geographic names and federal land unit names that are considered derogatory and solicit proposals on replacement names.

    On November 19, 2021, Secretary Deb Haaland directed the National Park Service to form the committee as part of a broad effort to review and replace derogatory names of the nation’s geographic features. Secretary Haaland also declared “squaw” to be a derogatory term and instructed the Board on Geographic Names – the federal body tasked with naming geographic places – to implement procedures to remove the term from federal usage.

    “Too many of our nation’s lands and waters continue to perpetuate a legacy of oppression. This important advisory committee will be integral to our efforts to identify places with derogatory terms whose expiration dates are long overdue,” said Secretary Haaland. “I look forward to broad engagement from Tribes, civil rights scholars and academics, stakeholders, and the general public as we advance our goals of equity and inclusion.”

    “The establishment of this committee is a momentous step in making our nation’s public lands and waters more welcoming and open to people of all backgrounds,” said National Park Service Director Chuck Sams. “These committee members, who will reflect the diversity of America, will serve their country in an important way.”

    The Committee will consist of no more than 17 discretionary members to be appointed by the Secretary, including:

  • At least four members of an Indian Tribe;
  • At least one representative of a Tribal organization;
  • At least one representative of a Native Hawaiian organization;
  • At least four people with backgrounds in civil rights or race relations;
  • At least four people with expertise in anthropology, cultural studies, geography, or history; and
  • At least three members of the general public.
  • Nominations must include a resume providing an adequate description of the nominee’s qualifications, including information that would enable the Department to make an informed decision regarding meeting the membership requirements of the committee and contact information. More details on the committee and how to apply are available in the Federal Register.

    Nominations for the committee must be submitted to Joshua Winchell, Office of Policy, National Park Service, at joshua_winchell@nps.gov.

    Renewable Water Resources proposes selling San Luis Valley #water to Douglas County—SLV opposition organizes — The #Crestone Eagle #RioGrande

    The country’s second largest potato producing region, is in its 18th year of drought in 2020. The San Luis Valley in Colorado is known for its agriculture yet only has 6-7 inches of rainfall per year. San Luis Valley via National Geographic

    From The Crestone Eagle (Lisa Cyriacks):

    RWR’s proposal to Douglas County is, for an initial payment of $20 million, to build a pipeline that would bring 22,000 acre-feet of water from the San Luis Valley aquifer to the Front Range. If Douglas County agrees, the $20 million would come from ARPS stimulus money.

    Struggling with water scarcity, changing climate, and aquifer depletion, San Luis Valley residents object to the proposal. A formidable group has organized around the belief that there is no water available to move outside the San Luis Valley.

    Protect Our Water–San Luis Valley lists as members: 15 local water districts and entities; 22 cities and towns; 22 conservation and environmental groups; and two farm groups. On its website local governments in opposition to RWR’s proposal include the Rio Grande Water Conservation District and the Towns of Crestone and Saguache.

    Despite their marketing assertions, RWR’s plan to export water from the San Luis Valley was not devised by locals nor will it benefit the entire valley.

    RWR needs to find a customer like Douglas County to move its proposal forward. The plan relies on drawing water from the Upper Rio Grande Basin and exporting it to the Front Range. Without an identified end user for the exportation and sale of the water, RWR can’t file its plan in Colorado Water Court.

    While the project has been in the works for some time, many questions remain unanswered.

    RWR does not own municipal water rights, and RWR would need to buy wells and well rights before filing in court to convert irrigation water rights to municipal water rights.

    Until recently, RWR executives asserted specifics about project locations, timetables, or costs were uncertain because they are focused on winning valley support and filing a legal case in Colorado’s water court, which could take three to five years to process. That case would help determine whether the San Luis Valley has enough water for RWR to legally export without hurting existing users.

    In general, the proposal before Douglas County Commissioners reveals that RWR would build a wellfield northeast of Moffat. A pipeline would carry water north along state Highway 17, more than 1,000 feet up and over Poncha Pass to two access points along the South Platte River Basin, one at Antero Reservoir and another Elevenmile Reservoir, both in Park County.

    In addition, a $50 million “community fund” would be developed under the RWR proposal to assist local communities with schools, broadband or food banks, senior services or job training. A separate pool of money, about $68 million, would pay farmers and ranchers who agree to sell their water rights, known in agriculture circles as “buy and dry.”

    Those dollars will come from long-time private investors, according to Sean Duffy, a spokesman for RWR.

    An agreement using stimulus money would give Douglas County access to needed water at less than half the typical rate of $40,000 to $50,000 per acre-foot, said RWR spokesman Sean Duffy…

    Duffy also pointed out that both the water and economic status quo in the valley are not currently sustainable. Critics say the RWR project will only make the situation worse, while supporters argue it offers a more sustainable solution to the state’s water woes.

    The San Luis Valley is described as one of the most arid regions in Colorado, receiving less than 9 inches of precipitation annually. In recent years snowfall on the Sangre de Cristos has been perceptibly less, resulting in reduced stream flows and reduced recharge of the two aquifers below the valley floor.

    The shallow unconfined aquifer has been tapped with wells for crop irrigation for several generations and is over-appropriated. Below lies the confined aquifer which Renewable Water Resources believes holds a billion-acre foot of water.

    That one-billion-acre foot estimate is highly disputed by local water managers, farmers and ranchers.

    San Luis Valley Groundwater

    Since 2012 many farms and ranches in the valley have already made self-imposed cuts in irrigation to try and prevent further depletion of the shallow aquifer. A number of subdistricts have been formed as local farmers’ only way of buying more time to solve depletions to the aquifer in their own way. Each subdistrict has until 2031 to replenish water to a predetermined level. Failure to meet those targets could result in the State Engineer’s office shutting down wells until the aquifer reaches that target through unimpeded recharge with no groundwater pumping.

    RWR’s proposal is offering very similar benefits to those proposed by Stockman’s Water in 1998, a project that ultimately failed.

    Stockman’s Water proposed to export at least 100,000 acrefeet annually, mitigating any water losses by offering, in exchange, 25,000 to 50,000 acre-feet of senior water rights.

    Gary Boyce, the manager/ owner of Stockman’s Water, also promised a $3 million trust fund to be administered by Saguache County, and environmental benefits—more riparian and wetland habitat. Renewable Water Resources offers the potential opportunity to add over 3,000 acres to the Baca Wildlife Refuge located off of County Road T.

    Cleave Simpson has met with the Douglas County Commissioners. Using federal American Rescue Plan Act funds for the RWR proposal is a twist he didn’t see coming.

    “I think it’s unconscionable to use those federal dollars to diminish one community in support of another community,” he said. In addition to representing the San Luis Valley in the Colorado Senate, Simpson is the general manager of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, which is leading the opposition to the RWR plan.

    Simpson reminds us that there is a long history of legal fights over water export claims in the San Luis Valley. The Rio Grande Water Conservancy District already had money set aside to challenge the RWR proposal after the court awarded valley residents legal fees from a previous failed export case involving a developer in the 1970s, called American Water Development Incorporated.

    After decades, some of America’s most toxic sites will finally get cleaned up: New funding and the revival of a long-lapsed tax on chemical makers in the bipartisan infrastructure law mean cities like Newark will get money to restore toxic Superfund sites — The Washington Post

    Leviathan Creek below an abandoned open pit mine, an EPA Superfund site in the Sierra Nevada, where iron oxide deposits coat the stream bottom. (Photos by David Herbst)

    From The Washington Post (Dino Grandoni):

    The laboratories and other buildings that once housed a chemical manufacturer here in New Jersey’s most populous city have been demolished. More than 10,000 leaky drums and other containers once illegally stored here have long been removed. Its owner was convicted three decades ago.

    Yet the groundwater beneath the 4.4-acre expanse once occupied by White Chemical Corp. in Newark remains contaminated, given a lack of federal funding…

    But three decades after federal officials declared it one of America’s most toxic spots, it’s about to get a jolt. This plot in Newark is among more than four dozen toxic waste sites to get cleanup funding from the newly-enacted infrastructure law, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday, totaling $1 billion…

    On that same day in November that Freeman looked out at the White Chemical site, President Biden signed legislation reviving a polluter’s tax that will inject a new stream of cash into the nation’s troubled Superfund program. The renewed excise fees, which disappeared more than 25 years ago, are expected to raise $14.5 billion in revenue over the next decade and could accelerate cleanups of many sites that are increasingly threatened by climate change.

    The Superfund list includes more than 1,300 abandoned mines, radioactive landfills, shuttered military labs, closed factories and other contaminated areas across nearly all 50 states. They are the poisoned remnants of America’s emergence as a 20th-century industrial juggernaut.

    The 49 sites receiving money from the infrastructure law include a neighborhood in Florida with soil contaminated from treating wooden telephone poles, a former copper mine in Maine laced with leftover metals, and an old steel manufacturer in southern New Jersey where parts of the Golden Gate Bridge were fabricated.

    America’s toxic spots

    Many of these sites are also in poor and minority communities, such as Newark, where most residents are African American. Biden has said easing the pollution burden that Black, Latino and Native Americans bear is central to his environmental policy.

    No state boasts more Superfund sites than New Jersey. Some of them, such as the White Chemical site, have lingered on the agency’s “priorities list” for decades…

    The law that established the Superfund program in 1980 gives the EPA the power to compel polluters to clean up their noxious messes. But many of these companies have gone out of business, or in some cases, it is hard to find the culprits. Congress taxed the chemical and oil industry to create a trust fund for these orphaned sites, but the taxes expired in 1995.

    By the early 2000s, the trust fund was drained. The agency has grappled with a mounting list of costly and complex hazardous waste sites ever since…

    The new bipartisan infrastructure law reestablishes fees on the sale of more than 40 chemicals often found in fuels, plastics and other products, ranging from 44 cents to $9.74 per ton depending on the compound.

    The American Chemistry Council (ACC) and other groups lobbied unsuccessfully to defeat the proposal…

    Biden administration officials, however, said the tax revenue will provide a critical boost for underfunded projects. Carlton Waterhouse, Biden’s nominee to head the EPA’s land office, said that even after paying for projects that got no financial support last year, there will still be money left over…

    To fully clean up the ground where White Chemical once stood, crews will have to inject a cocktail of chemicals underground to break down lingering volatile organic compounds such as trichloroethene, which is linked to neurological problems and several kinds of cancer. Right now, no building can be constructed over the contaminated aquifer without the risk of hazardous fumes accumulating indoors…

    Until Friday, the EPA had to shelve the plan for nearly a decade because it cost $16.6 million. But with the tax reinstated and with Congress providing an additional $3.5 billion for the Superfund program, work in Newark and on dozens of other orphaned sites will begin “as soon as possible,” according to the agency.
    Global warming gives these projects even greater urgency. The Frelinghuysen Avenue lot is one of more than 900 toxic waste sites facing ever-increasing risks from rising seas, fiercer wildfires and other disasters driven by climate change, according to a 2019 report by the Government Accountability Office.

    Climate impacts could unleash hazardous waste at 60 percent of Superfund sites, mainly due to flooding. More than a dozen Superfund sites flooded after Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas Gulf Coast in 2017. In Newark, even a Category 1 hurricane could damage the White Chemical site, the GAO said…

    Reviving the chemical production fee is a step toward making the Superfund program operate as originally intended, with industry paying to clean up its messes even after companies go bankrupt. The tax will be up for renewal again in 2031.

    Tribes seek to secure their water rights as #ColoradoRiver dries — The #Nevada Current #crwua2021 #COriver #aridification

    From the 2018 Tribal Water Study, this graphic shows the location of the 29 federally-recognized tribes in the Colorado River Basin. Map credit: USBR

    Historically excluded from Colorado River negotiations, tribes are demanding to be included in policy discussions on how the water is managed.

    Ahead of a conference of the Colorado River Water Users Association in Las Vegas, a group of conservationists and tribal leaders held a press conference on the overuse of water within the Colorado River Basin Monday.

    “There’s a wide range of people who are a part of this but what weight does each individual state have when they come to the table? What weight does each tribe have?” said Timothy Williams, Chairman of the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe. “I don’t see any tribe at that signing table, yet our water is being used.”

    The Fort Mojave Tribe, whose reservation lies partially within Nevada, is one of 10 federally recognized tribes with reserved water rights in the Colorado River Basin. 

    Yet, the tribe has been left out of the policymaking process for the river despite having a senior priority date that supersedes even that of the Southern Nevada Water Authority in Clark County, meaning they take precedence over most other water users whose rights have later dates.

    In 1922, seven states in the Colorado River Basin — Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, California and Nevada — signed the Colorado River Compact, an agreement on how to divide the river water equitably among states.

    However, tribal members, who weren’t considered U.S. citizens at the time, were excluded from negotiations. Tribal nations were again excluded from policymaking in 2007 when states renegotiated water divisions due to increasing drought conditions.

    That agreement is set to expire in 2026, meaning states will need to agree on a new set of Colorado River rules. Tribes are now pushing to be included in those negotiations for the first time.

    “Being left out of those groups and trying to squeeze in at different times has been something,” Williams said, during the conference. “The table keeps moving and moving and moving.” 

    Williams said tribes have now built the capacity to demand a spot at the negotiating table. Part of that capacity is the work of the Colorado River Basin Tribes Partnership, also known as the Ten Tribes Partnership, created in 1992 by federally recognized tribes to strengthen tribal influence in water policy.

    “Hopfully when the 2026 guidelines come out you’ll see tribes,” Williams said. 

    Basin tribes hold water rights to about 3 million acre-feet of Colorado River water, which equates to about 25% of the river’s current average annual flow. That percentage will only increase as climate change continues to reduce the amount of water available to states with newer water rights. That water allocation makes Basin tribes a powerful force in negotiations, said Williams.

    The Fort Mojave Tribe alone has the right to divert more than 136,000 acre feet, including 3,787 acres in Nevada.

    However protecting the tribes’ water is about more than the raw acre feet they are entitled to, said Williams. It’s also about protecting the health of the land, including Avi Kwa Ame, or Spirit Mountain, a culturally significant area that’s part of the various tribes’ spiritual ideology and is featured in Mojave creation beliefs.

    “We have to answer to our membership, we have to answer to our elders, we have to answer to our environment and ask if we are truly protecting it the best way we can,” Williams said. 

    Forrest Cuch, a Ute Indian Tribe Elder and former director of the Utah Division of Indian Affairs, said the Uinta River in Utah, once a major waterway to the Colorado River, has been reduced to a trickle over the years as a result of overuse. 

    “In the Uinta Basin we have farmers plowing up lands that are not fit for production,” Cuch said. “They think it’s okay to make the desert bloom like a rose. That doesn’t sit well with Native people. We say the desert blooms on its own and if it were meant to be a lush green meadow it would be such and the desert is not such. ”

    “Exploitation, extraction and development at all costs” has damaged the Colorado River, said Cuch, calling for a shift in culture that would protect the river.

    “This knowledge comes from our strong spiritual connection to the land which is nurtured by our ceremonies that keep us earthbound and earth connected,” Cuch said. “In truth we have always been earth people that seem to find it necessary to stop the destruction of mother earth.” 

    The call for inclusion from Colorado River Basin tribes on water policy comes after 20 tribes, including the Moapa Band of Paiutes in Southern Nevada, sent a letter to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland last month asking the government to fulfill its “federal trust responsibility” and include tribes in river negotiations.

    “Basin Tribes’ involvement in these ongoing decisions… is a necessity with regard to, and in recognition of, the impacts to Basin Tribes of the continuing drought and looming basin-wide shortages,” reads the letter.

    Tribes argue they must be included in upcoming Colorado River policymaking negotiations to correct historical injustices. 

    In the letter to Haaland, tribes say federal and state governments must recognize and include support for tribal access to clean water, tribal water rights settlements, tribal sovereignty, and provide tools that will help Basin Tribes to fully utilize their water rights. 

    The Biden administration has pledged to work more closely with tribes during the upcoming negotiations, which are likely to happen over the next two years. During a trip to Nevada on Sunday Haaland said the federal government understands the importance of involving tribes in negotiations and discussions around water infrastructure and policymaking. 

    “We have had many, many tribal consultations on this issue and many others,” Haaland said. “President Biden has made tribal consultation a priority in his administration. We are approaching these issues with an ‘all of government’ approach.”

    Nevada Current is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nevada Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Hugh Jackson for questions: info@nevadacurrent.com. Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.

    Interior Secretary Deb Haaland promises governors federal help for fires, #drought — #Colorado Newsline #crwua2021

    A burnt sign on Larimer County Road 103 near Chambers Lake. The fire started in the area near Cameron Peak, which it is named after. The fire burned over 200,000 acres during its three-month run. Photo courtesy of Kate Stahla via the University of Northern Colorado

    U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland pledged federal resources and cooperation with governors from 19 Western states to tackle wildfire resilience, drought management, oil and gas cleanup efforts and other issues made more difficult by climate change. 

    Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: info@coloradonewsline.com. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

    The American West went through #climate hell in 2021. But there’s still hope — The Los Angeles Times

    Firefighter Lindsay Freitag sprays down a giant sequoia along the Trail of 100 Giants to extinguish heat.(Garrett Dickman / National Park Service)

    From The Los Angeles Times (Sammy Roth, Tony Barboza, Anita Chabria, Ian James, Anna M. Phillips, Lila Seidman, Hayley Smith, Alex Wigglesworth and Rosanna Xia):

    To visualize the hellishness of the climate crisis in 2021, look no further than General Sherman, the world’s largest tree, wrapped in fire-resistant foil to protect the legendary giant sequoia from flames burning a path of destruction through the Sierra Nevada.

    California’s so-called Ancient Ones evolved with fire. It’s crucial to their reproductive cycle. But they aren’t prepared for blazes like those of the last year, which are burning hotter and more intensely as Earth warms, mostly because of the combustion of fossil fuels. Last year, flames killed roughly 10% of the world’s giant sequoias.

    The General Sherman sequoia tree is wrapped in fire-resistant foil to protect it from the KNP Complex fire. (National Park Service)

    The sight of General Sherman wrapped in foil this fall was a cry for help. It was also a sign that the American West has entered a dangerous new era of hotter heat waves, ever-more-brutal droughts and a growing threat of violent extremism on public lands.

    There’s still hope for the future. But in a part of the country mythologized for its rugged individualism, going it alone will be a recipe for disaster, climate experts say. States and tribes, big cities and rural towns, liberals and conservatives alike will need to cooperate…

    Though climate continued to polarize Washington, D.C. — see the near total lack of Republican support for the clean energy investments proposed by President Biden — there were at least some encouraging signs west of the 100th meridian.

    Take the Colorado River and its tributaries, whose waters quench the thirst of tens of millions of people and irrigate millions of acres of farmland from Wyoming to Mexico…

    West Drought Monitor map November 30. 2021.

    The region has always whipsawed between drought and floods, but now global warming is exacerbating the swings, with an overall drying trend that scientists call aridification. As summer turned to fall, nearly 95% of the American West was saddled with drought conditions. The “bathtub ring” at Lake Mead outside Las Vegas kept growing, showing how much water had vanished from the nation’s largest reservoir…

    In August, federal officials declared the first-ever water shortage on the Colorado, triggering cutbacks in Arizona, Nevada and Mexico.

    The shortage declaration, while scary-sounding, was the result of a landmark pact in which Southwestern states agreed to forgo some of the water to which they’d otherwise be entitled, in an effort to keep Lake Mead from falling even farther and prompting a true emergency.

    If the situation worsens, California will accept cutbacks too. John Fleck, a water resources professor at the University of New Mexico, has described the agreement as a model for the future cooperation that will be needed as the Colorado dwindles.

    “The river’s future is not all dark,” Fleck and Eric Kuhn wrote. “Innovation, cooperation and an expanded reliance on science are now the foundation for basin-wide solutions.”

    There were signs of long-overdue action on the wildfire side of the climate equation too, as the Biden administration raised pay for federal firefighters and worked with California to reduce fire risk by thinning overgrown forests — a stark change in approach from President Trump, who bluntly blamed the Golden State for not “raking” its forests. California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a $15-billion climate package that included money to fight fires, droughts, extreme heat and sea level rise.

    Officials also increasingly agreed on the need to set intentional, low-intensity fires — known as “prescribed burns” — of the type that helped protect Lake Tahoe this summer…

    Record temperatures compounded the threat, drying out landscapes and making fires harder to put out. California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Utah endured their hottest summers on record, with the nation as a whole tying the Dust Bowl for the hottest summer in modern history.

    In the Pacific Northwest, a heat wave killed hundreds of people, whose bodies failed them as they roasted in their homes, or on the streets — a dark reminder that heat waves are deadlier than hurricanes and fires, and are only getting more dangerous…

    The combination of heat, fire and drought wreaked havoc on the electric grid. A blaze in Oregon took down an interstate power line and nearly forced much of California into rolling blackouts…

    Declining reservoirs, meanwhile, produced less hydroelectricity, which in a cruel twist forced utilities to burn more natural gas, one of the fossil fuels heating the planet.

    Brad Udall: Here’s the latest version of my 4-Panel plot thru Water Year (Oct-Sep) of 2021 of the Colorado River big reservoirs, natural flows, precipitation, and temperature. Data (PRISM) goes back or 1906 (or 1935 for reservoirs.) This updates previous work with
    @GreatLakesPeck.

    Federal officials warned that by 2023, there’s a 1 in 3 chance that Lake Powell on the Arizona-Utah border will fall so low that Glen Canyon Dam, one of the region’s largest producers of cheap, zero-emission power, won’t be able to generate electricity at all…

    Though some Western states at least tried to follow California’s lead on climate — Colorado, Oregon and Washington in particular — others followed a different playbook…

    In Arizona, regulators backtracked on a plan to require 100% clean energy, only to backtrack again and offer a preliminary sign-off — but with a deadline of 2070, decades beyond what global climate commitments will require. New Mexico’s Democratic governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, talked a big game on climate but also criticized President Biden for attempting to limit oil and gas production. Wyoming lawmakers kept up a years-long effort to protect the state’s coal, oil and gas companies from economic headwinds.

    Then there was Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, who responded to worsening drought by declaring a need for “divine intervention” and asking Utahns to pray for rain.

    The same worldview that led some elected officials to dismiss the urgency of the climate crisis fueled a burgeoning movement that protested pandemic-era vaccine mandates, demonized public health officers and sought to wrest control of hundreds of millions of acres of public lands from the federal government…

    Rising demand for sprawling solar and wind farms created new pressure on public lands, forcing the Biden administration to balance the needs of conservation and climate action…

    Rising temperatures threatened iconic species, with a federal judge ordering the Biden administration to reconsider its decision not to protect Joshua trees under the Endangered Species Act.

    Coastlines weren’t spared, either: The Pacific Ocean kept rising, hastening a reality of vanishing beaches, dangerously eroding cliffs and saltwater intruding on precious groundwater supplies. Nobody wanted to confront the possibility of “managed retreat,” but some communities finally felt they had no choice. Marine heat waves took a deadly toll on ocean ecosystems already stressed by a history of overfishing and pollution…

    Environmental activists rallied around the idea of “30 by 30,” a campaign to protect 30% of America’s lands and waters by 2030. The goal is to protect habitat, promote biodiversity, preserve landscapes that keep carbon in the ground and otherwise save some semblance of the natural world as we know it. Biden endorsed the concept…

    In one positive development, firefighters managed to protect General Sherman and other iconic sequoias from this fall’s fires.

