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Romney, Hickenlooper Bill to Protect Endangered Fish Species, Maintain Ecosystems Passes Committee

Bipartisan bill to help protect four endangered fish species native to the Upper Colorado and San Juan Rivers now heads to a full vote in the Senate

WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT) and John Hickenlooper’s (D-CO) Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins Recovery Act passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. This bipartisan legislation would continue protecting four threatened and endangered native fish species in the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins by extending conservation programs for one year to allow Upper Basin communities the time to develop a long-term management plan. The bill next heads to a vote on the Senate floor.

“I’m proud to team up with my colleague from Colorado to support Utah’s efforts to continue the recovery of the threatened and endangered fish species in the Upper Colorado and San Juan Rivers,” said Senator Romney. “I appreciate the Committee’s consideration of this legislation—which represents an example of what successfully recovering endangered species looks like—and I am hopeful we will get it across the finish line soon.”

“We’re one step closer to protecting our native fish and the Upper Colorado and San Juan River ecosystems,” said Hickenlooper, a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. “This bill is a model for how communities, states, tribes, water users, and Congress can work together to protect our environment. Let’s get it done!”

“The Recovery Programs were formed to resolve conflicts between water development and management and the conservation of four endangered fish species in the Upper Colorado and San Juan river basins. With two of the four species recently downlisted from endangered to threatened, these Recovery Programs demonstrate that resource use and development can occur in an environmentally responsible way, concurrently with species conservation. By continuing to make progress toward the recovery of the four fish species, the Programs serve as Endangered Species Act compliance for close to 300 water projects in Utah.”Christopher Keleher, Recovery Programs Director, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Specifically the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins Recovery Act would:

  • Extend programs which currently study, monitor, and stock the four endangered fish species, manage habitat and river flows, and combat invasive species.
  • Authorize the Bureau of Reclamation to continue funding and implementing the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Recovery Programs for one extra year, through 2024. The programs are currently set to expire on September 30, 2023.
  • Extend the Department of Interior’s reporting deadline by one year, to September 2022. Reporting includes program accomplishments, funds spent, and projected expenditures.
  • Create the ability to transfer funds from San Juan Basin to Upper Colorado Recovery programs by shifting capital cost ceilings, keeping the total cost constant.

Full bill text is available here.

Background:
The Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basin Endangered Fish Recovery Programs work to recover four threatened and endangered fish species: the humpback chub, bonytail, Colorado pikeminnow, and razorback sucker. These different species of fish help contribute to an overall healthy river ecosystem that benefits both people and nature.

Senators Romney and Hickenlooper first introduced the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins Recovery Act in the Senate in February 2022. Representatives Blake Moore (R-UT), Chris Stewart (R-UT), and Joe Neguse (D-CO) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives in August 2021, and the House passed the legislation in March 2022.