    But thousands of the giants were still killed by flames. And the climate emergency is just getting started. 2021 will probably go down as one of the coolest years this young century. There’s still plenty of time for the rest of the Ancient Ones to meet their match.

    Infrastructure Bill will Help Address Declining #Water Levels and #Drought in the West — Audubon

    Bald Eagles. Photo: Jaime Lyons/Audubon Photography Awards

    From Audubon (Caitlin Wall):

    The recent passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (H.R. 3684) brings hope for birds, ecosystems, and communities in the arid West. The Act is a cornerstone of the Biden-Harris Administration, addressing long-awaited infrastructure needs with historic amounts of funding for transportation, electricity, and broadband internet projects. Audubon widely supported this bill, especially funding that will address the ongoing climate crisis, including for clean energy projects, climate resiliency upgrades, transit, and electric vehicles. But more funding, including many of the proposals in the current reconciliation bill, is needed to more completely address our changing climate and water security challenges.

    In addition to these more “traditional” projects, the infrastructure bill includes a significant number of programs aimed at addressing the challenging drought conditions of the West. This funding comes none too soon, as the situation becomes more dire—the result of ongoing, multiple, connected crises: long-term megadrought, crippling heat waves, and disastrous fire seasons. The bill includes funding to address water and drought in the West through a variety of programs; Audubon is extremely pleased to see the following included:

    • $300 million for Drought Contingency Plan implementation, including $50 million for Upper Basin States
    • $400 million for WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency Grants, including $100 million for natural infrastructure projects
    • $100 million for the Cooperative Watershed Management Program, focusing on natural feature or nature-based feature improvement projects
    • $250 million for the Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Program
    • $100 million for multi-benefit watershed projects
    • $50 million for Colorado River fish species recovery programs
    • Reauthorization of the Clean Water and Drinking Water state revolving funds (SRFs) and supplemental appropriations for the following:
      • Clean Water SRF: $19.9 billion
      • Drinking Water SRF: $17.3 billion
      • Lead Line Replacement funds: $15 billion
      • PFAS targeted funds: $1 billion through the Clean Water SRF, $4 billion through the Drinking Water SRF, $5 billion through the Small and Disadvantaged Communities drinking water program
    • And $1.9 billion in supplemental funding for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers aquatic restoration projects.

    (note: all funding amounts are for five years)

    The bill also includes funding for water recycling and reuse, rehabilitation and replacement of aging infrastructure, rural water projects, and water storage projects. There are also significant increases in funding for existing Tribal water settlements and provisions to address climate resilience, especially in Indigenous communities. Altogether, the variety of funding amounts to a historic investment in natural, technical, and built solutions for the ongoing water crisis.

    We are actively engaged in supporting drought response and water conservation to protect birds and people. The federal funding provided in the infrastructure bill supports our long-term efforts to improve science, provide federal engagement, deliver clean drinking water, and protect natural resources to promote solutions that benefit birds and build resilient communities and ecosystems. Audubon looks forward to the distribution of this funding and the implementation of projects and programs to support birds and people throughout the West.

    Historically left out of #ColoradoRiver negotiations, 20 Tribes urge Interior Secretary Haaland to include their voices — #Colorado Public Radio #COriver #aridfication

    From the 2018 Tribal Water Study, this graphic shows the location of the 29 federally-recognized tribes in the Colorado River Basin. Map credit: USBR

    From Colorado Public Radio (Michael Elizabeth Sakas):

    Leaders of 20 Tribes in the Colorado River basin signed a letter to Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, urging for inclusion in the upcoming negotiations on how to manage the Colorado River system in a changing climate.

    Daryl Vigil, water administrator for the Jicarilla Apache Nation, has pushed for increased tribal participation in Colorado River renegotiation discussions. Courtesy of Bob Conrad via The High Country News

    “As the legal structure exists in terms of the policy of the Colorado River, we don’t have any formal inclusion,” said Daryl Vigil, a member of the Jicarilla Apache Nation with Jemez Pueblo and Zia Pueblo affiliation.

    Vigil is the water administrator for Jicarilla Apache Nation and the co-facilitator of the Water and Tribes Initiative, a group of Tribal members and water experts working together to build capacity of Tribes to participate in Colorado River negotiations. The efforts of the initiative helped create the letter to Haaland.

    Leaders of the two Tribes in Colorado, Chairman Manuel Heart of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and Chairman Melvin Baker of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, both signed the letter.

    When the Colorado River Compact was signed in 1922 by the seven states in the basin, the Tribes were not included in the allocation of Colorado River water. Since then, the states have continued to leave the 30 federally recognized Tribes in the basin out of the decision making process on how to manage the river.

    In 2007, the states adopted interim river management guidelines to respond to worsening drought conditions without input from the Tribes. The guidelines will be replaced by a new framework in 2026.

    The letter to Secretary Haaland calls for the Tribes to have an “essential role” throughout the process of developing the new guidelines.

    Vigil said since the Tribes are sovereign governments, they should be invited to a “sovereign table that doesn’t exist” to discuss how the Colorado River is managed. Instead, the states act as a trustee to represent tribal water interests, he said.

    #Blanca #water system to receive boost through USDA — The Valley Courier

    A potato truck unloads onto the machine which transports the potatoes for sorting at the Blanca Potato Factory. Photo credit: Jean Butler (2005)

    From the USDA via The Valley Courier:

    United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Colorado Acting State Director Irene Etsitty announced that USDA is investing over $188 thousand to improve infrastructure in Colorado’s rural areas through the Community Facilities (CF) Direct Loan and Grant Program. The Town of Blanca will receive a $9,000 grant to replace the town’s water system meter reader. The current handheld reader is outdated, the new unit will assist the Town in collecting accurate readings for residents which will contribute toward appropriate billing for the water system. “The CF Program is key to ensuring that rural areas enjoy the same basic quality of life and services enjoyed by those in urban areas. The assistance provided today will help keep rural Colorado’s communities resilient and will assist with public safety, educational resources, and other public services,” said Etsitty.

    Including Blanca other Colorado projects announced are:

    * Custer County will receive a $48,700 grant to purchase a new vehicle for the County Sheriff’s Department. The all-terrain cruiser will ensure that law enforcement officials will be able to adequately respond to any incident in the county.

    * The Town of Kersey will receive a $18,000 grant to purchase office equipment and furniture for the renovated Town Hall which houses the municipal departments and employees, including the law enforcement department.

    * The Town of Oak Creek will receive a $28,400 grant to purchase a vehicle for the town’s Public Safety Department. Road conditions and inclement weather have made it challenging for public safety officials to respond and the addition of this all-terrain vehicle will help improve the speed and efficacy of responses.

    * Phillips County will receive a $24,200 grant to purchase a patrol car for the Sherriff’s Department. The new 2021 Chevy Tahoe will ensure that law enforcement in this rural community have the reliable equipment they need.

    * Season’s Schoolhouse Inc. will receive a $10,000 grant to purchase equipment for the daycare facility in Gunnison.

    * Spanish Peaks and Bon Carbo Fire Protection District in Aguilar will receive a $50,000 grant to purchase a new fire apparatus with the capacity to transport large quantities of water to the scene of a fire. The new apparatus equipped truck will effectively cut response time in half and double the capacity of the District to fight fires.

    More than 100 types of projects are eligible for Community Facilities funding. Eligible applicants include municipalities, public bodies, nonprofit organizations, and federally recognized Native American tribes. Projects must be in rural areas with a population of 20,000 or less. For more information, visit https://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/community-facilities/community-facilities-direct-loan-grant-program.

    Investments complement the recently announced funding availability under USDA’s Emergency Rural Health Care Grants, which also is being administered through the Community Facilities program, Through this program, USDA is making up to $500 million available through the American Rescue Plan to help rural health care facilities, tribes and communities expand access to COVID-19 vaccines, health care services and nutrition assistance.

    Under the Emergency Rural Health Care Grants, Recovery Grant applications will be accepted on a continual basis until funds are expended. For more information, visit http://www.rd.usda.gov/erhc.

    Nationwide, USDA is investing $222 million to build and improve critical community facilities in 44 states, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico

    To learn more about these programs, interested parties should contact the specialist servicing their county. Also see theCommunity Facilities Direct Loan Program Guidance Book for Applicants (PDF, 669 KB) for a detailed overview of the application process.

    Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities, create jobs, and improve the quality of life for millions of Americans in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural, tribal and high-poverty areas. For more information, visit http://www.rd.usda.gov/co.

    Largest-Ever U.S. #Climate Investment Clears U.S. House of Representatives: Build Back Better Act includes major investments in clean energy, climate action — Nature

    Coyote Gulch’s Leaf charging in the Town of Kremmling Town Park August 21, 2017.

    Here’s the release from The Nature Conservancy (Eric Bontrager):

    The following is a statement by Kameran Onley, director of North American policy and government relations at The Nature Conservancy, after the U.S. House of Representatives approved the $1.7 trillion Build Back Better Act that includes the United States’ largest-ever investment in climate action:

    “The Build Back Better Act would help us achieve the emissions cuts and nature gains we need to ensure a cleaner, healthier, safer future. It includes $555 billion in climate investments and stronger policies to address the climate crisis than we’ve ever seen before.

    “These are vital investments for supporting a strong economy, a healthy population and a sustainable, resilient natural world.

    “This bill would bring unprecedented investments in clean energy, climate-smart forestry and agriculture initiatives and a civilian climate corps. All are substantial and much-needed advances that would also create jobs and improve our quality of life. These are vital investments for supporting a strong economy, a healthy population and a sustainable, resilient natural world.

    “Today’s progress on this bill, along with the newly enacted bipartisan infrastructure bill, gives us a healthy dose of the momentum and hope we need to fully tackle the twin climate and nature crises. They are also a promise to the world that the United States will live up to its climate commitments and lead the way on providing solutions. Together with recent international commitments to reduce methane emissions and global deforestation, this collective movement to get serious on climate action can make a tremendous difference and energize us for continued progress.

    “As the bill heads to the Senate for consideration, we look forward to working with congressional leaders to ensure the final Build Back Better Act contains robust and effective climate provisions.”

    How the new $1.2 trillion #infrastructure bill will help #Colorado brace for the next disaster: “That’s how we got here in the first place––by economizing on things you just don’t economize on” — CU #Boulder News

    The Colorado National Guard responds to flooding in Boulder in 2013. (Credit: U.S. Department of Defense)

    Here’s the release from CU Boulder News (Daniel Strain):

    On Monday, President Joe Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law––targeting roughly $1.2 trillion to shore up the nation’s aging, sagging and crumbling roads, bridges and other infrastructure. According to estimates from the White House, Colorado alone could receive $3.7 billion to improve its roads, $917 million for public transportation and more.

    Keith Porter is an adjunct professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering at CU Boulder. He led a 2019 report called “Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves.” In it, Porter and his colleagues argued spending money now could save the nation trillions of dollars in coming decades––through reducing the costs for repairs, preventing deadly disasters such as bridge collapses, keeping commercial trucks on the move and more.

    Porter sat down with CU Boulder Today to talk about the new infrastructure bill and why living with aging roads and bridges is like living with credit card debt.

    A lot of critics of this bill have expressed sticker shock. But you’ve made the case that it will cost us a lot more money in the long term not to invest in infrastructure.

    It’s a false economy to skimp on our utility and transportation infrastructure. We all rely on it. Society doesn’t work without roads, bridges and water systems.

    What will this bill mean for Colorado?

    If Colorado is like the rest of the nation, this bill is going to partially close our investment gap in infrastructure, but it’s not going to close it completely. Nationwide, the $1.2 trillion investment is about half of what the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) says we need to spend over the next 10 years just to have adequate infrastructure. And the number keeps climbing because we under-invest.

    So you see this as just a start?

    It’s like paying only half your credit card bill. We can’t live off that credit indefinitely.

    When you look at Colorado, what are some of the biggest challenges facing our infrastructure?

    We’ve got hail and tornados, and we’ve got flooding, just like our neighboring states. We’ve got fire in the wildland-urban interface. To some extent, we have earthquakes, less than California, but we also build weaker. We have all of the natural disasters that cost the country big bucks, except for coastal flooding and hurricanes, obviously.

    How much money do we stand to save by making our infrastructure more resilient to those kinds of hazards?

    We estimate, for example, the money that gets spent on making our roads and bridges more resilient to flooding will save $8 for every dollar spent. You either pay for it now, or you pay for it a whole lot more later.

    Flooding is clearly a big issue in Colorado—something we learned in 2013 and again this summer when a mudslide shut down I-70 around Glenwood Canyon for weeks. Can investment in infrastructure prevent that kind of disaster in the future?

    The climate is getting hotter, and we’re going to have more and more wildfires. They’re going to be followed by more severe rains, and we’re going to get mudslides. It’s going to be really hard to make that road mudslide-proof.

    But most of our roads are the stuff you drive on to get to the 7-Eleven or your child’s school. What you do is build the road higher and the storm sewer system better so the water can run off into a storm sewer rather than sweeping you and your kid away.

    This week’s wildfire near Estes Park also drove home just how vulnerable the state is to fire. What can we do to reduce those risks?

    We have guidance called the International Wildland-Urban Interface Code. If we adopt that for areas where cities grow into wildlands, it could save $3 dollars for every dollar spent and maybe more.

    What kind of actions does that code recommend?

    It says you can’t build the sidings of buildings out of vinyl––use cement board or stucco, instead, something that can’t ignite. It requires you do things like put a noncombustible skirt around the house so there aren’t trees and bushes right up against it. Just having that gravel skirt makes a huge difference.

    Now that this bill has been signed, what do you think the biggest priorities are for improving infrastructure around the country? Roads? Bridges? Power grids?

    If you look at the America’s Infrastructure Report Card from the ASCE, there are Cs and Ds across the board. We have to do it all. It’s too late to say, “Yes this, but not that.” That’s how we got here in the first place––by economizing on things you just don’t economize on.

    #Wyoming Water Development Commission seeks $281M for dams, domestic supply, other projects: Lawmakers advance three appropriation measures including one to claim $95 million from American Rescue Plan Act money — WyoFile

    From WyoFile (Angus M. Thuermer Jr.):

    In what could be one of the biggest requests to the Legislature in years, state water development officials are eyeing $281 million or more to fund agricultural irrigation works, dams, reservoirs, domestic water projects and other programs.

    During three days of meetings last week, lawmakers first advanced about $33 million in appropriations recommended by the Wyoming Water Development Office. Funded projects include a few municipal supply projects, numerous irrigation improvements, cloud seeding and a review of aging infrastructure, among other things.

    The Legislature’s Select Water Committee then backed a draft bill seeking an additional $95 million from American-Rescue-Plan-Act or general-fund money to establish a statewide water infrastructure grant program.

    Then, in an 11th-hour proposal, the legislative committee asked its staff to draft an amendment — or another stand-alone bill — to add another $152.8 million to 2022 appropriations, mostly for five major agricultural dam, reservoir and irrigation projects.

    There could be even more added to the almost $153 million amendment or new bill.

    “If people have things that they would like to include in that draft, I think that would be appropriate,” Sen. Larry Hicks (R-Baggs) told Select Water Committee co-chairman Rep. Evan Simpson (R-Afton).

    Wyoming has turned a corner since facing a diminished state budget due to declines in coal and oil-and-gas tax revenue, Hicks suggested. There’s “a certain amount of money, funds, available,” he said, pointing to the American Rescue Plan Act that seeks to pull the country out of its COVID-19 slump. Additional funds, possibly from rising oil and gas activity, also could be available, he said.

    All of which could be used to shore up a water development program that Hicks has said repeatedly has been unfairly plundered by the Legislature.

    “By the time we get through this biennium, we will have raided water development account[s] to the tune of about $55 million,” he told lawmakers last week. In recent years, the Legislature directed funds that should have been used for water development, Hicks said, to instead finance other projects and the State Engineer’s Board of Control, which settles disputes over water rights.

    Three avenues for appropriations

    The Select Water Committee’s three-pronged agenda would fund the $33 million in 2022 water development commission programs, add the $95 million statewide infrastructure grant program using ARPA and general-fund money and spend another $152 million under Hicks’ water development amendment.

    Hicks’ call for $152 million — the largest funding avenue — could be added to the ARPA bill or emerge as a separate stand-alone measure, according to discussion by the committee. It would see $35 million go toward the Alkali Reservoir near Hyattville in Big Horn County, the cost of which has increased from $35 to $59 million.

    Jason Mead in 2015 describes to irrigators and others the plans for expanding the Upper Leavitt Reservoir in Big Horn County. (Angus M. Thuermer, Jr./WyoFile)

    Another $30 million would go toward the Leavitt Reservoir expansion, an additional $25 million would armor the Fontenelle Dam to increase its usable capacity and $21.8 million more would help resolve the collapse of the Goshen irrigation tunnel.

    Hicks’ proposed amendment or stand-alone bill also would earmark $30 million to help rebuild the dangerous LaPrele Dam above Douglas. The proposed appropriation also would infuse several other water development accounts with $11 million.

    The next largest block of funds advanced by the Select Water Committee last week — $95 million from ARPA money for a statewide infrastructure grant program — would be disbursed by the Wyoming Water Development Office in coordination with two other state agencies. The Office of State lands and Investments, which oversees drinking water funds, and the state Department of Environmental Quality, which is responsible for aspects of wastewater projects and discharges, would be involved with the grants.

    Grants would be limited to $7.5 million per project and they would cover 85% of the cost of a proposal.

    Funds appropriated through the ARPA bill could be constrained by the caveats in that federal rescue program, however. The federal emergency COVID-19 relief program funds water infrastructure programs that appear to be directed mainly toward domestic and municipal drinking water and wastewater programs, not agricultural and irrigation dams, reservoirs and canals.

    ARPA funds are being distributed according to an interim rule that in one clause specifies investments will be made for “projects that improve access to clean drinking water [and] improve wastewater and stormwater infrastructure systems.”

    The Select Water Committee’s third avenue for funding grew from the Water Development Office and Commission’s annually scheduled advancement of water programs that this year totals about $33 million. Those projects involve everything from new and ongoing cloud seeding and a review of its effectiveness to municipal and domestic water supply projects, irrigation and agricultural programs and a statewide assessment of crumbling infrastructure.

    What about the infrastructure bill?

    During last week’s meetings there was little if any discussion regarding the $1 trillion infrastructure bill President Joe Biden signed into law Monday. But earlier this year the Select Water Committee wanted that measure to include provisions for water development in the state.

    “As we start to see an infrastructure bill develop … it’s certainly something that we’ve conveyed to our congressional delegation that water is a big issue in Wyoming,” Hicks said in April, “and that we’d like to see a significant component in any infrastructure bill.”

    Although he stopped short of endorsing the federal infrastructure bill, Hicks asked Wyoming legislative staff to stay in touch with the congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., and to get updates.

    On Aug. 10, U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis provided one public update when they voted against the infrastructure bill, which passed the Senate 69-30. On Nov. 5, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney also voted against the infrastructure bill as the measure passed the House 228-206.

    To further buttress water development and prevent what developers see as a raid on funds, Hicks and Wyoming Water Development Office Director Brandon Gebhart in April proposed an explanatory program to be presented to “anybody willing to listen.”

    Such a presentation may “enlighten some people in the Legislature,” Gebhart said. Hicks called the planned presentation “education” for lawmakers and said it should come during the first day or two of the 2022 legislative session.Last week’s funding proposals did not include several other ongoing projects — including a proposal to build a 280–foot-high dam on the West Fork of Battle Creek above the Little Snake River in Carbon County, and a plan to lower New Fork Lake by some 21 feet to provide late-season irrigation. While those were not immediately included in Hick’s amendment, they are on a $414-million wish list of water infrastructure projects reviewed by WyoFile that the state assembled earlier this year.

    WyoFile is an independent nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.

    Wyoming rivers map via Geology.com

    Billions coming to help tribes access clean #water — The Source

    Multi-level adobe dwelling, Taos Pueblo, Taos New Mexico United States. By John Mackenzie Burke – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=78067130

    The $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill signed by President Joe Biden yesterday will include full funding for efforts to provide clean water to tribal nations.

    Over the next five years $3.5 billion will head to the Indian Health Services water and sanitation construction program to pay for tribal clean water projects.

    On top of that, the infrastructure bill increases funding to the Environmental Protection Agency’s clean water programs, which will leave $868 million for tribes to build on or create better water treatment systems, along with training and technical assistance.

    One proposal missing from the massive federal infrastructure package is the proposal by Rep. Melanie Stansbury for $200 million that would have fully funded the Rio Grande Pueblos Irrigations Improvement Project. The amendment was cut during negotiations in the House.

    “Pueblo leaders in our district and beyond identified the need for long-overdue funding for Pueblo irrigation systems,” Stansbury said in a statement. Despite the funding being axed from the final bill Biden signed yesterday, there is still more than $440 million for tribal climate programs and $25 million for tribal drought projects. “We will keep working to secure funding in partnership with our Pueblo and tribal nations,” Stansbury said.

    Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez praised the funding that will come to tribal communities.

    “Safe drinking water is a basic human need, and the consequences of not having access to reliable potable water supplies are long-lasting and destructive,” he said.

    “In the most powerful country in the world, as many as 40% of homes on the Navajo Nation lack this essential service that most Americans take for granted.”

    – Jonathan Nez, Navajo Nation President

    The money is welcome and just the first step in a list of solutions brought forth by the Tribal Clean Water Initiative, a group of advocates and tribal officials working on the priorities of a similar effort in the Colorado River basin.

    The group is pushing the White House to create a better relationship with tribal government communities by listening and addressing their needs when it comes to water infrastructure.

    Their premise is focused on what they call a “whole government” approach that outlines ways for the federal government to have better discussions with tribal governments to better understand their needs.

    Heather Tanana is part of the research team with the water initiative and wrote the report that outlines direct goals for change. The full report can be viewed here.

    Tanana said tribes being able to operate and maintain drinking water systems is a big part of self-determination.

    “Ensuring clean drinking water for Native Americans is part of the unfinished business of our Republic,” she said.

    Source New Mexico is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Source New Mexico maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Marisa Demarco for questions: info@sourcenm.com. Follow Source New Mexico on Facebook and Twitter.

    Congressional infrastructure deal brings $8B in #climate, #water projects to the #West: Conservation groups say the bill is a climate and water budget bonanza for Colorado — The #Colorado Sun

    Glenwood Canyon/Colorado River. Photo credit: Allen Best/The Mountain Town News

    From The Colorado Sun (Michael Booth):

    Colorado will benefit from billions of dollars in climate change and water projects in the $1.2 trillion infrastructure investment bill passed by the U.S. House late Friday, conservation groups said over the weekend, with some of the money shoring up drought-stretched obligations to the Colorado River Compact.

    More than $8.3 billion in water projects alone earmarked for Western states will help pay for programs such as renting water from farmers to send down the Colorado River in extremely dry years, replanting and managing high country forests devastated by wildfires and recycling more water in cities, said Alexander Funk, director of water resources for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership…

    Water for Colorado, a broader coalition that Funk speaks for, called the bill’s final approval “a rare opportunity for Colorado to have funding flowing while our rivers are not. Colorado needs to be ready to use as much of these once-in-a-generation federal funds as quickly as possible to address the state’s water resource funding gaps through implementation of the Colorado Water Plan.”

    The coalition’s members include Trout Unlimited, Environmental Defense Fund, American Rivers and others.

    Pew Charitable Trusts highlighted $1.4 billion of approved spending that will go to states, local governments and tribal governments for repairing and removing culverts, improving fish habitat, and removing barriers to fish spawning and survival, such as dams. The bill also includes $275 million in dedicated funding for the first time to fix roads and make other improvements at national parks and other public and tribal lands…

    Brad Udall: Here’s the latest version of my 4-Panel plot thru Water Year (Oct-Sep) of 2021 of the Colorado River big reservoirs, natural flows, precipitation, and temperature. Data (PRISM) goes back or 1906 (or 1935 for reservoirs.) This updates previous work with
    @GreatLakesPeck.

    State and nonprofit leaders in Colorado say the boost of federal money is needed to help them find water for the beleaguered Colorado River through diversions from agriculture and conservation in Front Range cities. The Colorado River’s runoff into Lake Powell has dropped about 20% in the past 20 years amid a long-term drought and longer-term climate change.

    The drop in available Colorado River water, which supplies 40 million people in seven states, has already forced cutbacks to the amount of water being sent to Arizona in 2022…

    Colorado leaders do not want to be forced into sudden, uncontrolled cuts in a compact “call.” They are experimenting with “demand management,” paying farmers for water in some years without drying up their water rights permanently, and putting that water in a “bank” in Lake Powell to satisfy the compact. Large-scale water renting or purchasing will take at least hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Other projects that would need federal aid include transforming agricultural watering to be far more conserving, alternate crops, payments for carbon sequestration in ground cover, and restoring high country wetlands that slow wildfires and harbor lush wildlife.

    Great Blue Heron at the Pagosa Springs wetlands. Photo: Barry Knott

    “I would say the upland forest wetland ecosystems are huge winners in terms of this infrastructure package,” Funk said.

    Front Range cities and water districts who feel they have a case to make for water conservation will also seek shares of the new pot of money to complete their projects. Agencies looking for federal assistance include a group of providers in northern El Paso County, who want to build a $134 million pipeline to complete a loop recycling diminishing aquifer water.

    Other funded infrastructure projects highlighted by the water conservation coalitions include:

  • $280 million for sewer overflow and stormwater reuse municipal grants
  • $500 million in community wildfire defense grants from the U.S. Forest Service, and $200 million in post-fire restoration activities from the forest service and the Bureau of Land Management
  • $300 million for river drought contingency planning, with $50 million specifically for Upper Basin states like Colorado
  • The conservation groups are hoping Congress will double-down on climate and drought spending by following up in coming weeks to pass the other part of Biden’s recovery package, the multi-trillion, oft-changed budget reconciliation bill dubbed Build Back Better.

    A nursery manager plants a whitebark pine at Glacier National Park in Montana in September 2019, part of an effort to restore vegetation following a wildfire. Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images via Pew Research

    From The Pacific Institute (Peter Gleick, Amanda Bielawski, and Heather Cooley):

    On November 5, 2021, the U.S. Congress passed President Biden’s major infrastructure bill, HR 3684, the $1.2 trillion ‘‘Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.” The President is expected to sign the bill into law. The bill is the largest single federal investment in infrastructure in a generation, with the funds to be expended over five years. It aims to rebuild and replace failing, aging, and outdated water, energy, transportation, and communications systems. As the first significant federal investment in climate resilience, it also begins to address the growing consequences of climate change, including intensifying extreme weather events, increasing temperatures, and rising sea levels, on communities throughout the United States.

    One key component of the Act is the set of proposals to address the wide range of water-related challenges facing the United States. This Pacific Institute analysis provides an overview of how the Infrastructure Act addresses these challenges. The Pacific Institute will also issue a more detailed Issue Brief.

    Highlights

  • The Act dedicates approximately $82.5 billion for a wide range of critical water investments. The largest water-related investments are for improvements in safe drinking water and sanitation.
  • The new Infrastructure Act provides a shift away from the 20th century primary focus on building major dams and water diversions toward a more sustainable and resilient approach.
  • The new legislation helps correct some of the historical inequities previous infrastructure bills have perpetuated on frontline communities, who are disproportionately impacted by water insecurity.
  • The water system investments provided by this new Act are important steps in the right direction. They are not, however, enough—alone—–to prepare water systems to become fully resilient, as they need to be to withstand the stresses and shocks of climate change.
  • Context

    The United States faces several severe and worsening water problems, including:

  • old and deteriorating water infrastructure for safe drinking water and wastewater treatment;
  • new contaminants that are neither regulated nor controlled;
  • failure to provide modern water services to millions of people;
  • growing impacts from severe droughts and floods, intensifying as a result of climate change;
  • water shortages for farms and rural communities;
  • destruction of aquatic ecosystems, fisheries, and wetlands; and
  • increasing risks of both climate change and conflicts over water resources around the world.
  • Continuing to neglect these water problems will further impoverish and sicken this and future generations, while increasing threats to our economy and food supply. Conversely, smart water policies are projected to create hundreds of thousands of jobs, improve public health, address long-standing disproportionate impacts on frontline communities, and speed economic recovery.

    In September 2020, the Pacific Institute released a set of water-related recommendations for the new administration. Some of the most important of these recommendations are:

  • delivering clean, affordable drinking water to everyone in the United States, with a focus on removing remaining lead water pipes and service lines;
  • modernizing and updating existing federal laws that protect drinking water and regulate water pollutants;
  • preparing for the increasingly detrimental consequences of extreme weather and climate disasters;
  • protecting and restoring natural aquatic ecosystems; and
  • improving access to safe water and sanitation in frontline communities, including on Tribal lands.
  • The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

    The new Infrastructure Act addresses many of the priorities laid out in the Pacific Institute’s recommendations. It provides the most comprehensive opportunity to help tackle America’s water problems this century. Of the $1.2 trillion authorized to be spent over five years, the Act dedicates approximately $82.5 billion for a wide range of critical water investments. Table 1 provides only a broad overview of the major water-related priorities in the bill. More details will be available in a new Pacific Institute Issue Brief.

    The largest water-related investments in the Act are for improvements in safe drinking water and sanitation throughout the country, including around $24 billion in grants over five years directly to the states under the existing Federal Water Pollution Control Act and Safe Drinking Water Acts. An additional $15 billion is provided for projects to replace lead water pipes and service lines, like those responsible for the severe contamination incident in Flint, Michigan, and remaining lead pipes in other cities around the country. Another $9 billion is allocated for addressing a set of new, dangerous, and unregulated pollutants, including perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl and other “emerging contaminants,” long neglected by current federal law.

    Federal infrastructure investments have historically supported the construction of major water-related infrastructure projects, such as dams, aqueducts, irrigation systems, and river and port transportation systems. The current bill is no exception. A major difference, however, is that the new investments refocus funds to modern, 21st century priorities that increasingly involve a longer-term water resilience view. For instance, the bill includes investments in some nature-based solutions, including ecosystem restoration, as well as water efficiency, water reuse, flood and drought programs, dam safety, and rural communities. In this way, we see a shift away from the 20th century primary focus on building major dams and water diversions toward a more comprehensive and integrated approach. Read more about the Pacific Institute’s view on water resilience in this blog and Issue Brief.

    In the current bill, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the agencies traditionally charged with managing the nation’s federal waters, are authorized to spend approximately $25 billion over five years for a wide range of these new investments. Another $2 billion is set aside for specific regional water protection programs in the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, San Francisco Bay, Puget Sound, Long Island Sound, Gulf of Mexico, South Florida, Lake Champlain, Lake Pontchartrain, Southern New England Estuaries, and the Columbia River Basin.

    Water science also receives support in the bill. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture are authorized to spend around $3.9 billion for new hydrologic science and modeling programs to help predict, detect, and prevent extreme events and wildfires that destroy watershed health and water quality, and for a range of ocean programs.

    Importantly, the new legislation corrects some of the historical inequities previous infrastructure bills and federal water policies have perpetuated on frontline communities, who are disproportionately affected by water insecurity. For example, Section 50108 of the bill requires the EPA Administrator to submit to Congress a comprehensive report on municipalities, communities, and Tribes that must spend a disproportionate amount of household income on access to public drinking water or wastewater services or that have unsustainable levels of water-related debt. Importantly, the report must also include the Administrator’s recommendations for how best to reduce these inequities and improve affordable access to water services. The EPA must also provide grants to states and Tribes to help schools test for and remediate lead in drinking water (Section 50110), and grants to improve water quality, water pressure, or water services on Native American reservations by prioritizing projects addressing emergency situations occurring due to or resulting in a lack of access to clean drinking water that threatens the health of Tribal populations (Section 50111).

    Other Water Infrastructure Investment Highlights

    Support is also provided to expand the careful management of stormwater and the sophisticated treatment and reuse of wastewater, two priorities identified by the Pacific Institute for addressing water challenges across the United States:

  • Section 50202 (“Wastewater Efficiency Grant Pilot Program”) provides funds for the EPA to establish a wastewater efficiency grant pilot program to carry out projects that create or improve waste-to-energy systems.
  • Section 50203 (“Pilot Program for Alternative Water Source Projects”) amends the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to support projects that use water, wastewater, or stormwater or treat wastewater or stormwater for groundwater recharge, potable reuse, or other purposes.
  • Section 50204 (“Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grants”) amends the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to support project funding for projects in rural communities or financially distressed communities for the purpose of planning, design, and construction of treatment works for stormwater and other polluted waters.
  • A new federal Interagency Working Group will be established to coordinate actions to advance water reuse across the United States (Section 50218).
    Many other sections of the Infrastructure Act tackle water issues and will be summarized more fully in the forthcoming Pacific Institute Issue Brief, including projects to:

  • reduce the vulnerability of US water systems to cyberattacks, improve water-efficiency programs, and expand job training, diversity, and opportunities in the water and wastewater sectors (Section 50211);
  • improve water data sharing (Section 50213);
  • expand groundwater recharge and protection (Section 50222); and
  • satisfy long-neglected water rights obligations to Native American tribes (Section 70101).
  • Finally, there are additional investments provided in the Bill for non-water projects that provide water co-benefits. A few examples include:

  • Section 40804 (“Ecosystem Restoration”) provides $2.1 billion over five years for a wide range of projects to improve the ecological health of land and waters, including detecting and removing invasive species, restoring streambeds, improving water quality and fish passages.
  • Funds allocated to the states for transportation projects also provide some support for flood protection and aquatic ecosystem restoration, and the assessment of transportation and coastal risks from extreme floods, droughts, and sea-level rise (Section 11405).
  • A “Healthy Streets Program” includes support for “cool” and “porous” pavement that will mitigate some of the impacts of rising urban temperatures and reduce stormwater risks (Section 11406).
  • A National Academy of Sciences study will be prepared on best management practices for stormwater, especially to reduce runoff pollution associated with severe storms (Section 11520).
  • Support is provided for improved coordination between the United States and Canada along the Columbia River to ensure continued non-carbon electricity generation from hydroelectric plants, to “increase bilateral transfers of renewable electric generation between the western United States and Canada,” and to rehabilitate and enhance hydropower and irrigation functions at Columbia River dams (Section 40113).
  • The Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy will prepare technical assessments of the opportunities for, among other things, “improving efficient use of water in manufacturing processes” (Section 40333).
  • The “Natural Resources-Related Infrastructure, Wildfire Management, and Ecosystem Restoration” section (Section 40801 et al.), provides $250 million over five years to decommission and clean up old Forest Service roads to restore passages for fish and other aquatic species, taking account foreseeable changes in weather and hydrology and to support other projects in the National Forests that improve the resilience of roads, trails, and bridges to “extreme weather events, flooding, or other natural disasters.”
  • Conclusion

    As with all federal legislation, the final bill was a compromise, shifting priorities based on political and financial considerations. Many important investments in initial versions of the bill were watered down. For example, earlier drafts included far more money to help remove legacy lead drinking water pipes. While the $15 billion provided in the final bill is a start, far more funds will have to be found to complete that vitally important job.

    It’s important to point out that the ultimate success of these investments to address U.S. water problems will depend on how the authorized funds are actually allocated and spent. Success will also depend on the ability of federal agencies, states, local communities, and Tribes to create and mobilize jobs, find additional investments, and implement needed projects.

    The water investments provided by this new Act are important steps in the right direction. They are not, however, enough—alone——to prepare U.S. water systems to become fully resilient, as they need to be to withstand the stresses and shocks of climate change. This will require an all-hands-on-deck approach to ensure people and nature have the water they need to thrive and all communities are protected from intensifying water-related disasters.

    Fact Sheet: The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal — The White House

    From The White House:

    Today, Congress passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal (Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act), a once-in-a-generation investment in our nation’s infrastructure and competitiveness. For far too long, Washington policymakers have celebrated “infrastructure week” without ever agreeing to build infrastructure. The President promised to work across the aisle to deliver results and rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. After the President put forward his plan to do exactly that and then negotiated a deal with Members of Congress from both parties, this historic legislation is moving to his desk for signature.

    This Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal will rebuild America’s roads, bridges and rails, expand access to clean drinking water, ensure every American has access to high-speed internet, tackle the climate crisis, advance environmental justice, and invest in communities that have too often been left behind. The legislation will help ease inflationary pressures and strengthen supply chains by making long overdue improvements for our nation’s ports, airports, rail, and roads. It will drive the creation of good-paying union jobs and grow the economy sustainably and equitably so that everyone gets ahead for decades to come. Combined with the President’s Build Back Framework, it will add on average 1.5 million jobs per year for the next 10 years.

    This historic legislation will:

    Deliver clean water to all American families and eliminate the nation’s lead service lines. Currently, up to 10 million American households and 400,000 schools and child care centers lack safe drinking water. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal will invest $55 billion to expand access to clean drinking water for households, businesses, schools, and child care centers all across the country. From rural towns to struggling cities, the legislation will invest in water infrastructure and eliminate lead service pipes, including in Tribal Nations and disadvantaged communities that need it most.

    Ensure every American has access to reliable high-speed internet. Broadband internet is necessary for Americans to do their jobs, to participate equally in school learning, health care, and to stay connected. Yet, by one definition, more than 30 million Americans live in areas where there is no broadband infrastructure that provides minimally acceptable speeds – a particular problem in rural communities throughout the country. And, according to the latest OECD data, among 35 countries studied, the United States has the second highest broadband costs. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal will deliver $65 billion to help ensure that every American has access to reliable high-speed internet through a historic investment in broadband infrastructure deployment. The legislation will also help lower prices for internet service and help close the digital divide, so that more Americans can afford internet access.

    Repair and rebuild our roads and bridges with a focus on climate change mitigation, resilience, equity, and safety for all users. In the United States, 1 in 5 miles of highways and major roads, and 45,000 bridges, are in poor condition. The legislation will reauthorize surface transportation programs for five years and invest $110 billion in additional funding to repair our roads and bridges and support major, transformational projects. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal makes the single largest investment in repairing and reconstructing our nation’s bridges since the construction of the interstate highway system. It will rebuild the most economically significant bridges in the country as well as thousands of smaller bridges. The legislation also includes the first ever Safe Streets and Roads for All program to support projects to reduce traffic fatalities, which claimed more than 20,000 lives in the first half of 2021.

    Improve transportation options for millions of Americans and reduce greenhouse emissions through the largest investment in public transit in U.S. history. America’s public transit infrastructure is inadequate – with a multibillion-dollar repair backlog, representing more than 24,000 buses, 5,000 rail cars, 200 stations, and thousands of miles of track, signals, and power systems in need of replacement. Communities of color are twice as likely to take public transportation and many of these communities lack sufficient public transit options. The transportation sector in the United States is now the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions. The legislation includes $39 billion of new investment to modernize transit, in addition to continuing the existing transit programs for five years as part of surface transportation reauthorization. In total, the new investments and reauthorization in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal provide $89.9 billion in guaranteed funding for public transit over the next five years — the largest Federal investment in public transit in history. The legislation will expand public transit options across every state in the country, replace thousands of deficient transit vehicles, including buses, with clean, zero emission vehicles, and improve accessibility for the elderly and people with disabilities.

    Upgrade our nation’s airports and ports to strengthen our supply chains and prevent disruptions that have caused inflation. This will improve U.S. competitiveness, create more and better jobs at these hubs, and reduce emissions. Decades of neglect and underinvestment in our infrastructure have left the links in our goods movement supply chains struggling to keep up with our strong economic recovery from the pandemic. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal will make the fundamental changes that are long overdue for our nation’s ports and airports so this will not happen again. The United States built modern aviation, but our airports lag far behind our competitors. According to some rankings, no U.S. airports rank in the top 25 of airports worldwide. Our ports and waterways need repair and reimagination too. The legislation invests $17 billion in port infrastructure and waterways and $25 billion in airports to address repair and maintenance backlogs, reduce congestion and emissions near ports and airports, and drive electrification and other low-carbon technologies. Modern, resilient, and sustainable port, airport, and freight infrastructure will strengthen our supply chains and support U.S. competitiveness by removing bottlenecks and expediting commerce and reduce the environmental impact on neighboring communities.

    Make the largest investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak. U.S. passenger rail lags behind the rest of the world in reliability, speed, and coverage. China already has 22,000 miles of high-speed rail, and is planning to double that by 2035. The legislation positions rail to play a central role in our transportation and economic future, investing $66 billion in additional rail funding to eliminate the Amtrak maintenance backlog, modernize the Northeast Corridor, and bring world-class rail service to areas outside the northeast and mid-Atlantic. This is the largest investment in passenger rail since Amtrak’s creation, 50 years ago and will create safe, efficient, and climate-friendly alternatives for moving people and freight.

    Leaf charging in Frisco September 30, 2021.

    Build a national network of electric vehicle (EV) chargers. U.S. market share of plug-in EV sales is only one-third the size of the Chinese EV market. That needs to change. The legislation will invest $7.5 billion to build out a national network of EV chargers in the United States. This is a critical step in the President’s strategy to fight the climate crisis and it will create good U.S. manufacturing jobs. The legislation will provide funding for deployment of EV chargers along highway corridors to facilitate long-distance travel and within communities to provide convenient charging where people live, work, and shop. This investment will support the President’s goal of building a nationwide network of 500,000 EV chargers to accelerate the adoption of EVs, reduce emissions, improve air quality, and create good-paying jobs across the country.

    Upgrade our power infrastructure to deliver clean, reliable energy across the country and deploy cutting-edge energy technology to achieve a zero-emissions future. According to the Department of Energy, power outages cost the U.S. economy up to $70 billion annually. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal’s more than $65 billion investment includes the largest investment in clean energy transmission and grid in American history. It will upgrade our power infrastructure, by building thousands of miles of new, resilient transmission lines to facilitate the expansion of renewables and clean energy, while lowering costs. And it will fund new programs to support the development, demonstration, and deployment of cutting-edge clean energy technologies to accelerate our transition to a zero-emission economy.

    Make our infrastructure resilient against the impacts of climate change, cyber-attacks, and extreme weather events. Millions of Americans feel the effects of climate change each year when their roads wash out, power goes down, or schools get flooded. Last year alone, the United States faced 22 extreme weather and climate-related disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each – a cumulative price tag of nearly $100 billion. People of color are more likely to live in areas most vulnerable to flooding and other climate change-related weather events. The legislation makes our communities safer and our infrastructure more resilient to the impacts of climate change and cyber-attacks, with an investment of over $50 billion to protect against droughts, heat, floods and wildfires, in addition to a major investment in weatherization. The legislation is the largest investment in the resilience of physical and natural systems in American history.

    Deliver the largest investment in tackling legacy pollution in American history by cleaning up Superfund and brownfield sites, reclaiming abandoned mines, and capping orphaned oil and gas wells. In thousands of rural and urban communities around the country, hundreds of thousands of former industrial and energy sites are now idle – sources of blight and pollution. Proximity to a Superfund site can lead to elevated levels of lead in children’s blood. The bill will invest $21 billion clean up Superfund and brownfield sites, reclaim abandoned mine land and cap orphaned oil and gas wells. These projects will remediate environmental harms, address the legacy pollution that harms the public health of communities, create good-paying union jobs, and advance long overdue environmental justice This investment will benefit communities of color as, it has been found that 26% of Black Americans and 29% of Hispanic Americans live within 3 miles of a Superfund site, a higher percentage than for Americans overall.

    Camille Touton confirmed as commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation — The #LasVegas Review-Journal

    M Camille Calimlim Touton MIT via Twitter (@mitwater)

    From The Las Vegas Review-Journal (Gary Martin):

    Camille Touton of Nevada was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday to be commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees water management of the Colorado River in Western states.
    Democratic and Republican senators approved President Joe Biden’s nominee on a voice vote.

    Touton, of Filipino ancestry, moved as a child to Nevada. Las Vegas became her adopted home and she became interested in water, she told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee during a September hearing.

    She told the panel water management in the West is a major concern and priority.

    West Drought Monitor map November 2, 2021.

    “The unprecedented drought has made the task even more challenging, as major reservoirs are at their lowest levels since filling, and the projections for relief in the face of climate change are not encouraging,” she told the hearing.

    She was introduced to the panel by Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., a member of the committee. Touton sailed through the confirmation process with bipartisan support, particularly from Western state Republican senators.

    Touton recently served as Bureau of Reclamation deputy commissioner. She received degrees from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and George Mason University…

    Brad Udall: Here’s the latest version of my 4-Panel plot thru Water Year (Oct-Sep) of 2021 of the Colorado River big reservoirs, natural flows, precipitation, and temperature. Data (PRISM) goes back or 1906 (or 1935 for reservoirs.) This updates previous work with
    @GreatLakesPeck.

    Touton will be directly involved in Colorado River management, Lake Mead and water issues that impact Nevada and other Western states, Tobias said…

    She also becomes the first Filipino-American to hold such a position in the Interior Department.

    Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said Touton would bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to manage water for current and future generations.

    Vice President Kamala Harris argues for Biden #climate agenda at sinking #LakeMead — KJZZ #ActOnClimate

    Kamala Harris at Lake Mead October 18, 2021. Photo credit: U.S. Department of Interior

    From The Associated Press (Suman Naishadham):

    Vice President Kamala Harris stood before the record-low water levels of Nevada’s Lake Mead on Monday and made the case for the Biden administration’s climate change agenda by warning that “this is where we’re headed.”

    “Look at where the water has receded over just the last 20 years,” she said, referring to the “bathtub ring” of minerals that marks where the reservoir’s water line previously stood. “That space is larger than the height of the Statue of Liberty.”

    The vice president pitched the administration’s infrastructure and social safety net agenda as critical to tackling the effects of climate change — which scientists say intensify extreme weather events such as heatwaves and droughts.

    Democrats have struggled to win support for that plan from some members of their party, who want to winnow down its $3.5 trillion price tag.

    Harris made the case for the package by connecting human-caused climate change to the scene she stood near, saying emissions are “part of what is contributing to these drought conditions.”

    […]

    Federal officials in August declared the first-ever water shortage in the Colorado River, which means Arizona, Nevada and Mexico will receive less water than normal next year amid a gripping Western drought.

    In September, Reclamation released projections showing an even worse outlook for the river.

    While California is spared from next year’s cuts, the nation’s most populous state has experienced one of its driest years on-record while battling scores of catastrophic wildfires.

    In arguing for the $1 trillion public works infrastructure deal, Harris referenced the “good union jobs” that the spending package would create, naming pipefitters, electricians and plumbers as examples. That plan passed the Senate months ago and is awaiting House approval.

    It contains roughly $8 billion for Western water projects, including desalination technology to make sea water usable, modernizing rural water infrastructure and building greater capacity to recycle wastewater.

    Harris also spoke about the Biden administration’s proposed civilian Climate Corps, which it has said would create hundreds of thousands of jobs building trails, restoring streams and helping stop devastating wildfires…

    Harris on Monday met with federal and regional water officials such as Tanya Trujillo, assistant interior secretary for water and science, and U.S. Reps. Dina Titus, Susie Lee and Steven Horsford of Nevada.

    Passing Biden’s signature social services and climate change plans would serve future generations, Harris said, “in a way that will not only be about life, but about … beautiful places like Lake Mead.”

    From The Deseret News (Hunter Schwarz):

    Water levels at Lake Mead fell this year to their lowest point since the reservoir was created in the 1930s, and in August, the U.S. government declared the first ever water shortage on the Colorado River.

    “When we look at what’s happening here, we know this is about this lake, but it is about a region and it is about our nation,” Harris said.

    Harris said Biden’s agenda was “thoughtful and foresightful,” and that along with the bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill currently in Congress, would make investments “in things like water recycling and reuse, what we can do in terms of water desalination, what we can do in terms of implementation of drought contingency plans.”

    “This is about thinking ahead, recognizing where we are and where we’re headed,” Harris said…

    About half of all adults in western states said they’ve seen extreme weather events happening more often in their region, according to a Pew Research survey released Thursday. Currently, 90% of the West is in a drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, and wildfires in California this year surpassed 4 million acres burned earlier this month, a record. The only regions with higher percentages of residents saying they’ve noticed extreme weather events on the rise were the West South Central region, which includes Texas and Louisiana which have been ravaged by hurricanes, and the Middle Atlantic.

    Pew found wide support for the federal government to take action when it comes to building systems to make wastewater reusable in dry regions, with 88% of U.S. adults saying it is very or somewhat important. But there was a sharp partisan divide. The poll found 64% of Democrats support the federal government taking action, compared with 36% of Republicans.

    Audubon’s Jennifer Pitt Testifies before U.S. Senate on #Drought and #ClimateChange: Audubon is calling for federal leadership and funds to mitigate current disasters and enhance #climate #resilience in the West #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    People enjoying the water pouring from the Canal Alimentador del Sur into the Chausse Restoration Site, Baja California, Mexico. Photo: Claudio Contreras Koob

    Here’s the release from Audubon (Jennifer Pitt):

    On October 6, 2021, Audubon’s Colorado River Program Director gave the following testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Water and Power. This is slightly edited for length. The full testimony can be found at the bottom of this page.

    Chairman Kelly, Ranking Member Hyde-Smith and members of the subcommittee, thank you for holding this important hearing on drought in the West, it is an honor to testify before you today.

    My name is Jennifer Pitt, I serve as the Colorado River Program Director for the National Audubon Society (Audubon), and I have more than 20 years of experience working on water issues in the Colorado River basin. Audubon is a leading national nonprofit organization representing more than 1.8 million members. Since 1905, we have been dedicated to the conservation of birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the- ground conservation. Audubon advocates for solutions in the Colorado River basin that ensure adequate water supply for people and the environment.

    As you consider options to support drought management in the West, it is important to recognize the consequences of severe drought in the Colorado River basin. The myriad rivers, wetlands, and lakes of the Colorado River basin have extraordinary value, economically, culturally, ecologically, and spiritually. While these freshwater-dependent resources cover only 2% of the landscape, they support 40% of all breeding birds. Water year 2021 is now the worst year on record for many farmers and ranchers, wildlife managers, and businesses and communities who rely on water supply from the basin, putting these irreplaceable resources at risk.

    In the Colorado River basin, like other places across the arid West, climate change and drought are already worsening impacts on freshwater-dependent habitats long starved for water. While we cannot completely stop the impacts that are already occurring, with coordinated efforts and smart investments, we can avoid losing key habitats, and promote a stronger, more resilient basin for the future. In order to avoid the worst outcomes for birds and other species, Audubon has worked to ensure that water infrastructure does no additional environmental damage, worked with water managers to dedicate flows for the environment, and supports investing in habitat restoration.

    Audubon’s Colorado River Program Director, Jennifer Pitt, at the Laguna Grande Restoration Site, Baja California, Mexico. Photo: Claudio Contreras Koob

    Federal Investment Needed to Help Manage Drought Impacts

    Federal leadership is needed to provide the resources necessary to address this challenge. Congress should use all available options to invest in immediate and long-term solutions to mitigate current disasters and enhance the climate resilience of states affected by historic drought conditions. Audubon supports immediate disaster relief for communities hit hardest by compounding issues of drought, fire, COVID-19, and historic inequalities. Funding for a suite of common-sense strategies including natural infrastructure that creates distributed storage, forest management and wildfire mitigation, ecosystem restoration, upgraded agricultural irrigation infrastructure, binational water conservation and habitat restoration, water recycling and improved science will provide the means to help enhance overall climate resilience for people, wildlife, and economies throughout the Colorado River basin. Audubon’s federal funding priorities include:

    Emergency Drought Response: Emergency drought relief funding is needed to respond to the historic drought conditions affecting tens of millions of Americans. There is no funding provided for immediate emergency response in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, so additional investment is needed.

    USGS Monitoring and Research: Federal investment in monitoring and science, including Open ET, will allow water managers to replace and add new stream gages, comprehensively forecast, model and track water availability throughout the basin.

    Reclamation’s binational program: Minute 323 carries forward the cooperative approach originally forged in Minute 319, and includes binational agreement to invest in agricultural infrastructure improvements in the Mexicali Valley that result in water conserved in Lake Mead and improvements to riparian habitats. Binational investments have proven effective since the United States and Mexico initiated the cooperative process 15 years ago, but much more needs to be done. With conservation opportunities and ecosystem restoration projects demonstrating the wisdom of the initial pilot projects, it is time to increase the scale of our binational investments. All Colorado River water users would benefit from additional investment in binational water conservation and habitat restoration. By doing so, we would continue to see the benefits in the water levels of Lake Mead and help slow the decline of these essential reservoirs. Without this cooperative process, governments and water leaders on both sides of the border would be investing precious time and energy to try to create the system we have in place today. With Minute 323, our existing binational framework for cooperation, water conservation and environmental restoration, it is time to increase investments to meet the challenges of drought and climate change that threaten the Basin.

    Salton Sea Restoration: Funding will help mitigate the environmental and public health crisis caused by the receding shoreline of California’s Salton Sea.

    Indian Health Service Sanitation and Construction Support: Tribal members suffered the highest rates of covid-19 infection and mortality of any ethnic group in the United States, and the fact that thousands of homes on tribal reservations do not have water service is unconscionable.

    Reclamation Water Settlement Fund: Tribal water settlements are urgently needed to address long- overdue promises, to allow tribes to benefit from their water rights, and to reduce the uncertainty that unsettled rights imposes on all Colorado River water users.

    WaterSMART grants, including the Cooperative Watershed Management Program, with a set-aside for natural infrastructure projects: Community resilience to climate change can be improved with funding for nature-based solutions for restoring rivers and wetlands. Natural infrastructure, including irrigated wetlands and restored high-elevation meadows, can build adaptive capacity in ecosystems and ranching operations to cope with ongoing climate shifts. These investments could also mitigate climate change by reducing and sequestering greenhouse gas emissions and increase economic resilience by providing cost-effective mechanisms to restore degraded working lands, improving land value and profitability of operations.

    Reclamation’s Water Recycling and Reuse programs: Technologies are available to help municipal water systems stretch available water supplies through investments in recycling and reuse infrastructure. Federal funding to maximize water recycling and reuse can help maintain the trend already established among municipalities that use Colorado River water whereby population growth is decoupled from water demand.

    Reclamation Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Program: Beyond the funding in the Infrastructure Bill, additional funding is needed to restore imperiled ecosystems, especially ecosystems facing significant negative impacts caused by historic drought conditions.

    Reclamation multi-benefit projects to improve watershed health: Beyond what was included in the Infrastructure Bill, robust funding is needed to improve watershed health and resiliency, especially for watersheds facing significant negative impacts from historic drought conditions.

    Ecosystem restoration funding for the U.S. Forest Service and Department of the Interior: Well- managed forests provide numerous benefits, including preventing soil erosion; supporting water filtration and increasing runoff yields; regulating snow melt and water supply; improving water quality; lowering water treatment costs; capturing carbon; and benefiting wildlife habitat and fisheries. Implementing best practices in forest management and forest restoration can help maintain these benefits and mitigate against watershed degradation, severe wildfire, and other climate change impacts. Forest management and restoration can also help in adapting to climate shifts as conditions in the basin change, such as regulating snowmelt runoff and increasing economic resilience through job creation and reduced emergency costs, among other benefits.

    Reclamation funding for Aging Agricultural Infrastructure: Ensuring that agricultural infrastructure and operations are up to the challenges of higher temperatures and reduced flows will sustain the economic resilience of rural communities. Improving agricultural infrastructure and operations can reduce pressure on existing water supplies by making operations more efficient, reducing the potential for over-diversion from streams and rivers, and potentially reducing consumptive use.

    Improvements can also help the basin’s agriculture become more resilient to the effects of climate change such as reduced stream flows and higher temperatures.

    Collaborative solutions are possible in the Colorado River basin

  • Freshwater-dependent habitats can be restored with effort and investment, and in some cases, restoration may be the key to reaching consensus in binational Colorado River shortage-sharing agreements.
  • Water conservation can be implemented with sensitivity to the species that depend on irrigated habitats.
  • Sensible water policies and state-level investments can help improve western watersheds and water supplies, and leverage federal funding.
  • We are all in this together, and cooperation and collaboration are critical.

    Brad Udall: Here’s the latest version of my 4-Panel plot thru Water Year (Oct-Sep) of 2019 of the #coriver big reservoirs, natural flows, precipitation, and temperature. Data goes back or 1906 (or 1935 for reservoirs.) This updates previous work with @GreatLakesPeck

    Why Action is needed now: drought has launched the Colorado River into crisis, and climate change means this is not a temporary condition

    Climate change has come barging through the front doors of the Colorado River basin. The Colorado River has lost 20% of its historic flows in the past 20 years. Fifteen years ago, water managers pointed to drought, which has recurred periodically over the past century. Today it is clear – and Colorado River water managers understand – that the shrinking water supply is largely due to climate change, with increased temperatures accounting for 33% of the 21st century decline. In 2021, the Colorado River basin snowmelt measured 90% of average, but runoff – the snowmelt that filled the rivers – was only 30% of average. That discrepancy demonstrates an impact of climate change between the ridgetops and the valley bottoms: warm temperatures that drive evaporation, soil desiccation, and increased water use by every living thing.

    What we do know is stark: Climate change and aridification are permanently changing our landscapes, threatening our way of life, jeopardizing our ability to produce hydropower and placing further strain on our communities. The possibility of severe declines at Lakes Mead and Powell should be a wake-up call to anyone who wants their children or grandchildren to be able to survive and thrive in the West.

    Drought is devastating Colorado River habitats and the wildlife that depends on them

    Because freshwater-dependent resources in the Colorado River basin support 40% of all breeding birds, these birds, like the proverbial canary in the coalmine, are telling us that the basin is in trouble. Birds like the Yellow Warbler and Summer Tanager, once familiar sights along the Colorado River, have experienced significant regional declines. The outlook for Yuma Ridgway’s Rail, Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, all listed as federally endangered, is especially bleak if current trends continue.

    Today, rivers in the basin suffer from reduced flow and changed seasonality of flows, resulting in a diminished river, and in loss of much of the native forest that flourished on the river’s banks. The loss of aquatic and riparian habitats has had devastating impacts on wildlife, particularly fish and birds.

    The combination of drought and heatwaves – as witnessed this summer – can push birds to their physiological limits, leading to lethal dehydration. In drought times, birds may also congregate at remaining, dwindling water spots, causing conditions ripe for the spread of disease.

    At the Salton Sea, declining inflows in the wake of the 2003 Imperial Valley to San Diego transfer is resulting in exposed playa, which creates significant air quality problems for communities that already suffer high asthma rates. The shrinking lake impacts wildlife too: colonial seabirds began abandoning nesting sites en masse in 2013, and shallow, marshy habitat areas at the sea’s edge have begun to rapidly vanish. As less water flows into the Sea, it is becoming more saline and inhospitable to birds, fish, and insects. In the Colorado River Delta, the near complete elimination of flows resulted in an 80% reduction of what had been an expansive, 1.5 million acre ecosystem of wetlands and riparian forests.

    In the past couple of years, we have gotten a glimpse of how climate change impacts will compound with shattering consequences for the environment. With the increase in hot, windy, and dry days, fire season has more than doubled since 1973 in many parts of the West. Forests devastated by 20 years of beetle kill, drought stress, and low soil moisture have burned at record rates. In 2020, Colorado’s Grizzly Creek Fire burned more than 32,000 acres on the Colorado River above Glenwood Springs, and in 2021 rainstorms over the burn area triggered mudslides, repeatedly closing Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon, interrupting travel and trade, and choking the Colorado River, clogging fish breeding grounds and dumping untold volumes of ash and sediment into the water supply.

    2021 river temperatures up to 80º F impacted numerous recreational fisheries leading to voluntary and mandatory closures. Warm rivers also boost populations of non-native bass and pike, which prey on protected Colorado River native fishes including the razorback sucker and humpback chub. 2021 also saw rivers like the Dolores go completely dry, which is not friendly habitat for any kind of fish.

    This is a sobering and scary time for everyone and everything that depends on the Colorado River.

    Conclusion

    As Congress considers priorities and funding opportunities, Audubon supports increasing federal investments and leadership for the Colorado River Basin and natural resources across the West. After this year’s historic drought and catastrophic wildfires, we urge Congress to ensure that federal agencies receive critically needed resources to prepare now for the effects of climate change by promoting nature-based solutions for restoring watersheds and ecosystems. In addition, Congress has several pending bills with bipartisan support that respond to the many needs of tribal communities and western states’ water supply needs that we are supporting, including access to clean water and water settlements. It is imperative that our communities have the resources they need to prepare for and respond to the drought crisis that touches every living thing.

    Thank you very much for the opportunity to testify and I would be happy to answers your questions.

    Written testimony.

    A Proclamation on #BearsEars National Monument — @POTUS

    From Bears Ears National Monument. Photo credit: Jonathan Thompson

    Here’s the proclamation from the White House:

    President Barack Obama’s establishment of the Bears Ears National Monument in Proclamation 9558 of December 28, 2016, represented the culmination of more than a century of efforts to protect the ancestral homeland of Tribal Nations that all refer to the area by the same name — Hoon’Naqvut (Hopi), Shash Jaa’ (Navajo), Kwiyagatu Nukavachi (Ute), and Ansh An Lashokdiwe (Zuni): Bears Ears. Preserving the sacred landscape and unique cultural resources in the Bears Ears region was an impetus for passage of the Antiquities Act in 1906. As early as 1904, advocates for protection of cultural landscapes described for the Congress the tragedy of the destruction of objects of historic and scientific interest across the American Southwest and identified the Bears Ears region as one of seven areas in need of immediate protection. Nevertheless, for more than 100 years, indigenous people, historians, conservationists, scientists, archaeologists, and other groups advocated unsuccessfully for protection of the Bears Ears landscape. It was not until the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and Pueblo of Zuni united in a common vision to protect these sacred lands and requested permanent protection from President Obama that Bears Ears National Monument became a reality. Few national monuments more clearly meet the Antiquities Act’s criteria for protection than the Bears Ears Buttes and surrounding areas. This proclamation confirms, restores, and supplements the boundaries and protections provided by Proclamation 9558, including the continued reservation of land added to the monument by Proclamation 9681 of December 4, 2017.

    As Proclamation 9558 recognizes, the greater Bears Ears landscape, characterized by deep sandstone canyons, broad desert mesas, towering monoliths, forested mountaintops dotted with lush meadows, and the striking Bears Ears Buttes, has supported indigenous people of the Southwest from time immemorial and continues to be sacred land to the Hopi Tribe, Navajo Nation, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, and Pueblo of Zuni. Approximately two dozen other Tribal Nations and Pueblos have cultural ties to the area as well.

    Describing as much as 13,000 years of human occupation of the Bears Ears landscape, Proclamation 9558 contextualizes the compelling need to protect one of the most extraordinary cultural landscapes in the United States. The proclamation describes the landscape’s unique density of significant cultural, historical, and archaeological artifacts spanning thousands of years, including remains of single family homes, ancient cliff dwellings, large villages, granaries, kivas, towers, ceremonial sites, prehistoric steps cut into cliff faces, and a prehistoric road system that connected the people of Bears Ears to each other and possibly beyond. Proclamation 9558 also describes the cultural significance and importance of the area, exemplified by the petroglyphs, pictographs, and recent rock writings left by the indigenous people that have inhabited the area since time immemorial.

    In addition to cultural and historic sites, Proclamation 9558 describes the Bears Ears landscape’s unique geology, biology, ecology, paleontology, and topography. The proclamation identifies geologic formations rich with fossils that provide a rare and relatively complete picture of the paleoenvironment, striking landscapes, unique landforms, and rare and important plant and animal species. While not objects of historic and scientific interest designated for protection, the proclamation also describes other resources in the area, historic grazing, and world class outdoor recreation opportunities — including rock climbing, hunting, hiking, backpacking, canyoneering, whitewater rafting, mountain biking, and horseback riding — that support a booming travel and tourism sector that is a source of economic opportunity for local communities.

    To protect this singular and sacred landscape, President Obama reserved approximately 1.35 million acres through Proclamation 9558 as the smallest area compatible with protection of the objects identified within the boundaries of the monument. He also established the Bears Ears Commission to ensure that management of the monument would be guided by, and benefit from, expertise of Tribal Nations and traditional and historical knowledge of the area.

    On December 4, 2017, President Donald Trump issued Proclamation 9681 to reduce the lands within the monument by more than 1.1 million acres. In doing so, Proclamation 9681 removes protection from objects of historic and scientific interest across the Bears Ears landscape, including some objects that Proclamation 9558 specifically identifies by name for protection. Multiple parties challenged Proclamation 9681 in Federal court, asserting that it exceeds the President’s authority under the Antiquities Act.

    Restoring the Bears Ears National Monument honors the special relationship between the Federal Government and Tribal Nations, correcting the exclusion of lands and resources profoundly sacred to Tribal Nations, and ensuring the long-term protection of, and respect for, this remarkable and revered region. Given the unique nature and cultural significance of the objects identified across the Bears Ears landscape, the threat of damage and destruction to those objects, their spiritual, cultural, and historical significance to Tribal Nations, and the insufficiency of the protections afforded in the absence of Antiquities Act protections, the reservation described below is the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects of historic and scientific interest named in this proclamation and Proclamation 9558.

    Proposed Bears Ears National Monument July 2016 via Elizabeth Shogren.

    he Bears Ears landscape — bordered by the Colorado River to the west, the San Juan River and the Navajo Nation to the south, low bluffs and high mesas to the east and north, and Canyonlands National Park to the northwest, and brimming with towering sandstone spires, serpentine canyons, awe-inspiring natural bridges and arches, as well as the famous twin Bears Ears Buttes standing sentinel over the sacred region — is not just a series of isolated objects, but is, itself, an object of historic and scientific interest requiring protection under the Antiquities Act. Bears Ears is sacred land of spiritual significance, a historic homeland, and a place of belonging for indigenous people from the Southwest. Bears Ears is a living, breathing landscape, that — owing to the area’s arid environment and overall remoteness, as well as the building techniques that its inhabitants employed — retains remarkable and spiritually significant evidence of indigenous use and habitation since time immemorial, including from the Paleoindian Period, through the time of the Basketmakers and Ancestral Pueblos, to the more recent Navajo and Ute period, and continuing to this day. There are innumerable objects of historic or scientific interest within this extraordinary landscape. Some of the objects are also sacred to Tribal Nations, are sensitive, rare, or vulnerable to vandalism and theft, or are dangerous to visit and, therefore, revealing their specific names and locations could pose a danger to the objects or the public. The variety, density, and prevalence of these objects, such as prehistoric roads, structures, shrines, ceremonial sites, graves, pots, baskets, tools, petroglyphs, pictographs, and items of clothing, all contribute to the uniqueness of this region and underscore its sacred nature and living spiritual significance to indigenous people.

    Many of the Tribal Nations that trace their ancestral origin to this area and continue their spiritual practices on these lands today view Bears Ears as a part of the personal identity of their members and as a cultural living space — a landscape where their traditions began, where their ancestors engaged in and handed down cultural practices, and where they developed and refined complex protocols for caring for the land. The Bears Ears region is also a tangible location that is integral to indigenous ceremonial practices, cultural traditions, and the sustainment of the daily lives of indigenous peoples. Since time immemorial, the lands of the Bears Ears region have fostered indigenous identity and spirituality. Indigenous people lived, hunted, gathered, prayed, and built homes in the Bears Ears region. As a result, each geographic subregion and the mountains, canyons, mesa tops, ridges, rivers, and streams therein that make up the Bears Ears landscape hold cultural significance. These individual locales come together as objects of historic and scientific interest — many of which have spiritual significance to indigenous people and are located across this living landscape ‑- to tell stories, facilitate the practice of traditions, and serve as a mnemonic device that elders use to teach younger generations where they came from, who they are, and how to live. Resources found throughout the Bears Ears region, including wildlife and plants that are native to the region, continue to serve integral roles in the development and practice of indigenous ceremonial and cultural lifeways. From family gatherings, dances, and ceremonies held on these sacred lands, to gathering roots, berries, firewood, piñon nuts, weaving materials, and medicines across the region, Bears Ears remains an essential landscape that members of Tribal Nations regularly visit to heal, practice their spirituality, pray, rejuvenate, and connect with their history.

    From Hole in The Rock looking South East across the Colorado River in Glen Canyon at Mile 84.4. By Ken Bertossi – Grand Canyon National Park Museum Collection GRCA 117031, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=86669734

    The Bears Ears region is also important to, and shows recent evidence of, non-Native migrants to the area. From the smoothed-over surfaces of the Hole-in-the-Rock Trail to the historic cattle-ranching cabins, and the convoluted series of passages and hideouts used by men like Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and other members of the Wild Bunch on the Outlaw Trail, including Hideout Canyon, the Bears Ears landscape conveys the story of westward expansion of European Americans and the settlement of Latter-day Saint communities in southern Utah. Hispanic sheep herders from New Mexico also migrated into this area during the late 1800s, and many of their descendants continue to live in local communities.

    Despite millennia of human habitation, the Bears Ears landscape remains one of the most ecologically intact and least‑roaded regions in the contiguous United States. As a result, the area continues to provide habitat to a variety of threatened, endangered, sensitive, endemic, or otherwise rare species of wildlife, fish, and plants. The area also contains a diverse array of species that benefit from the preservation of the landscape’s intact ecosystems.

    Skull of Ophiacodon navajovicus as preserved in bone bed. Photo credit: Carnegie Museum of Natural History

    The Bears Ears landscape also tells the stories of epochs past. The area’s exposed geologic formations provide a continuous record of vertebrate life in North America as well as a rich history of invertebrate fossils. The Chinle Formation, and the Wingate, Kayenta, and Navajo Formations above it, demonstrate how the Triassic Period transitioned into the Jurassic Period and provide critical insight into both how dinosaurs dominated terrestrial ecosystems and how our mammalian ancestors evolved. The discovery of several taxa, including a prosauropod that gets its name from a Navajo word tied to the region where it was found, the archosauromorph Crosbysaurus harrisae, and a unique phytosaur, have occurred exclusively within Bears Ears or have significantly extended an extinct species’ known range. While paleontologists have only recently begun to systematically survey and study much of the fossil record in this region, experts are confident that scientifically important paleontological resources remain to be discovered, and future exploration will greatly expand our understanding of prehistoric life on the Colorado Plateau.

    The road to Bears Ears via the Salt Lake Tribune.

    The landscape itself is composed of several areas, each of which is unique and an object of scientific and historic interest requiring protection under the Antiquities Act. Near the center is the Bears Ears Buttes and Headwaters, the location of the iconic twin buttes, which soar over the surrounding landscape and maintain watch over the ancestral home of numerous Tribal Nations. Containing dense fir and aspen forests that provide firewood to heat homes as well as powerful medicines and habitat for wild game species, Tribal Nations view the high elevation oasis as the key to life in the Bears Ears region. The Bears Ears Buttes also hold historical significance to the Navajo people, as the landscape and natural cliff dwellings served as hiding places to escape the United States military during the forced Long Walk, where more than 11,000 Navajo were marched up to 450 miles on foot to internment camps in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Many Navajo hid in the remote canyons to avoid the forced removal from their traditional homelands in the Southwest by the United States from 1864 to 1868.

    Indian Creek, Utah. Photo credit: Andrew Burr

    In the northern part of the Bears Ears landscape lies Indian Creek, the home of a world-renowned canyon characterized by sheer red cliffs and spires of exposed and eroded layers of Navajo, Kayenta, Wingate, and Cedar Mesa Sandstone, including the iconic North and South Six-Shooter Peaks. The canyon includes famous vertical cracks striating its sandstone walls and the area provides important habitat for a multitude of plant and animal species. Indian Creek’s palisades provide eyries for peregrine falcons and potential nesting sites for bald and golden eagles, and the Lockhart Basin area and Donnelly Canyon contain Mexican spotted owl habitat. The Indian Creek area further provides critical winter grounds for big-game species such as mule deer, elk, and bighorn sheep and potential habitat for endangered fish and threatened plant species. The prominent Bridger Jack and Lavender Mesas are home to largely unaltered relict plant communities composed of pinyon-juniper woodlands interspersed with small sagebrush islands. It is also in Indian Creek that one can find Newspaper Rock, a massive petroglyph panel displaying a notable concentration of rock writings from persons of the Basketmaker and Ancestral Pueblo periods, the Ute and Navajo people who still live in the Four Corners area and beyond, and early settlers of European descent. Indian Creek also contains possible evidence of trade with cultures extending into Mesoamerica, including a thousand-year-old ornamental sash found in the area made from azure and scarlet macaw feathers as well as a petroglyph featuring a macaw-like bird figure. Shay Canyon is a side canyon that houses extensive, well-preserved petroglyph panels from multiple prehistoric periods. The panels contain a unique rock writing style that is believed to be both Freemont and Ancestral Pueblo in origin. Harts Point is an escarpment that provides spectacular views of the Indian Creek Canyon. These mesa tops also contain evidence of historic connections of indigenous people to the region. Additionally, Indian Creek provides fossilized trackways of early tetrapods and fossilized traces of marine and aquatic creatures such as clams, crayfish, fish, and aquatic reptiles dating to the Triassic Period.

    Ancestral Puebloan ruin in Dark Canyon Wilderness. By Brian Murdock, Moab/Monticello Ranger District, USFS – Wilderness.net – http://www.wilderness.net/index.cfm?fuse=NWPS&sec=enlargeAndDetails&id=1866, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3504281

    Southwest of Indian Creek and geographically nestled between the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, the Dark Canyon Wilderness area, and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, lie Beef Basin and Fable Valley, areas characterized by well-preserved Ancestral Pueblo surface sites ‑- including freestanding Pueblo masonry structures and towers — as well as petroglyphs and pictographs. The areas are unique in their high concentration of large, mesa-top Pueblo structures. Sites in this region may also provide evidence of some of the furthest north migration of Pueblo in the Mesa Verde region.

    The Abajo Mountains near Monticello. By The original uploader was SyzygyMan at English Wikipedia. – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Davemeistermoab., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4538727

    Just south of Indian Creek, the westernmost edge of the Abajo Mountains forms the eastern boundary of the Bears Ears landscape. An island laccolith series of peaks and domes known also as the Blue Mountains due to the appearance of their heavily forested slopes contrasted against the red desert that surrounds them, the Abajo Mountains are rich in wildlife and home to several rare and sensitive plant species. As a result of the breadth of species, the Abajo Mountains have long been a traditional hunting ground for the indigenous people that have lived in the area and are held sacred by a number of Tribal Nations, including the Navajo Nation, Pueblo of Zuni, and Ute Indian Tribes. These peaks represent the highest elevations in the Bears Ears landscape and provide unbroken views of the entire region.


    AllTrails
    Beef Basin Wash Cliff Dwellings OHV Trail – Utah. Photo credit: AllTrails

    South of Beef Basin and Indian Creek, the landscape contains a number of sandstone canyons that drain the northern edge of the Abajo Mountains and Elk Ridge, including the Tuerto, Trough, Ruin, and North Cottonwood Canyons, at the bottom of which runs a perennial creek. Ancestral Pueblo sites within this area have special significance to the Pueblos of New Mexico, who identify these sites as part of their ancestral footprints that extend their traditional territory north of the Abajo Mountains. The area, which is composed of both Cedar Mesa Sandstone and Chinle Formation deposits, has a very high potential for Permian and Triassic fossils.

    Gambel oak photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

    The South Cottonwood Canyon region, characterized by prominent sandstone escarpments surrounded by forests of pinyon, juniper, and Gambel oak, interspersed with stands of ponderosa pine and mixed conifers, is situated west of the Abajo Mountains and south of the prominent sandstone towers known as the Chippean Rocks. The isolated area contains intact cultural landscapes of early Ancestral Pueblo communities. Some sites are organized as a larger central village surrounded by smaller family-sized dwellings, while others are large and inaccessible granaries. This region is home to a diversity of wildlife, including Townsend’s big-eared bats, beavers, and ringtail cats, as well as the Cliff Dwellers Pasture Research Natural Area, an ungrazed box canyon with a unique vegetative community and an imposing sandstone arch and natural bridge. The area also contains excellent big game habitat and is considered prime mule deer, elk, and black bear hunting grounds.

    Further west, South Cottonwood Canyon is home to a unique density of Pueblo I to early Pueblo II village sites that are considered important to both archaeologists and Tribal Nations. One site, a collapsed two-story block masonry structure that appears to be an early version of a great house, was built during a time when the development of this kind of community structure was only beginning in Chaco Canyon. More recently, the South Cottonwood Canyon area proved critical to the survival of the White Mesa Ute during Anglo settlement of southern Utah. Paleontologically, there is high potential fossil yield on both the west side of the area, which contains portions of the Triassic Period Chinle and Moenkopi Formations, and the east side, which is composed of Jurassic Period Glen Canyon Group Kayenta Formation. The area also provides critical habitat for Mexican spotted owls, peregrine falcons, golden eagles, and spotted bats.

    The Dark Canyon, Dry Mesa complex, located between Beef Basin and White Canyon, is wild and remote. In Dark Canyon — a canyon system that includes Peavine, Woodenshoe, and other minor tributaries — rock walls, which tower 3,000 feet above the canyon floor, provide a sense of solitude and isolation from the surrounding mesa tops. The canyon system, one of the only entirely intact and protected canyons from its headwaters on the Colorado Plateau to its confluence with the Colorado River, includes numerous hanging gardens, springs, and riparian areas and provides habitat for a wide range of wildlife, including known populations of Mexican spotted owl. Dry Mesa is relatively flat with stands of ponderosa pine, oak, and pinyon and juniper that provide foraging habitat for golden eagles and peregrine falcons. Many Tribal Nations have strong connections to sites in the area from three specific time periods: ancient hunter-gatherers during the Archaic period, Ancestral Pueblos during the Pueblo III period, and finally, Navajo, Ute, and Paiute families just before and during European migration into the Four Corners area. Visitors to the Dark Canyon Wilderness area will find the Doll House, a fully-intact and well-preserved single-room granary. Located at the bottom of Horse Pasture Canyon and Dark Canyon, visitors will also find Scorup Cabin, a line cabin originally built in Rig Canyon and later moved to its current location, that cowboys used as a summer camp while running cattle in the area. The area also contains exposures of Permian Period Cutler Group deposits that have a high potential to contain both vertebrate and invertebrate fossils.

    Utah’s White Canyon. Photo credit: SUWA

    Utah’s White Canyon makes a gorgeous, serpentine cut through Cedar Mesa, near Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. But it remains unprotected.
    It lies at the heart of the proposed Glen Canyon Wilderness, where the vast expanse of Paleozoic-era sandstone known as Nokai Dome eases its way to the upper reaches of Lake Powell in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. This region also includes the soaring Wingate Cliffs of the Red Rock Plateau, Mancos Mesa, Moqui Canyon with its meandering stream, Red Canyon, and the serpentine side canyons of White Canyon. This is one of the most remote regions of the state, but it lacks protection and is threatened by increasing ORV use.

    It is all part of the San Juan-Canyonlands region of Southeastern Utah, one of the most iconic landscapes recommended for protection in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, boasting dramatic geologic features wrought by elemental forces, as well as internationally significant cultural sites of the Ancestral Puebloans and the Mormon Pioneers. Adorned with buttes and arches, vast stretches of slickrock deposited over 250 million years ago, ancient pinyon-juniper forests and an artist’s pallet of red-hued sandstone, the San Juan-Canyonlands region has inspired explorers since the days of John Wesley Powell, and its wonders represent some of the greatest unprotected wilderness in the country.[/caption]

    The White Canyon region, west of Dark Canyon, is a remote area featuring an extensive complex of steep and narrow canyons cut through light-colored Cedar Mesa Sandstone. Once used by outlaws to evade authorities, the area’s slot canyons, including the Black Hole, Fry Canyon, and Cheesebox Canyon, now draw adventurers in search of multi-day, technical canyoneering opportunities. The entire White Canyon area has a rich paleontological history. Research in the area is ongoing, but recent discoveries of track sites in the Triassic Moenkopi Formation and an assemblage of invertebrate burrows suggest that a diverse fauna once thrived here. Mollusks, phytosaurs, and possible theropod and ornithischian fossils have also been found in White Canyon.

    Elk Ridge, Utah. Photo credit: Tim Peterson via the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition

    Located between the Abajo Mountains and the Colorado River, the high plateau of Elk Ridge provides stunning views of the surrounding canyons and the Bears Ears Buttes to the south. Visitors passing through the Notch, a naturally occurring narrow pass between north and south Elk Ridge, are treated to spectacular vistas of Dark Canyon to the west and Notch Canyon to the east. The area’s higher elevations, which contain pockets of ancient Engelmann spruce, rare stands of old-growth ponderosa pine, aspen, and subalpine fir, and a genetically distinct population of Kachina daisy, provide welcome respite from the higher temperatures found in the region’s lower elevations, especially during the summer. There is evidence that indigenous people have hunted and gathered plants on Elk Ridge for at least 8,000 years, a practice that continues today and is considered sacred by the Navajo Nation. Elk Ridge also has a long history of livestock grazing by Navajo and Ute families and later Anglo settlers. While the mesa top is primarily dry, water naturally occurs at the area’s seeps and springs, as well as the ephemeral Duck Lake, a seasonal wetland located on top of Elk Ridge that results from snowmelt. The upper reaches of the ridge also contain Upper Triassic formations with a high potential to contain fossils.

    Texas Canyon, Utah, looking southeast towards Arch Canyon and Comb Wash. G. Thomas at English Wikipedia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

    To the east of Elk Ridge lies a major system of canyons on National Forest System lands, including Hammond Canyon, Upper Arch Canyon, Texas Canyon, and Notch Canyon. This deeply incised canyon system is composed of stunning red sandstone walls, white pinnacles, lush green foliage, and several small waterfalls. Uniquely, the area also contains large sandstone towers and hoodoos in a forested setting. The Hammond Canyon area, which is central to the history of the White Mesa Utes, contains numerous Ancestral Pueblo sites, including cliff dwellings. Hammond Canyon also contains an Ancestral Pueblo village with structures and pottery from multiple Ancestral Pueblo periods. High fossil potential exists in both the Upper Triassic and Lower Jurassic Glen Canyon Sandstone of Hammond Canyon’s lower half as well as the Permian Period Cedar Mesa Sandstone found in its upper half.

    Ange Arch. This arch is located in Arch Canyon off Utah Rt. 95, the Bi-Centennial Highway. The opening has a height of 110 ft. and a span of 40 feet. Photo by Dr. Allen Crockett

    Just south of Elk Ridge, Arch Canyon is a 12-mile long box canyon containing numerous arches, including Cathedral Arch, Angel Arch, and Keystone Arch. The area is teeming with fossilized remains, including numerous specimens from the Permian and Upper Permian eras. Cliff dwellings and hanging gardens are located throughout the canyon. Arch Canyon Great House, which spans the Pueblo II and III periods and contains pictographs and petroglyphs ranging from the Archaic to the historic periods, is located at the canyon’s mouth. A perennial stream that provides potential habitat for sensitive fish species and for the threatened Navajo sedge is located in the canyon’s bottom.

    Mule Canyon. Photo credit: Utah.com

    Mule Canyon, a 500-foot deep, 5-mile long chasm, is situated northeast of the Fish Creek area and southeast of the Bears Ears Buttes. Throughout the canyon, cliff dwellings and other archaeological sites are sheltered by rock walls composed of alternating layers of red and white sandstone. Among those are the stunning House on Fire, which has different masonry styles that indicate several episodes of construction and use. The area’s rich archaeological history is also evidenced on the nearby tablelands, where the Mule Canyon Village site allows visitors to view the exposed masonry walls of ancient living quarters and a partially restored kiva. Recent research suggests that Ancestral Pueblos in this area may have cultivated a variety of plants that are uncommon across the wider landscape and persist to this day, such as the Four Corners potato, goosefoot, wolfberry, and sumac. Although similar cultivation may have been occurring near Ancestral Pueblo sites across the Bears Ears landscape, it appears to have been particularly prevalent in and around the Mule, South Cottonwood, Dry, Arch, and Owl Canyons.

    Bluff UT – aerial with San Juan River and Comb Ridge. https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6995171

    Tilted at almost 20 degrees and running along a north-south axis from the foothills of the Abajo Mountains, past the San Juan River, and onto the Navajo Nation, the serrated cliffs of the Comb Ridge monocline are visible from space and have both spiritual and practical significance to many Tribal Nations. It is in this area that one can find a series of alcoves in Whiskers Draw that have sheltered evidence of human habitation for thousands of years, including the site where Richard Wetherill first identified what we know today as the Basketmaker people, as well as Milk Ranch Point, where early Ancestral Pueblo farmers found refuge when the climate turned hotter and dryer at lower elevations. Comb Ridge, flanked on the west by Comb Wash and on the east by Butler Wash, holds additional evidence of centuries of human habitation, including cliff dwellings, such as the well-known Butler Wash Village and Monarch Cave, kivas, ceremonial sites, and rock writings, like the Procession Panel, Wolfman Panel, and Lower Butler Wash Panel, a wall-sized mural depicting San Juan Anthropomorph figures dating to the Basketmaker period that is considered important for understanding the daily life and rituals of the Basketmaker people. Chacoan roads as well as the handholds and steps carved into cliff faces found in this area formed part of the region’s migration system and are integral to the story of the Bears Ears landscape. The Comb Ridge area also contains a rich paleontological history, including an Upper Triassic microvertebrate site with greater taxonomic diversity than any other published site of the same nature in Utah, and the earliest recorded instance of a giant arthropod trackway in Utah. Paleontologists have also found phytosaur and dinosaur fossils from the Triassic Period and have identified new species of plant-eating crocodile-like reptiles and rich bonebeds of lumbering sauropods in the area.

    Jackson Stairway. Photo credit: NPS.com

    South Cottonwood Wash is an extensive drainage just east of Comb Ridge that extends from the Abajo Mountains to the San Juan River near Bluff, Utah. The drainage contains at least three great houses as well as a number of alcove sites, and it has a high density of petroglyphs and pictographs, including a cave with more than 200 handprints in a variety of colors. There is also evidence of a Chacoan road that connected multiple great houses and kiva sites. These prehistoric transportation systems in the Bears Ears region are critical to understanding the trading patterns, economy, and social organization of ancient Pueblo communities and the other major cultural centers with whom they interacted, such as Chaco Canyon.

    Late afternoon light flows across the desert in Valley of the Gods, near Bluff, Utah. By John Fowler from Placitas, NM, USA – Valley of the GodsUploaded by PDTillman, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19730031

    At the far southern end of the Bears Ears landscape lies Valley of the Gods, a broad expanse of sandstone monoliths, pinnacles, and other geological features of historic and scientific interest. Towering spires of red sandstone that rise from the valley floor are held sacred by the Navajo people, who view the formations as ancient warriors frozen in stone and places of power in which spirits reside. The austere valley, which is noteworthy in both its geology and ecology, provides habitat for Eucosma navajoensis, an endemic moth that lives nowhere else. The Mars-like landscape also contains evidence of our own planet’s distant past, including early tetrapod trackways, Paleozoic freshwater sharks, ray-finned fishes, lobe-finned fishes, giant primitive amphibians, and multiple unique taxa of mammal-like reptiles. Paleontologists have also uncovered notable plant macrofossils including ancestral conifers, giant horsetail-like plants, ferns the size of trees, and lycopsids (similar to modern clubmoss).

    Swim class on the San Juan River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    The San Juan River forms the southern boundary of the Bears Ears landscape. One of the four sacred rivers that Tribal Nations believe were established by the gods to act as defensive guardians over their ancestral lands, the river is closely tied to traditional stories of creation, danger, protection, and healing. The Lime Ridge Clovis site demonstrates that the history of human occupation within the river corridor dates back at least 13,000 years. The Sand Island Petroglyph Panel presents petroglyphs primarily from the Basketmaker through the Pueblo III periods as well as more modern Navajo and Ute carvings. There are also a number of Ancestral Pueblo structures that are accessible by river, such as River House. Nearby San Juan Hill was the last major obstacle for the Hole-in-the-Rock expedition and presents visible evidence of the weary expedition’s effort to cross Comb Ridge, including parts of a road, wagon ruts, and an inscription at the top of the ridge. The river corridor also contains a number of unique geologic formations, such as the well-known balancing rock at Mexican Hat, and provides important habitat for the threatened yellow-billed cuckoo and the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher. The river itself is home to two endangered fish species: Colorado pikeminnow, the largest minnow in North America, which is believed to have evolved more than 3 million years ago, and the razorback sucker, the only member of its genus.

    Cedar Mesa. Photo credit: Utah.com

    Cedar Mesa is located in the heart of the Bears Ears landscape, west of Comb Ridge and north of the San Juan River. Ranging from approximately 4,000 to 6,500 feet in elevation, the approximately 400-square mile plateau is of deep significance to Tribal Nations. Characterized by pinyon-juniper forests on the mesa tops and canyons along its periphery, the entirety of Cedar Mesa is an object of scientific and historic interest, providing a broader context for the individual resources found there. It is the density of world-class cultural resources found throughout the remote, sloping plateau and its numerous canyons that make Cedar Mesa truly unique. For example, an open-twined yucca fiber sandal believed to be more than 7,000 years old was discovered in a dry shelter located in a narrow slickrock canyon in Cedar Mesa. Moon House is an example of iconic Pueblo-decorated architecture and was likely the last occupied site on Cedar Mesa. On the top of the plateau, Chacoan roads connect several Ancestral Pueblo great houses that show architectural influence from the Chaco Canyon region as well as ceramics that demonstrate both historic and modern Pueblo connections. And in the heart of Cedar Mesa, a multi-room, multi-story great house contains kivas with distinctive Chacoan features that are much larger than kivas found elsewhere on Cedar Mesa. Today, Cedar Mesa is home to bighorn sheep, but fossil evidence in the area’s sandstone has revealed large, mammal-like reptiles that burrowed into the sand to survive the blistering heat of the end of the Permian Period, when the region was dominated by a seaside desert. Later, during the Upper Triassic Period, seasonal monsoons flooded an ancient river system that fed a vast desert here. Salvation Knoll, a point from which lost Latter-day Saint pioneers were able to obtain their bearings on Christmas Day in 1879, is also located in the area.

    Cedar Mesa is striated with deep chasms housing remarkably intact Ancestral Pueblo sites. John’s Canyon and Slickhorn Canyon, which empty into the San Juan River in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area to the south, contain numerous petroglyphs, pictographs, and Ancestral Pueblo structures built into elongated alcoves on buff-colored cliffs. Similarly, the canyons on the east side of Cedar Mesa hold a significant density of archaeological sites providing a glimpse into the region’s past, including rock writings and Ancestral Pueblo dwellings. The Citadel cliff dwelling is just one example of the striking Ancestral Pueblo sites located in Road Canyon, while other sites include painted handprints and evidence of daily life left by Ancestral Pueblos. Located to the north of Road Canyon, the Fish Canyon area contains a number of Pueblo structures. The Fish Canyon area also contains one of the few perennial streams in the area and an important potential habitat for the Mexican spotted owl. Finally, the rust-colored, 145‑foot span of Nevills Arch awaits those who make the challenging trek down Owl Canyon. Opening to a height of 80 feet and named after Norman Nevills, the first boatman to take paying customers on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, the arch creates a striking window to the sky on the upper reaches of the canyon walls.

    Upper Grand Gulch. Photo credit: ClimbUtah.com

    Grand Gulch, a mostly dry canyon that meanders for nearly 50 miles on the western edge of Cedar Mesa and is replete with thousands of cliff dwellings and rock writing sites, likely contains the highest concentration of Ancestral Pueblo sites on the Colorado Plateau. Initially occupied in the Basketmaker II and III periods, Grand Gulch’s initial inhabitants left pictographs and constructed shallow pithouses and camps on the mesa top and dry shelters for storage. One pictograph dating from this time period depicting two large, anthropomorphic figures is of special religious significance to Tribal Nations. Grand Gulch also contains a multitude of Pueblo II to III sites and was one of the first prehistoric national historic districts designated on the National Register of Historic Places. The area contains the Turkey Pen site, which is believed to provide some of the earliest evidence of turkey domestication in North America, a pristine kiva in a remote canyon bend, and countless other unique Pueblo structures, such as Junction Village, a large Pueblo habitation site; Split Level Village, a multi-level Pueblo habitation; and Bannister House, a habitation consisting of two relatively intact structures and a spring at the base of the cliff face. Grand Gulch also contains unique artifacts, such as a tattoo needle, a site containing a multichromatic pictograph of a mask, important historic archaeological inscriptions from the Wetherill expedition, and a multitude of other rock writings.

    Kane Gulch is a tributary canyon of Grand Gulch incised through Cedar Mesa Sandstone and clogged with house-sized boulders. The canyon houses an aspen grove — an uncommon occurrence at such elevations in the desert — and contains a number of archaeological sites that are perched on canyon walls high above cottonwood trees that provide welcomed shade to the riparian areas in the canyon bottom. Nearby, Bullet Canyon, which intersects with the upper reaches of Grand Gulch, also holds numerous structures, petroglyphs, pictographs, and other artifacts, such as the well-preserved Perfect Kiva — a partly restored kiva, accompanied by several rooms and other smaller structures.

    The Red Cliffs area. Photo credit: G. Scott Hansen

    To the west of Cedar Mesa, the Clay Hills, Red House Cliffs, and Mike’s Canyon form the southwest corner of the Bears Ears landscape. This remote and rarely visited area remains largely unstudied by scientists. Tool- and arrowhead-making sites, dwellings, and granaries in the lower reaches of the canyons indicate that they sustained Archaic, Basketmaker, and Ancestral Pueblo cultures. The area’s unforgiving topography, composed of expansive stretches of slickrock periodically interrupted by deep canyons, challenged Latter-day Saint settlers that traveled along the Hole-in-the-Rock Trail and left wheel ruts and other traces of pioneer life. The harsh ecosystem still supports a herd of desert bighorn sheep throughout the year, and in the canyon bottoms, including Mike’s Canyon, intrepid beavers can be found in small areas of riparian habitat. The Clay Hills area contains the first discovery of vertebrate fossils from the Bears Ears region, which was also the first occurrence of a phytosaur identified in Utah.

    White Canyon is a canyon in San Juan County, Utah notable for Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings and slot canyons. It is spanned by Sipapu Bridge, one of the largest natural bridges in the world.
    The canyon begins in the foothills of the Abajo Mountains and passes through Natural Bridges National Monument before emptying into Lake Powell or, if lake levels are low, the Dirty Devil River. Utah State Route 95 parallels the inner gorge of the canyon for much of its length.
    One particularly deep and narrow section of White Canyon is known as the Black Hole. The walls in this permanently flooded 500-foot (150 m) long section are only a few feet (about 1 m) apart in some places. Canyoneers sometimes wear wetsuits to guard against hypothermia while traversing this section. The danger of flash flooding is very high due to the canyon’s large drainage basin. A 16-year-old girl drowned in a flash flood while hiking in the Black Hole area in September 1996. Ken Lund from Reno, Nevada, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

    Standing alone west of Cedar Mesa and adjacent to the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Mancos Mesa is likely the largest isolated slickrock mesa in southern Utah. Covering approximately 180 square miles, Mancos Mesa’s roughly triangular shape is bounded by towering cliffs, some reaching more than 1,000 feet high. The entire area is dominated by Navajo Sandstone and is incised with canyons, including Moqui Canyon, a 20-mile canyon with sheer walls rising over 600 feet. The mesa, an ecological island in the sky, contains a relict plant community that supports Native perennial grasses, shrubs, and some cacti. Mancos Mesa also contains archaeological remains dating back 2,000 years and spanning across the Basketmaker II and III and Pueblo I, II, and III periods.

    Protection of the Bears Ears area will preserve its spiritual, cultural, prehistoric, and historic legacy and maintain its diverse array of natural and scientific resources, ensuring that the prehistoric, historic, and scientific values of this area remain for the benefit of all Americans. For more than 100 years, and sometimes predating the enactment of the Antiquities Act, Presidents, Members of Congress, Secretaries of the Interior, Tribal Nations, State and local governments, scientists, and local conservationists have understood and championed the need to protect the Bears Ears area. The area contains numerous objects of historic and scientific interest and also includes other resources that contribute to the social and economic well-being of the area’s modern communities as a result of world-class outdoor recreation opportunities, including unparalleled rock climbing available at places like the canyons in Indian Creek; the paradise for hikers, birders, and horseback riders provided in areas like the canyons east of Elk Ridge; and other destinations for hunting, backpacking, canyoneering, whitewater rafting, and mountain biking, that are important to the increasing travel- and tourism-based economy in the region.

    WHEREAS, section 320301 of title 54, United States Code (known as the “Antiquities Act”), authorizes the President, in his discretion, to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Federal Government to be national monuments, and to reserve as a part thereof parcels of land, the limits of which shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected; and

    WHEREAS, Proclamation 9558 of December 28, 2016, designated the Bears Ears National Monument in the State of Utah and reserved approximately 1.35 million acres of Federal lands as the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects of historic and scientific interest declared part of the monument; and

    WHEREAS, Proclamation 9681 of December 4, 2017, modified the management direction of the Bears Ears National Monument and modified the boundaries to add approximately 11,200 new acres of Federal lands, and the objects of historic and scientific interest contained therein, and to exclude more than 1.1 million acres of Federal lands from the reservation, including lands containing objects of historic and scientific interest identified as needing protection in Proclamation 9558, such as Valley of the Gods, Hideout Canyon, portions of the San Juan River and Abajo Mountains, genetically distinct populations of Kachina daisy, and the Eucosma navajoensis moth; and

    WHEREAS, December 4, 2017, was the first time that a President asserted that the Antiquities Act included the authority to reduce the boundaries of a national monument or remove objects from protection under the Antiquities Act since passage of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, as amended (43 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.); and

    WHEREAS, the entire Bears Ears landscape is profoundly sacred to sovereign Tribal Nations and indigenous people of the southwest region of the United States; and

    WHEREAS, I find that the unique nature of the Bears Ears landscape, and the collection of objects and resources therein, make the entire landscape within the boundaries reserved by this proclamation an object of historic and scientific interest in need of protection under 54 U.S.C. 320301; and

    WHEREAS, I find that all the historic and scientific resources identified above and in Proclamation 9558 are objects of historic or scientific interest in need of protection under 54 U.S.C. 320301; and

    WHEREAS, I find that there are threats to the objects identified in this proclamation; and

    WHEREAS, I find, in the absence of a reservation under the Antiquities Act, the objects identified in this proclamation and in Proclamation 9558 are not adequately protected by otherwise applicable law or administrative designations because neither provide Federal agencies with the specific mandate to ensure proper care and management of the objects, nor do they withdraw the lands from the operation of the public land, mining, and mineral leasing laws; thus a national monument reservation is necessary to protect the objects of historic and scientific interest in the Bears Ears region for current and future generations; and

    WHEREAS, I find that the boundaries of the monument reserved by this proclamation represent the smallest area compatible with the protection of the objects of scientific or historic interest as required by the Antiquities Act; and

    WHEREAS, it is in the public interest to ensure the preservation, restoration, and protection of the objects of scientific and historic interest on the Bears Ears region, including the entire monument landscape, reserved within the boundaries of the Bears Ears National Monument, as established by this proclamation;

    NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States of America, by the authority vested in me by section 320301 of title 54, United States Code, hereby proclaim the objects identified above and in Proclamation 9558 that are situated upon lands and interests in lands owned or controlled by the Federal Government to be the Bears Ears National Monument (monument) and, for the purpose of protecting those objects, reserve as part thereof all lands and interests in lands not currently reserved as part of a monument reservation and that are owned or controlled by the Federal Government within the boundaries described on the accompanying map, which is attached to and forms a part of this proclamation. These reserved Federal lands and interests in lands consist of those lands reserved as part of the Bears Ears National Monument as of December 3, 2017, and the approximately 11,200 acres added by Proclamation 9681, encompassing approximately 1.36 million acres. As a result of the distribution of the objects across the Bears Ears landscape, and additionally and independently, because the landscape itself is an object in need of protection, the boundaries described on the accompanying map are confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects of historic or scientific interest identified above and in Proclamation 9558.

    All Federal lands and interests in lands within the boundaries of the monument are hereby appropriated and withdrawn from all forms of entry, location, selection, sale, or other disposition under the public land laws or laws applicable to the United States Forest Service (USFS), from location, entry, and patent under the mining laws, and from disposition under all laws relating to mineral and geothermal leasing, other than by exchange that furthers the protective purposes of the monument.

    This proclamation is subject to valid existing rights. If the Federal Government subsequently acquires any lands or interests in lands not currently owned or controlled by the Federal Government within the boundaries described on the accompanying map, such lands and interests in lands shall be reserved as a part of the monument, and objects identified above that are situated upon those lands and interests in lands shall be part of the monument, upon acquisition of ownership or control by the Federal Government.

    The Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior (Secretaries) shall manage the monument through the USFS and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), respectively, in accordance with the terms, conditions, and management direction provided by this proclamation and, unless otherwise specifically provided herein, those provided by Proclamation 9558, the latter of which are incorporated herein by reference. The USFS shall manage that portion of the monument within the boundaries of the National Forest System (NFS), and the BLM shall manage the remainder of the monument. The lands administered by the USFS shall be managed as part of the Manti-La Sal National Forest. The lands administered by the BLM shall be managed as a unit of the National Landscape Conservation System. To the extent any provision of Proclamation 9681 is inconsistent with this proclamation or Proclamation 9558, the terms of this proclamation and Proclamation 9558 shall govern. To further the orderly management of monument lands, the monument will be jointly managed as a single unit consisting of the entire 1.36 million-acre monument.

    For purposes of protecting and restoring the objects identified above and in Proclamation 9558, the Secretaries shall jointly prepare and maintain a new management plan for the entire monument and shall promulgate such regulations for its management as they deem appropriate. The Secretaries, through the USFS and BLM, shall consult with other Federal land management agencies or agency components in the local area, including the National Park Service, in developing the management plan. In promulgating any management rules and regulations governing the NFS lands within the monument and developing the management plan, the Secretary of Agriculture, through the USFS, shall consult with the Secretary of the Interior, through the BLM. The Secretaries shall provide for maximum public involvement in the development of that plan, including consultation with federally recognized Tribes and State and local governments. In the development and implementation of the management plan, the Secretaries shall maximize opportunities, pursuant to applicable legal authorities, for shared resources, operational efficiency, and cooperation.

    In recognition of the importance of knowledge of Tribal Nations about these lands and objects and participation in the care and management of the objects identified above, and to ensure that management decisions affecting the monument reflect expertise and traditional and historical knowledge of Tribal Nations, a Bears Ears Commission (Commission) is reestablished in accordance with the terms, conditions, and obligations set forth in Proclamation 9558 to provide guidance and recommendations on the development and implementation of management plans and on management of the entire monument.

    To further the protective purposes of the monument, the Secretary of the Interior shall explore entering into a memorandum of understanding with the State of Utah that would set forth terms, pursuant to applicable laws and regulations, for an exchange of land owned by the State of Utah and administered by the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration within the boundary of the monument for land of approximately equal value managed by the BLM outside the boundary of the monument. Consolidation of lands within the monument boundary through exchange in this manner provides for the orderly management of public lands and is in the public interest.

    The Secretaries shall manage livestock grazing as authorized under existing permits or leases, and subject to appropriate terms and conditions in accordance with existing laws and regulations, consistent with the care and management of the objects identified above and in Proclamation 9558. Should grazing permits or leases be voluntarily relinquished by existing holders, the Secretaries shall retire from livestock grazing the lands covered by such permits or leases pursuant to the processes of applicable law. Forage shall not be reallocated for livestock grazing purposes unless the Secretaries specifically find that such reallocation will advance the purposes of this proclamation and Proclamation 9558.

    Nothing in this proclamation shall be deemed to revoke any existing withdrawal, reservation, or appropriation; however, the monument shall be the dominant reservation.

    Warning is hereby given to all unauthorized persons not to appropriate, injure, destroy, or remove any feature of the monument and not to locate or settle upon any of the lands thereof.

    If any provision of this proclamation, including its application to a particular parcel of land, is held to be invalid, the remainder of this proclamation and its application to other parcels of land shall not be affected thereby.

    IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this eighth day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-sixth.

    JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

    Annual #water conference addresses harsh impacts to the #ColoradoRiver and proposed solutions — WesternSlopeNow.com #COriver #aridification

    Colorado River “Beginnings”. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From WesternSlopeNow.com (Rob Hagan):

    There’s 30% less water in the Colorado River than in the 1920’s and that trend is expected to continue according to the Colorado River District. General Manager for the CRD, Andy Mueller says, “We face a moment in time here that presents unprecedented challenges on the Colorado River.”

    Record breaking temperatures, extreme drought conditions, and lowered streamflow were just some of the impacts discussed at the annual water seminar called, Wake-up Call on the Colorado River. “We’ve all got to work together to reduce our consumptive use to preserve the quality of life here in Western Colorado,” said Mueller.

    72% of voters passed the river district tax hike generating $4.2 million dollars to fund projects to protect Western Slope water, but the best solution may simply be conservation. Mueller says, “Not necessarily how much you take from the river, but how much you take and never return.”

    […]

    This unique water seminar comes at the end of a peculiar water year, but in order to adapt to a new future it’s going to take teamwork. State Representative Soper says, “I think it’s very important that we look at everything and that we try and protect as much of water here on the Western Slope as possible. Because if there’s one thing we’re caught between, it’s greedy front range interests and greedy downstream interests who would all like to use more than their fair share.”

    The West Urgently Needs Federal Funds to Address #Drought, #Wildfire, and #ClimateChange — Audubon

    American White Pelican. Photo: Joanne Wuori/Audubon Photography Awards

    From Audubon (Karyn Stockdale):

    With big spending bills on the horizon, Congress needs to prioritize water security for people and birds.

    As Congress considers several major pieces of legislation to address urgent needs in the United States, Audubon’s Western Water team is keeping a close eye on funds to address the unprecedented drought emergency in the West. Congress should use all available options to invest in immediate and long-term solutions to mitigate current disasters and enhance the climate resilience of states affected by historic drought conditions.

    In the West, snowpack has been at historic lows, and the major reservoirs that supply drinking water for 40 million people along the Colorado River are now less than half-full. This summer, more than 93% of the western United States has experienced drought conditions.

    2021 has brought yet another year of record-breaking climate extremes. The Colorado River’s two largest reservoirs—Lake Mead and Lake Powell—are at their lowest levels ever. So is Great Salt Lake. The Rio Grande, Salton Sea, Klamath River Basin, and wetlands and tributaries across the West are also struggling. Because of the dire situation on the Colorado River, the Bureau of Reclamation announced that 2022 will bring unprecedented water shortages to Arizona, Nevada and the Republic of Mexico.

    The ongoing drought crisis has been accelerated by climate change, which is the single biggest threat to birds, with more than 67% of bird species in the Americas at risk of extinction if we fail to meet our goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

    Currently, Congress is working to pass several important funding bills that will significantly improve our waterways and wetlands in the West—for people and birds.

    Specifically, as Congress considers funding packages, Audubon is supporting the following priorities and projects that give federal agencies critically needed resources:

    • U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Drought response programs and projects:
      • $500M for the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan. This will address near-term risks to Lake Powell and Lake Mead in the face of significant water scarcity.
      • $300M for the implementation of Minute 323 to the 1944 Mexican Water Treaty, which includes funding for binational water conservation investments, development and maintenance of critical bird habitat in the Colorado River Delta.
      • $250 million to support the Salton Sea Projects Improvements Act to work with the State of California, local counties, tribal governments, and nonprofits to mitigate the environmental and public health crises—a result of the Sea’s receding shoreline.
      • $400 for WaterSMART, including $100M for natural infrastructure. WaterSMART programs provide a federal cost-share for the development of local watershed management programs; improve water delivery, efficiency, and reliability; support multi-benefit projects; and reduce conflicts over water-use in the West.
      • $50 million for multi-purposes watershed protection and restoration projects in the West.
      • $50 million for Colorado River Upper Basin Fish Recovery Implementation Plans and Endangered Species Act compliance in the Lower Colorado River Basin.
    • United States Geological Survey (USGS) science and monitoring:
      • $200 million for USGS science and monitoring. These additional resources could support programs like a federally coordinated assessment of the conservation needs across Saline (Salt) Lake Ecosystems, championed by Audubon and the development of OpenET, an online, satellite-driven water data platform.
    • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)
      • $150 million for the effective and efficient implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and $40 million for Endangered Species Act interagency consultation. This funding will help ensure that infrastructure projects can advance efficiently while avoiding adverse environmental impacts.
      • $162M for Klamath River Basin and Wildlife Refuge to support infrastructure. We also encourage Congress to find additional funding to support water acquisition or invest in permanent solutions that protect fish and wildlife in Klamath. This includes a permanent bird hospital and more funding for operations and maintenance.
      • $25M for the Lahontan Valley and Pyramid Lake Fish and Wildlife Fund to ensure long-term availability of water at important habitats.
    • U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA):
      • Double the amount of funding for Farm Bill voluntary, private land conservation programs (such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program), which provide critical financial and technical assistance to help landowners protect and enhance natural spaces on their property. Funding through these programs should prioritize projects that increase bird habitat, benefit underserved farmers and ranchers, and provide carbon sequestration and increased resilience co-benefits.
      • ​More than $2B in additional funding for the U.S. Forest Service for restoration, land management, and emergency response recent wildfires.

    These funds will make drought, limited water supplies, and decreasing bird habitat less dire. After this year’s catastrophic wildfires and historic drought, we urge Congress—and particularly our delegations in the West—to ensure that federal investments increase community resilience to the effects of climate change by promoting nature-based solutions for restoring watersheds and ecosystems.

    In addition, Congress has several pending bills with bipartisan support that respond to the many needs of tribal communities and western states’ water supply needs that we are supporting, including access to clean water and water settlements.

    We’ll keep you posted as this legislation moves forward. Be sure to sign up for our Western Water Action Network to get the most updated information.

    Facebook’s algorithms fueled massive foreign propaganda campaigns during the 2020 election – here’s how algorithms can manipulate you — The Conversation


    Facebook has known that its algorithms enable trolls to spread propoganda.
    STR/NurPhoto via Getty Images

    Filippo Menczer, Indiana University

    An internal Facebook report found that the social media platform’s algorithms – the rules its computers follow in deciding the content that you see – enabled disinformation campaigns based in Eastern Europe to reach nearly half of all Americans in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election, according to a report in Technology Review.

    The campaigns produced the most popular pages for Christian and Black American content, and overall reached 140 million U.S. users per month. Seventy-five percent of the people exposed to the content hadn’t followed any of the pages. People saw the content because Facebook’s content-recommendation system put it into their news feeds.

    Social media platforms rely heavily on people’s behavior to decide on the content that you see. In particular, they watch for content that people respond to or “engage” with by liking, commenting and sharing. Troll farms, organizations that spread provocative content, exploit this by copying high-engagement content and posting it as their own.

    As a computer scientist who studies the ways large numbers of people interact using technology, I understand the logic of using the wisdom of the crowds in these algorithms. I also see substantial pitfalls in how the social media companies do so in practice.

    From lions on the savanna to likes on Facebook

    The concept of the wisdom of crowds assumes that using signals from others’ actions, opinions and preferences as a guide will lead to sound decisions. For example, collective predictions are normally more accurate than individual ones. Collective intelligence is used to predict financial markets, sports, elections and even disease outbreaks.

    Throughout millions of years of evolution, these principles have been coded into the human brain in the form of cognitive biases that come with names like familiarity, mere exposure and bandwagon effect. If everyone starts running, you should also start running; maybe someone saw a lion coming and running could save your life. You may not know why, but it’s wiser to ask questions later.

    Your brain picks up clues from the environment – including your peers – and uses simple rules to quickly translate those signals into decisions: Go with the winner, follow the majority, copy your neighbor. These rules work remarkably well in typical situations because they are based on sound assumptions. For example, they assume that people often act rationally, it is unlikely that many are wrong, the past predicts the future, and so on.

    Technology allows people to access signals from much larger numbers of other people, most of whom they do not know. Artificial intelligence applications make heavy use of these popularity or “engagement” signals, from selecting search engine results to recommending music and videos, and from suggesting friends to ranking posts on news feeds.

    Not everything viral deserves to be

    Our research shows that virtually all web technology platforms, such as social media and news recommendation systems, have a strong popularity bias. When applications are driven by cues like engagement rather than explicit search engine queries, popularity bias can lead to harmful unintended consequences.

    Social media like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok rely heavily on AI algorithms to rank and recommend content. These algorithms take as input what you like, comment on and share – in other words, content you engage with. The goal of the algorithms is to maximize engagement by finding out what people like and ranking it at the top of their feeds.

    A primer on the Facebook algorithm.

    On the surface this seems reasonable. If people like credible news, expert opinions and fun videos, these algorithms should identify such high-quality content. But the wisdom of the crowds makes a key assumption here: that recommending what is popular will help high-quality content “bubble up.”

    We tested this assumption by studying an algorithm that ranks items using a mix of quality and popularity. We found that in general, popularity bias is more likely to lower the overall quality of content. The reason is that engagement is not a reliable indicator of quality when few people have been exposed to an item. In these cases, engagement generates a noisy signal, and the algorithm is likely to amplify this initial noise. Once the popularity of a low-quality item is large enough, it will keep getting amplified.

    Algorithms aren’t the only thing affected by engagement bias – it can affect people too. Evidence shows that information is transmitted via “complex contagion,” meaning the more times people are exposed to an idea online, the more likely they are to adopt and reshare it. When social media tells people an item is going viral, their cognitive biases kick in and translate into the irresistible urge to pay attention to it and share it.

    Not-so-wise crowds

    We recently ran an experiment using a news literacy app called Fakey. It is a game developed by our lab, which simulates a news feed like those of Facebook and Twitter. Players see a mix of current articles from fake news, junk science, hyperpartisan and conspiratorial sources, as well as mainstream sources. They get points for sharing or liking news from reliable sources and for flagging low-credibility articles for fact-checking.

    We found that players are more likely to like or share and less likely to flag articles from low-credibility sources when players can see that many other users have engaged with those articles. Exposure to the engagement metrics thus creates a vulnerability.

    The wisdom of the crowds fails because it is built on the false assumption that the crowd is made up of diverse, independent sources. There may be several reasons this is not the case.

    First, because of people’s tendency to associate with similar people, their online neighborhoods are not very diverse. The ease with which social media users can unfriend those with whom they disagree pushes people into homogeneous communities, often referred to as echo chambers.

    Second, because many people’s friends are friends of one another, they influence one another. A famous experiment demonstrated that knowing what music your friends like affects your own stated preferences. Your social desire to conform distorts your independent judgment.

    Third, popularity signals can be gamed. Over the years, search engines have developed sophisticated techniques to counter so-called “link farms” and other schemes to manipulate search algorithms. Social media platforms, on the other hand, are just beginning to learn about their own vulnerabilities.

    People aiming to manipulate the information market have created fake accounts, like trolls and social bots, and organized fake networks. They have flooded the network to create the appearance that a conspiracy theory or a political candidate is popular, tricking both platform algorithms and people’s cognitive biases at once. They have even altered the structure of social networks to create illusions about majority opinions.

    [Over 110,000 readers rely on The Conversation’s newsletter to understand the world. Sign up today.]

    Dialing down engagement

    What to do? Technology platforms are currently on the defensive. They are becoming more aggressive during elections in taking down fake accounts and harmful misinformation. But these efforts can be akin to a game of whack-a-mole.

    A different, preventive approach would be to add friction. In other words, to slow down the process of spreading information. High-frequency behaviors such as automated liking and sharing could be inhibited by CAPTCHA tests or fees. Not only would this decrease opportunities for manipulation, but with less information people would be able to pay more attention to what they see. It would leave less room for engagement bias to affect people’s decisions.

    It would also help if social media companies adjusted their algorithms to rely less on engagement to determine the content they serve you. Perhaps the revelations of Facebook’s knowledge of troll farms exploiting engagement will provide the necessary impetus.

    This is an updated version of an article originally published on Sept. 10, 2021.The Conversation

    Filippo Menczer, Luddy Distinguished Professor of Informatics and Computer Science, Indiana University

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    Water Funding Playbook A Guide to Local Funding Initiatives for #Water and Rivers — Water for #Colorado

    Click here to go to the Water for Colorado website tool for local funding initiatives:

    Solving Colorado’s Water Issues

    Colorado needs long-term funding to conserve, maintain, and restore our water supplies, river and stream flows, and economy in the face of numerous challenges, from prolonged drought and rising temperatures driven by climate change and population growth. Maintaining healthy river systems and water availability is essential to sustain Colorado’s way of life, preserve natural resources, grow our crops, and bolster our economy.

    Our State Water Plan Lacks Sustainable Funding

    The Colorado Water Plan, developed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board in 2015, sets forward a path to secure our water future by protecting Colorado’s rivers, securing clean, safe, reliable drinking water for our communities, and preserving our agricultural heritage.

    Colorado’s existing public funding resources are insufficient to address the current and future needs identified in the Water Plan to secure our water future. Establishing new sources of funding – whether local or statewide – will help to keep Colorado’s rivers healthy and flowing to continue to support clean drinking water for all Coloradans and reliable water supplies for farms and ranches across the state.

    In the last few years, Coloradans have illustrated their support for water funding by approving three different tax increases where water is the beneficiary. In 2019, the passing of Proposition DD legalized sports betting in Colorado with the majority of the proceeds of the betting taxes funding Colorado’s Water Plan. At the local level, both the Colorado River Water Conservation District and the St. Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District successfully passed public funding initiatives to increase their mill levies in the fall of 2020, with other municipalities like the cities of Denver and Boulder and counties like Summit and Chaffee passing voter-approved funding for water and rivers in the last three years. Coloradans clearly understand the need for additional water funding and they are willing to pay for it.

    How (and Why) to Use This Guide

    The purpose of this guide is to assist water conservancy districts, nonprofits, local governments, citizen stakeholder initiatives and others in learning more about successfully implementing new local sources of public funding for water in Colorado. This guide is intended to help you understand the general process and important questions to ask when pursuing a public funding measure, such as a bond, property tax, sales tax, or mill levy increase. You will also see video interviews with individuals and organizations that have participated in public funding measures in Colorado, as well as with experts in the field of public funding.

    #Colorado health officials hopeful after #Arizona court rejects Trump-era Clean Water Act rules — @WaterEdCO #DirtyWaterRule #WOTUS

    The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Credit: Jerd Smith

    From Water Education Colorado (Jerd Smith):

    Colorado state health officials said they’re hopeful a recent federal court ruling that effectively overturned Trump-era rules reducing oversight of Western rivers and streams will allow states to revert back to a more protective standard.

    “We are aware of Arizona’s court decision and are following what it means for other states, especially arid states such as Colorado. We are hopeful the Arizona ruling will apply nationwide because it has the potential to allow states to revert back to standards that protected our state waters more,” said Trisha Oeth via email.

    Oeth, who is the environmental health and protection policy director at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), also said the state understood the need to ensure that more certainty regarding the regulations was critical to protect all the interest groups affected by them.

    The Trump rule sought to overturn Obama Administration rules that expanded the scope of the Clean Water Act. But Aug. 30, the Arizona court rejected it, saying it harmed streams in Western states and ignored important science. It has directed regulators across the country to use a set of rules developed prior to the Obama Administration’s actions until the Biden Administration can develop new regulations.

    Since 2019, when the Trump-era rule was finalized, the CDPHE has been working, without success, on a proposed permitting program that lawmakers would have to approve. The permitting program would have covered streams and rivers left unprotected by the Trump rule. The so-called dredge-and-fill permits proposed by the state would be required when activities such as road and home building affect streams no longer covered by the Trump rule.

    But farm interests, developers and contractors remain concerned that the Clean Water Act (CWA) rule, known as the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule, will remain mired in legal battles and regulatory uncertainty, delaying projects and raising their costs.

    “It’s a big fear of ours,” said Zach Riley, the Colorado Farm Bureau’s director of public policy. The organization, which has 23,000 members, had supported the narrower WOTUS rule.

    The political seesaw has been going on for decades with the CWA legally hamstrung 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.

    Administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency, the CWA is credited with making U.S. waters some of the cleanest in the world. But it has also been difficult to administer, in part because the country is home to widely different geographies and because of numerous court cases that have altered how it is interpreted by different presidential administrations.

    Western states have been particularly concerned because in the Midwest and East, for instance, major rivers that carry barge and shipping traffic are clearly “navigable,” 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 often don’t flow year round and don’t carry traditional commercial traffic. Over the years many of those streams too became protected by the Clean Water Act.

    The Trump administration’s WOTUS rule, however, excluded them, saying that only navigable streams would be regulated, meaning that thousands of miles of streams in Colorado and other Western states that don’t flow year round or carry commercial shipping traffic would no longer have been protected.

    Whether Colorado can or should craft a new permitting regulation that will remove it from the political back-and-forth that has dogged WOTUS and provide industry and environmental groups with more certainty isn’t clear yet.

    The CDPHE has not yet said what it plans to do, saying it is still analyzing the Arizona decision.

    “At the state level, it will be interesting,” said Alex Funk, senior counsel and director of water with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, which has advocated for a new state permitting program. “We’re still supportive of a state program to get out of this habit of having new WOTUS rules every four years…we need something that will survive at the federal level.”

    Still others want the CDPHE to take a breather, to wait and see how the EPA and other agencies interpret this latest ruling before trying to create a new state regulation.

    “Given the pace of change and the multiple rounds of litigation, the state could take more time to discuss what’s needed,” said Gabe Racz, an attorney who represents water utilities and industry at the Colorado Water Congress.

    And Racz said he believes there is a chance that the Biden Administration will be able to craft new rules that can endure at the federal level, regardless of who is in the White House.

    “The Biden Administration announced they planned to develop a durable rule. I’m hopeful. That’s a step in the right direction,” Racz said.

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

    Colorado Rivers. Credit: Geology.com

    A new Conservation Corps for the #climate: What it means to contribute to the future of a place — @HighCountryNews #ActOnClimate

    Image credit: Sally Deng/High Country News

    From High Country News [August 27, 2021] (Surya Milner):

    Wearing leather gloves caked dry with mud, I grasped a pickax and began to hack. Beyond the occasional ring of metal striking mineral, there was no sound where I stood, on a rough-hewn alpine trail in Montana’s Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, under the breezeless blue of a summer sky. I paused, taking in my broken, unfinished line of dirt, then watched the rest of my crew move upward under spruce trees, away from the objects of our recent lunchtime adoration: wild raspberries, peanut butter and jelly, coveted 10-minute naps. By day’s end, we’d be spent, having cut a dozen yards of trail with miles more to go.

    At 18, I had come to these mountains in response to the Montana Conservation Corps’ call to “find your place.” With family scattered across a 2,000-some-mile swath of the U.S. and the West Indian state of Maharashtra, I approached the corps hoping to anchor myself in this particular area. I wanted a visceral connection to these gentle, sloping foothills and granite peaks, which I would wrangle, in my mind, into some idea of home.

    But “home” is a fickle concept, swiftly muddled when projected onto an actual, climate change-addled landscape. One week, my crew cleared underbrush to lessen the impact of future forest fires, working from a basecamp of a half-burnt forest floor encircled by fallen, scorched logs. It reminded me that no matter what sliver of the Earth I call home, an unstable climate suspends any illusion of continuity in that place.

    The Montana Conservation Corps is a reincarnation of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps. In late July, Congress convened a subcommittee on another potential reinvention of the CCC: the Climate Conservation Corps. Nestled within President Joe Biden’s January executive order on the climate crisis and his American Jobs Plan in March, the corps would expand a number of existing AmeriCorps programs, including Montana’s, to create a hybrid program focused on conservation and climate change mitigation.

    By creating jobs in clean energy and climate resiliency, the new CCC would revive the old CCC’s multibillion-dollar public relief program, formed during the Great Depression in 1933. In its early iterations, the CCC plucked young poor men from Eastern cities and shipped them to the forests of the West. Many had never swung an ax. The program sprang from the economic desperation that plagued countless American families at the time; participants earned $30 per month and were required to mail $25 home to their families, many of whom subsisted on government relief.

    FDR’s immediate goal was to get 250,000 men to camps across the United States within four months. This was a task of war-sized proportions. “Never in peacetime had such a mass of men been recruited,” wrote CCC alum Robert Egan, in a 1983 article titled “Remembering the CCC: City Boys in the Woods.” The specter of war, and the American investment in war, appear throughout the archival materials that document the CCC’s nine-year existence. “CCC soldiers,” or the “forest army,” as enrollees were called, fought wildfires, planted trees and built trails, bridges and campground structures.

    In many ways, the CCC of the 1930s set out to rescue what the U.S. then deemed two of its most precious resources: land and young men. As the Great Depression hollowed out the economy, there were fears that the latter had become listless and disaffected. When the program died, it was because resources were diverted to a new battlefront: World War II.

    While the original CCC was lauded, receiving broad bipartisan support in Congress, it served an exclusive group of Americans: Most enrollees were young and white, and the relatively few Black and Indigenous corps members — and the veterans and women — were segregated from their fellows. The camps were separate and not equal: The corps proposed monthly wages of $5 per month in the women’s camps, compared to the men’s $30. Still, some non-citizens enrolled, and some camps celebrated “I Am An American Day” to honor newly naturalized citizens. In 1942, as the program came to a close, the government retooled abandoned CCC camps across the West, from Idaho to Montana, into Japanese American internment camps.

    The CCC was born out of, and conformed to, the structural inequities inherent in the federal government at the time. These structures still persist, albeit often in more subtle ways — today, national parks see mostly white visitors, for example, and environmental groups still have a diversity problem — and they will inevitably inform the CCC’s next iteration. Perhaps to remedy this, in July, dozens of lawmakers sent a letter to congressional leaders supporting a new CCC that prioritizes investment in “environmental justice communities.” The authors don’t define this term but instead point to collaboration with tribal members, immigrants, refugees, people granted asylum, veterans, out-of-school or out-of-work youth and the formerly incarcerated.

    It remains to be seen whether focusing on “environmental justice communities” will result in a more diverse and equitable corps, or if the term is an incoherent label that few claim as their own. Whatever the case, it’s possible to design a new CCC that attracts a multiracial workforce, one that’s generously compensated — not by a volunteer’s sense of pride, certificates or other intangible promises. Corps members willing to brave the intensifying climate crisis could do so because they care about softening its blows and because it’s a solid job.

    During my time with the Montana Conservation Corps, I earned just $270 in four weeks; I was pursuing the program’s promise that I’d find my place rather than a paycheck. On some of those long summer afternoons with my crew, several miles up a winding, unfinished trail, I considered whether my actions — me and my ax, working in the wilderness — were in fact about me finding my place. Up there, thousands of feet above sea level, I found a series of fleeting and tangible sensations: sinking my knees into tawny, fragrant soil; arching my neck toward wildflowers; swatting horseflies with more vigor than I swung my tools.

    I don’t recall a summer spent building a relationship with the land. I remember arguments about the merits of Lana Del Rey’s woozy ballads, which dominated the airwaves that summer, and conversations with my nonbinary, polyamorous crew leader about the mechanics of open relationships and the subtle misogyny of calling women “chicks.” The landscape’s sweeping vistas were merely a backdrop to these scenes. In the end, I didn’t find my place. But what I did find was enough: the seed of a realization that not having a romantic attachment to this stretch of land could coexist, beautifully, with a real resolve to care for it.

    Late one afternoon, my crew and I traversed the ground we’d broken over the past few days. Within 10 minutes, we’d reached the end of our fresh-cut trail and stepped onto the section others had carved in previous years. I grasped, then, the size of our enterprise, decades in the making, and the work it would require in the years to come. This changing landscape wasn’t my home, but what we did here — the trail-building, the brush-clearing, the learned resolve — might ensure some semblance of one for others, in a future world. As I fell into step with my crew, my eyes traced the trail, its crooks and contours, on the long walk down.

    Surya Milner is a former editorial intern at High Country News. She is currently based in Bozeman, Montana.

    A nursery manager plants a whitebark pine at Glacier National Park in Montana in September 2019, part of an effort to restore vegetation following a wildfire. Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images via Pew Research

    Former Senator Ken Salazar of #Colorado confirmed as ambassador to #Mexico — Colorado Newsline

    Ken Salazar

    Former U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the new ambassador to Mexico. 

    “Colorado is proud that one of our great statesmen will be representing the United States in Mexico,” Gov. Polis said in a press release Wednesday morning. “Ken Salazar was confirmed this morning by the United States Senate as Ambassador to Mexico. I congratulate my good friend Ambassador Salazar on his confirmation and look forward to working with him to expand our economic and cultural ties between Mexico and Colorado.” 

    GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX

    Salazar was the first Latino elected to statewide office in Colorado when he was elected as the Colorado attorney general in 1998. Salazar also served in the U.S. Senate, representing Colorado from 2005 until 2009, when he retired from the Senate after being nominated by former President Barack Obama to serve as the secretary of the Interior Department. 

    Salazar, a fifth-generation Coloradan, was born in Alamosa and raised on a family ranch. Salazar joined WilmerHale, a law firm with a branch in Denver, in 2013, according to the WilmerHale website

    On June 15, President Joe Biden announced Salazar and eight others as the ambassadors that he would submit to the Senate for confirmation. Both Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper supported Salazar’s nomination. 

    “Ken Salazar is an exceptional leader who has served Colorado and our country at the highest levels. As ambassador to Mexico he will revitalize the relationship with a neighbor, ally, and one of our biggest trading partners,” Hickenlooper said in a press release on June 15. 

    “President Biden has made a terrific choice in nominating Ken Salazar as the next Ambassador to Mexico,” Bennet said in the same press release. “Ken is a tremendous public servant with a strong record of bipartisanship in the United States Senate. He has always led with integrity, and I have great confidence in his ability to represent the United States.”

    An ambassador is the U.S. president’s representative to a country, and normally leads the embassy in the country he or she is the ambassador to, according to the National Museum of American Diplomacy website.

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    Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: info@coloradonewsline.com. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.

    Commentary: One in Four Rural Americans Can Be a Part of the #Climate Solution – Through Their Forests — The Daily Yonder #ActOnClimate

    Rows of recent planted of young pine trees. Photo via the University of Michigan

    From The Daily Yonder (Tom Martin):

    The Biden administration has an opportunity to help small forest owners become a more significant part of the carbon markets, earn an income on their land, and help with carbon sequestration.

    The Biden administration has set its climate change policy agenda, with a broad call to engage rural America. But one approach lacking a laser focus is on incentivizing rural forest owners to use their land for capturing and storing carbon.

    America’s forests and forest products already capture and store more than 750 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, the equivalent of nearly 15 percent of annual U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. With the right policies that enable voluntary action, the nation’s forests can do even more, with some estimates saying the U.S. could double this important contribution to climate mitigation.

    “With the right tools and partnerships, American agriculture and forestry can lead the world in solutions that will increase climate resilience, sequester carbon, enhance agricultural productivity, and maintain critical environmental benefits,” the U.S. Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack, said in a new progress report on using forests and agriculture to mitigate the impact of climate change.

    One of those “right tools” must be action by the government to jumpstart carbon markets for small forest owners.

    Families and individuals own the largest portion of forests – 36% – across the U.S. Research from the American Forest Foundation (AFF) and the U.S. Forest Service has found that these owners want to improve forest health, but the vast majority are not employing best practices due to the high costs associated with forest management.

    Helping small forest owners access carbon markets would allow them to generate income from their land that can then be poured back into the trees for increased conservation and carbon capture. And generating income from carbon markets would provide a much-needed financial boost for forest owners, as many lack resources to sufficiently maintain their forests. One in three family forest owners has an annual income of less than $50,000.

    Roundtable discussion at @DenverWater focuses on #collaboration in the face of #ClimateChange — YourHub

    Photo credit: Denver Water

    From YourHub (Cathy Proctor):

    Tackling the challenges surrounding climate change and water supply will require collaboration and creative thinking, Colorado’s top water leaders and senior federal officials agreed Thursday.

    More than a dozen state officials and water leaders from across the state met at Denver Water’s Operations Complex with Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to discuss the impacts of climate change, the ongoing drought across the Colorado River Basin and how leadership and collaboration at every level will be needed to help address it.

    After the discussion, Jim Lochhead, Denver Water’s CEO/Manager, welcomed the group — which included Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Tanya Trujillo, Colorado Congresswoman Diana DeGette, Rebecca Mitchell, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, and Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture Kate Greenberg — to a news conference at the utility’s Administration Building, completed in 2019, that is itself a demonstration of the future of water and water efficiency in an urban setting.

    Graphic via SustainableWater.com.

    Lochhead said the roundtable also included a discussion of the investments Denver Water is making in watershed health, through its From Forests to Faucets program that includes partners at the state and federal level, water conservation, resiliency and sustainability.

    Haaland said she was glad to tour “this beautiful building” and praised the roundtable for bringing a wide range of people together for a thoughtful and important discussion…

    Greenberg said it meant a lot to the people working across Colorado’s agriculture sector to know issues surrounding climate change were “top of mind” at both the state and federal level…

    Attendees at the water leaders’ roundtable discussion were:

  • Deb Haaland, Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
  • Tanya Trujillo, Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, U.S. Department of Interior.
  • Davis Raff, Chief Engineer, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
  • Carly Jerla, Senior Water Resources Program Manager, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
  • Diana DeGette, U.S. Representative for Colorado’s First Congressional District.
  • Colorado Gov. Jared Polis.
  • Colorado Lt. Governor Dianne Primavera.
  • Kate Greenberg, Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture.
  • Dan Gibbs, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Natural Resources.
  • Rebecca Mitchell, Director, Colorado Water Conservation Board.
  • Jim Lochhead, CEO/Manager, Denver Water.
  • Christine Arbogast, representing Colorado Water Congress.
  • Peter Fleming, General Counsel, Colorado River Water District.
  • Jim Broderick, Executive Director, Southeastern Colorado Water Conservation District.
  • Ken Curtis, General Manager, Dolores Water District Manager (retired).
  • Steve Wolff, General Manager, Southwest Water Conservation District.
  • Jennifer Pitt, Colorado River Program Director, National Audubon Society
  • Western governors ask feds to expand state partnerships to address wildfires, climate change — @WaterEdCO

    The Grizzly Creek Fire jumped Grizzly Creek north of Glenwood Canyon. (Provided by the City of Glenwood Springs)

    From Water Education Colorado (Jerd Smith):

    Western governors told top federal officials that it was time to dramatically rework programs to help states recover from wildfires, thin overgrown, drought-ravaged forests, and protect mountain water systems.

    Governors representing 17 states gathered last week for the virtual Western Governors’ Association conference, which included sessions on forest health, climate change and broadband initiatives, among other policy concerns.

    Because the federal government owns vast swaths of land across the West, expanding shared stewardship programs, building in more flexibility to distribute more cash in new ways, and creating a new “green” timber industry to help thin ailing forests and reduce wildfire risk are all needed quickly, according to Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, who addressed a roundtable meeting with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

    “With the federal government owning a big part of our state, it’s a shared responsibility to address forest health and fire mitigation,” Polis said. “Shared stewardship agreements are a valuable tool. But these need to be reimagined and re-upped given this new normal.”

    The Western Governor’s Association represents 19 western states, as well as Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands.

    The federal government owns roughly 30 percent of Colorado’s land and even more in other states, such as Idaho and Montana.

    Thinning forests and protecting mountain watersheds is an often daunting, cross-boundary exercise between the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and state and local agencies.

    Congress has been working on a massive infrastructure bill that has some bipartisan support and which will, if approved later this year, provide millions of dollars in new spending for roads, bridges and rural broadband networks, and may also include new funding to help deal with the devastation from wildfires across the West.

    Governors made clear to federal leaders that forest health needs to be included in that definition of infrastructure, in part because of its importance to the West’s water supplies. In Colorado, for instance, approximately 80 percent of the drinking water for all residents flows off of forested watersheds.

    “We have to have more treatment and to do that we will need more resources,” said Idaho Gov. Brad Little. “Hopefully we can get Congress to understand that as they are working on infrastructure [funding] for bridges and roads, we need to invest in our forests as well.”

    Vilsack told governors he was hopeful that the new infrastructure bill as well as other federal legislation, such as the Great American Outdoors Act, would deliver funding and new programs that would help the West cope with a warming climate, water shortages and more frequent wildfires.

    “We’re aware of the fire issue and we know the importance of having additional money on the treatment side, as well as ways to create more markets for the wood we produce [when forests are thinned],” Vilsack said.

    “But I see a lot of opportunity, especially if we innovate and create voluntary programs and encourage people to take advantage of the income crops that are going to be created,” Vilsack said.

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

    Opinion: Why our #Colorado mountain town supports Biden’s 30×30 public lands goals — The #Colorado Sun #ActOnClimate #ClimateChange #aridification

    View atop Mount Royal overlooking the town of Frisco, CO and Lake Dillon. Photo credit: Ndebel Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0

    Here’s a guest column from Melissa Sherburne that’s running in The Colorado Sun:

    We all have a choice to either engage in efforts to help combat the loss of biodiversity and climate change, or watch from the sidelines.

    Because we love our public lands and want to protect them for future generations, the Frisco Town Council recently unanimously passed a resolution that states that we stand with President Biden, U.S. agencies, members of Congress, state and local officials, and others in support of science-based, locally-led conservation efforts that help the country achieve the goal of protecting 30% of our country’s lands and waters by 2030, commonly referred to as 30×30.

    These efforts are a part of the administration’s America the Beautiful vision for how the United States can work collaboratively to conserve and restore the lands, waters, and wildlife that support and sustain our country and create jobs and strengthen the economy.

    Melissa Sherburne. Photo credit: Town of Frisco

    Last month, the world’s leading biodiversity and climate experts released an important peer-reviewed report that emphasizes the importance of looking at the loss of biodiversity and climate crises as one problem rather than tackling each individually. The report authors warn that if we don’t take this approach and instead try to solve these problems in isolation, we do so at our peril.

    I am very encouraged that the 30×30 goal contained in the America the Beautiful vision does just what scientists are recommending by acknowledging that we have to address the loss of nature and climate change together. If we can restore whole ecosystems, then they will, in turn, cheaply and quickly absorb the carbon emissions that are the root cause of climate change and are wreaking havoc on the planet.

    30×30 can ensure that we preserve a healthy network of biodiversity and protect our natural areas while not only helping to offset climate change, but also protect and restore more public lands that are foundational to our way of life, health, and economies in mountain communities like Frisco.

    Local governments know how important it is to set attainable and forward-looking goals. Achievable targets can make small differences in the near term, and more significant impacts over the long term.

    Making decisions about finite resources like lands and waters and climate change can be overwhelming, but they are so important because they have lasting impacts. We have to ensure that we are stewards for future generations.

    I am proud that the Town of Frisco is committed to conserving our lands and waters. In 2020, we worked with Colorado Open Lands to place a permanent conservation easement on 10.88 acres in the Meadow Creek wetlands and also restored 0.41 acres of wetlands. This effort grew out of the need to restore and preserve a new wetlands area because we lost wetlands during the Frisco Bay Marina’s 2019 “Big Dig” project.

    Because of this conservation easement, the land is protected from development allowing community members and visitors the opportunity to enjoy these lands for recreation and rejuvenation well into the future.

    Because Frisco is surrounded by public land, we must continue to work in partnership with community partners, the U.S. Forest Service, Summit County, and Denver Water to protect natural resources and wildlife habitat, encourage human-powered recreation, and mitigate wildfire risk.

    I would like our town to engage in more regional conservation efforts like Summit Safe Passages, which works to create safer roads for wildlife and people by building wildlife crossing structures across roads to reduce wildlife related collisions, ensure healthy wildlife populations and save taxpayers money.

    We all have a choice to either engage in efforts to help combat the loss of biodiversity and climate change, or watch from the sidelines. I am grateful that President Biden has chosen the former by setting forth an inclusive and locally-led America the Beautiful conservation vision that includes the 30×30 goal — a way for us to collaborate and achieve results for natural resource protection at a national scale.

    We and future generations will benefit if local, state, tribal governments, and local communities like Frisco can collaborate more frequently to achieve science-based voluntary landscape scale conservation.

    Melissa Sherburne is a council member for the Town of Frisco, a board member for High Country Conservation Center, and a planning and public lands consultant with a master’s degree in Environmental Management degree from Duke University and a bachelor’s in Environmental Studies from the University of Colorado Boulder.

    Opinion: Representative Crow, #Colorado AFL-CIO chief Dennis Dougherty: How #Congress can put Coloradans back to work and curb the #climatecrisis

    Boulder County Solar Contractor Residential Commerical. Photo credit: Flatiron Solar

    Here’s a guest column from Jason Crow and Dennis Dougherty that’s running in The Colorado Sun:

    The American Jobs Plan will help Colorado create tens of thousands of good-paying, clean energy, union jobs, and move us past the worst consequences of climate change.

    It’s time for our government to work for all of us, not just the rich and powerful.

    Ahead of the July 4 congressional recess, our elected leaders can get it right by tackling two related priorities — getting Coloradans back to work in good union jobs and addressing climate change.

    The good news is we can accomplish both with the American Jobs Plan, which would invest in updating and modernizing Colorado’s infrastructure and create good-paying, clean energy union jobs while funding training and apprenticeship programs.

    The plan fits our state’s exact challenges, putting us back to work in the very act of creating a 21st century clean economy to curb climate change.

    The lack of good jobs and global climate change are urgent problems. This year, wildfire season has already started – and local officials now say Coloradans should prepare for wildfires all year, not just during the summer season. These wildfires are not part of a healthy environmental cycle but will destroy homes and lives.

    At the same time, thousands of Coloradans are still out of work from the aftershocks of COVID-19. Every day, families write into both of our offices, wondering when jobs will come back? When will we receive meaningful economic recovery from COVID-19? What will happen with the planned closure of so many fossil fuel and coal-fired power plants?

    In our eyes, the answer is clear: we must fight for the passage of the American Jobs Plan, which would bring tens of thousands of good-paying, union jobs to Colorado by bolstering our growing clean energy economy. The jobs created by the plan will allow us to fight against climate change and safeguard our state’s natural beauty while rebuilding our economy.

    As society has changed and developed, so too has the definition of infrastructure. Our investment must match that new breadth.

    For example, as consumers and automakers shift toward electric vehicles, we must build charging infrastructure. That means good clean energy jobs. We must also update and retrofit municipal buildings like schools and hospitals to be resilient and energy efficient. That means even more jobs. There are many more examples.

    Infrastructure investments can also help mitigate the destruction from increasingly dangerous wildfires driven by climate change. Upgrading water management systems will enable us to better manage drought conditions that fuel fires, while rebuilding with different materials can reduce ignition risk, protecting our homes and businesses. All these infrastructure upgrades require workers.

    President Biden’s American Jobs Plan also includes the Outdoor Restoration Partnership Act, which is a bipartisan piece of legislation introduced by Rep. Crow and Sen. Michael Bennet. It will create and sustain 2 million jobs by supporting locally led forest health and watershed restoration projects.

    The American Jobs Plan is about making investments in workers while simultaneously fighting climate change and robust training and apprenticeship programs must be a part of the plan. These programs will equip our workers to lead in the modern economy.

    As the representative for Colorado’s 6th Congressional District, a proud member of the House Small Business Committee, and chairman of the Innovation, Workforce Development and Entrepreneurship Subcommittee; and as the executive director of the Colorado AFL-CIO, we are laser-focused on this momentous opportunity to rebuild our state the right way to adequately solve the crises we face.

    The American Jobs Plan will help Colorado create tens of thousands of good-paying, clean energy, union jobs, and move us past the worst consequences of climate change. At an inflection point for economic recovery such as this one, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

    We urge our colleagues in Washington to pass this bill, and we thank our friends in the Colorado labor movement for being our partners in this work.

    Jason Crow, D-Centennial, represents Colorado’s 6th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Dennis Dougherty is the executive director of the Colorado AFL-CIO.

    EPA to repeal Trump-era water rule — The #Taos News #dirtywaterrule

    New Mexico Lakes, Rivers and Water Resources via Geology.com.

    From The Santa Fe New Mexican (Scott Wyland) via The Taos News:

    U.S. regulators aim to repeal a contentious Trump-era rule that stirred fierce opposition from conservationists and many New Mexico leaders because it removed most of the state’s water from federal protection.

    The Environmental Protection Agency’s head said the agency and the Army Corps of Engineers had determined the rule was causing substantial harm to water bodies and pointed to New Mexico and Arizona as among the states most affected.

    The current rule, which has spurred a string of lawsuits, only protects waterways that flow year-round or seasonally and connect to another body of water.

    It excludes as “ephemeral” storm-generated streams as well as tributaries that don’t flow continuously to another water body – disqualifying most of New Mexico’s waters. Unregulated storm runoff can carry contaminants into rivers used for drinking water, conservationists say.

    Water advocates see the announced change as an encouraging move, but warned it will take time to repeal and replace the rule…

    After the EPA states its intention to scrap “the dirty water rule” in the Federal Register, a 30-day public comment period will follow and then the agency can work to repeal it, said Rachel Conn, projects director for Taos-based Amigos Bravos.

    Establishing a new rule will take considerably more time, Conn said, but in the meantime it’s crucial to get rid of a standard that is leaving most of New Mexico’s waters unprotected…

    Conn and other critics of the current rule have worried it would nix the EPA’s oversight of heavily polluted runoff from Los Alamos County into the Río Grande – a prime source of drinking water – and that it might disqualify the Gila River from protection because that waterway runs dry before reaching the Colorado River.

    “After reviewing the Navigable Waters Protection Rule as directed by President Biden, the EPA and Department of the Army have determined that this rule is leading to significant environmental degradation,” EPA administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.

    The lack of protections is especially significant in arid states such as New Mexico and Arizona, where nearly every one of over 1,500 streams has been found to be outside federal jurisdiction, the EPA said in a news release.

    Regan said the agency is committed to creating a “durable definition” of U.S. waters based on Supreme Court precedents, learning from past regulations and getting input from a variety of interested parties. The agency also will consider the impacts of climate change, he said…

    New Mexico is one of just three states that has no authority from the EPA to regulate discharges of pollution into rivers, streams and lakes under the Clean Water Act, which leaves it at the mercy of whomever is in the White House, Conn said…

    If the rule is repealed, the regulations will revert to more stringent ones enacted in 1987, said Charles de Saillan, staff attorney for the New Mexico Environmental Law Center…

    Congress should intervene and create well-defined and permanent updates to the Clean Water Act to stop the political seesawing that happens every change of administration, de Saillan said.

    Congressional action would be much better than having the U.S. Supreme Court make rulings on it, de Saillan said. The last high court decision on which waters merited federal protection was ambiguous, causing more confusion and legal battles, he said.

    Ken Salazar nominated by Joe Biden to be U.S. ambassador to #Mexico — The #Colorado Sun

    From The Colorado Sound (Jesse Paul):

    Ken Salazar, a Coloradan who served as interior secretary and in the U.S. Senate, will be nominated by President Joe Biden to serve as the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, the White House announced on Tuesday.

    Salazar’s nomination has been rumored for weeks. He’s a Colorado College graduate who has recently been working in the private sector at the Denver branch of the sprawling law firm WilmerHale.

    In addition to his time in President Barack Obama’s administration and in Congress, Salazar served as Colorado’s attorney general.

    Salazar grew up on a farm in the San Luis Valley where he spoke only Spanish at home. He is highly active in Democratic politics and in 2018 mulled a bid to become Colorado governor, ultimately deciding against launching a campaign, saying “my family’s well-being must come first.”

    “President Biden has made a terrific choice in nominating Ken Salazar as the next ambassador to Mexico,” U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, said in a written statement. “Ken is a tremendous public servant with a strong record of bipartisanship in the United States Senate. He has always led with integrity, and I have great confidence in his ability to represent the United States. We, in Colorado, are proud of him and grateful for his service once again.”

    Funding shortfalls, bureaucratic barriers hobble efforts to restore Colorado’s fire-scarred water systems — @WaterEdCO

    Land scarred in Rocky Mountain National Park from the East Troublesome Fire, October 2020. Credit: Northern Water via Water Education Colorado

    From Water Education Colorado (Jerd Smith):

    Major funding shortfalls and bureaucratic barriers between state, federal and private entities are hobbling efforts to clean up watersheds and protect drinking water for more than 1 million Coloradans this summer.

    Berthoud-based Northern Water is Colorado’s second-largest water provider, behind Denver Water. It operates the federally owned Colorado-Big Thompson Project, which serves a number of Front Range cities as well as hundreds of farms, and its collection systems were devastated last summer by the massive East Troublesome and Cameron Peak fires. It estimates that it will cost more than $100 million over the next three to five years to clean up some 400,000 acres of its mountain system, which spans the Continental Divide in Grand County and Rocky Mountain National Park.

    Federal funds that have been used in the past have been depleted as states across the American West have turned to the U.S. Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service for help restoring burned forest lands.

    Colorado lawmakers this week stepped in to help, approving SB21-258, which creates two new grant funds totaling nearly $30 million designed to help utilities and local governments do more to address forest restoration and wildfire risk mitigation.

    And while agencies like Northern say the cash is critical, it’s only a down payment on what is going to be needed to restore mountain water collection systems embedded in national forests.

    “We’re very worried,” said Esther Vincent, Northern Water’s manager of environmental services. “The runoff season is upon us and we’re starting to see the black water.” She’s referring to the water laden with sediment and toxins entering streams from burn areas.

    Colorado’s 10 largest fires on record have occurred since 2000, with seven of them happening in the last 10 years. The red circles indicate the number of acres burned in proportion to one another. Locations are approximate. Credit: Chas Chamberlin via Water Education Colorado

    Vincent said working through Congress to get emergency funds and to address federal agency rules that limit how funds can be used on private and federal lands will take months and, more likely, years.

    “There is a reasonable chance that the U.S. Forest Service may not see funding for this until 2022. But it’s really urgent that we do some of this work now,” Vincent said.

    To address the crisis, Northern, as well as a number of cities and agencies across the state, have turned to Colorado’s congressional delegations for help. But so far, little progress has been made.

    U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and his staff are working on finding small pools of cash across a variety of federal agencies in various states to help fund work this summer. And there is some hope, staffers said, that emergency cash might be set aside by Congress later this summer through a special disaster appropriation or through a national infrastructure bill.

    But longer-term fixes are needed, said Troy Timmons, director of federal relations for the Western Governors Association.

    “There is no one thing that is broken. There are statutory issues, like how the [NRCS] Emergency Watershed Protection Program operates, and the limitations on what the forest service can do. There are cultural issues with how all of these agencies interact with one another,” Timmons said. “There are a lot of threads here that need to be worked on.”

    But for this summer, Northern and other water utilities across the state are focused on restoring their watersheds and finding the cash needed to fix them.

    “It’s a vast landscape,” said Northern General Manager Brad Wind. “How do we fix a burn and at the same time keep looking forward and investing in our watersheds for the future?”

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

    USDA to Invest More Than $4 Billion to Strengthen Food System

    Research technician and Grand County rancher Wendy Thompson collects hay samples as part of a far-reaching experiment to see if ranchers can fallow hay meadows and conserve more water for the Colorado River. Credit: Dave Timko, This American Land. Aug. 12, 2020 via Water Education Colorado

    Here’s the release from the USDA:

    Citing lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and recent supply chain disruptions, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced plans to invest more than $4 billion to strengthen critical supply chains through the Build Back Better initiative. The new effort will strengthen the food system, create new market opportunities, tackle the climate crisis, help communities that have been left behind, and support good-paying jobs throughout the supply chain. Today’s announcement supports the Biden Administration’s broader work on strengthening the resilience of critical supply chains as directed by Executive Order 14017 America’s Supply Chains. Funding is provided by the American Rescue Plan Act and earlier pandemic assistance such as the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

    Secretary Vilsack was also named co-chair of the Administration’s new Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force. The Task Force will provide a whole of government response to address near-term supply chain challenges to the economic recovery. The Task Force will convene stakeholders to diagnose problems and surface solutions—large and small, public or private—that could help alleviate bottlenecks and supply constraints related to the economy’s reopening after the Administration’s historic vaccination and economic relief efforts.

    USDA will invest more than $4 billion to strengthen the food system, support food production, improved processing, investments in distribution and aggregation, and market opportunities. Through the Build Back Better initiative, USDA will help to ensure the food system of the future is fair, competitive, distributed, and resilient; supports health with access to healthy, affordable food; ensures growers and workers receive a greater share of the food dollar; and advances equity as well as climate resilience and mitigation. While the Build Back Better initiative addresses near- and long-term issues, recent events have exposed the immediate need for action. With attention to competition and investments in additional small- and medium-sized meat processing capacity, the Build Back Better initiative will spur economic opportunity while increasing resilience and certainty for producers and consumers alike.

    “The COVID-19 pandemic led to massive disruption for growers and food workers. It exposed a food system that was rigid, consolidated, and fragile. Meanwhile, those growing, processing and preparing our food are earning less each year in a system that rewards size over all else,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The Build Back Better initiative will make meaningful investments to build a food system that is more resilient against shocks, delivers greater value to growers and workers, and offers consumers an affordable selection of healthy food produced and sourced locally and regionally by farmers and processors from diverse backgrounds. I am confident USDA’s investments will spur billions more in leveraged funding from the private sector and others as this initiative gains traction across the country. I look forward to getting to work as co-chair of the new Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force and help to mobilize a whole-of-government effort to address the short-term supply challenges our country faces as it recovers.”

    The Build Back Better Initiative will strengthen and transform critical parts of the U.S. food system. As it makes investments through this initiative, USDA will also seek to increase transparency and competition with attention to how certain types of conduct in the livestock markets and the meat processing sector have resulted in thinly-traded markets and unfair treatment of some farmers, ranchers and small processors. Among other investments in the food system and food supply chain, Build Back Better will specifically address the shortage of small meat processing facilities across the country as well as the necessary local and regional food system infrastructure needed to support them.

    Funding announcements under the Build Back Better initiative will include a mix of grants, loans, and innovative financing mechanisms for the following priorities, each of which includes mechanisms to tackle the climate crisis and help communities that have been left behind, including:

    1. Food Production: Food production relies on growers, including farmers and ranchers, workers, and critical inputs. But a diminishing share of the food dollar goes to these essential workers. USDA will invest in the current and future generation of food producers and workers throughout the food system with direct assistance, grants, training and technical assistance, and more.
    2. Food Processing: The pandemic highlighted challenges with consolidated processing capacity. It created supply bottlenecks, which led to a drop in effective plant and slaughter capacity. Small and midsize farmers often struggled to compete for processing access. USDA will make investments to support new and expanded regional processing capacity.
    3. Food Distribution & Aggregation: Food aggregation and distribution relies on people working together throughout the food system and having the right infrastructure to gather, move and hold the food where and when it is needed. This system was stressed during the pandemic due to long shipping distances and lack of investment in local and regional capacity. USDA will make investments in food system infrastructure that can remain resilient, flexible and responsive.
    4. Markets & Consumers: The U.S. spends more on health care and less on food than any other high-income nation; yet the U.S. has higher rates of diet-related illness and a lower life expectancy than those nations. At the same time, many socially disadvantaged and small and mid-sized producers do not have equitable access to markets. USDA will support new and expanded access to markets for a diversity of growers while helping eaters access healthy foods.

    USDA will continue to make announcements through the Build Back Better initiative in the months to come. Today’s announcement is in addition to the $1 billion announced last week to purchase healthy food for food insecure Americans and build food bank capacity, putting the total announced thus far at more than $5 billion.

    USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit http://www.usda.gov.

    Biden administration suspends oil and gas leases in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — The Washington Post

    Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit:
    Steven Chase, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

    From The Washington Post (Juliet Eilperin and Joshua Partlow):

    The Biden administration on Tuesday suspended oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, targeting one of President Donald Trump’s most significant environmental acts during his last days in office.

    The move by the Interior Department, which could spark a major legal battle, dims the prospect of oil drilling in a pristine and politically charged expanse of Alaskan wilderness that Republicans and Democrats have fought over for four decades. The Trump administration auctioned off the right to drill in the refuge’s coastal plain — home to hundreds of thousands of migrating caribou and waterfowl as well as the southern Beaufort Sea’s remaining polar bears — just two weeks before President Biden was inaugurated.

    Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: By U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – http://arctic.fws.gov/maps.htm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34787873

    Now the Biden administration is taking steps to block those leases, citing problems with the environmental review process. In Tuesday’s Interior Department order, Secretary Deb Haaland said that a review of the Trump administration’s leasing program in the wildlife refuge found “multiple legal deficiencies” including “insufficient analysis” required by environmental laws and a failure to assess other alternatives. Haaland’s order calls for a temporary moratorium on all activities related to those leases in order to conduct “a new, comprehensive analysis of the potential environmental impacts of the oil and gas program.”

    The step, coming just days after the Justice Department defended another drilling project on Alaska’s North Slope, underscores the balancing act the new administration aims to strike as it slows fossil fuel development on public lands. While Biden has paused new federal oil and gas leasing and pledged to drastically cut the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, he has taken a much more cautious approach toward most oil and gas operations approved under his predecessor.

    Last week, Justice Department attorneys filed a brief defending ConocoPhillips’s Willow project, an oil reservoir on the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska that could hold up to 300 million barrels of oil. The administration also has defended the Trump administration’s decision to issue oil and gas leases in Wyoming and declined to press for the shutdown of the Dakota Access pipeline, a project Haaland protested while serving in Congress.

    But Tuesday’s move signaled that the new administration was willing to take aggressive action in an area that has been a rallying cry for environmentalists for decades.

    Area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain, looking south toward the Brooks Range. By U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – images.fws.gov (image description page), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5787251

    Report: The 10-year plan for conserving and restoring ‘America the Beautiful’ — NOAA

    From NOAA (Scott Smullen):

    [On May 6, 2021] NOAA and federal partners released the Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful report, a roadmap for a decade-long, inclusive, voluntary and locally-led effort to conserve at least 30% of lands and waters by 2030.

    These conservation efforts build on five decades of NOAA’s work connecting people to places by conserving and restoring special marine, coastal and Great Lakes areas for the benefit of all Americans. This important work includes:

  • NOAA recently tripled the size of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary to protect 14 reefs and banks that are habitat for recreationally important fishing.
  • NOAA will soon publish a final rule regarding a proposal to designate a new sanctuary, the Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Michigan. When finalized, the designation will expand public and recreational access to the area’s 36 known shipwreck sites.
  • NOAA and the State of Connecticut are working together to designate a new National Estuarine Research Reserve, expected in January 2022, which will create a “living classroom” for research and education on Long Island Sound.
  • Access the report and learn more about the principles in place for conserving the nation’s land and water.

    Advocates For Tribal #Water Access Are Asking Congress To Earmark Money For Projects On Native Land — KUER

    From KUER (Kate Groetzinger):

    The COVID-19 pandemic revealed a clear connection between access to clean water and public health, according to Navajo tribal member Bidtah Becker.

    Becker is part of a group called the Water & Tribes Initiative that advocates for water access in Indian Country. She said the pandemic has made it easier to ask Congress for money to solve the problem.

    “The conversation has shifted from, ‘Oh no, you could never get that amount of money.’ And there’s always a little subtext of, ‘Are you really deserving of that money?’” she said. “Now it’s like, ‘Yes. Everybody needs clean drinking water. No questions asked.”

    Becker said a significant amount of funding is needed to bring clean, running water to every Native American household in the U.S.

    Her group hired University of Utah law professor Heather Tanana to compile a report on the issues tribes in the Colorado River Basin face when it comes to clean water delivery. Tanana, who is Navajo, looked at four components: lack of infrastructure, contamination, increasing demand and insufficient maintenance funding.

    “Even though we only looked at the Colorado River Basin tribes, we can confidently say every tribe in the U.S. is dealing with one of these issues,” she said.