Legislation and Advocacy

TU supports the Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act

by Kate Miller
July 18, 2019
Original Blog post here.

Bill would help to advance renewable energy projects on public lands in a manner that protects fish and wildlife habitat, and strengthens local economies and communities

Upcoming

TU CEO Chris Wood to testify in support of PLREDA before a House Committee on July 25th at 10 am eastern. Read Chris’ written statement or visit the hearing page to find witness testimony and to watch the hearing live or on replay.

What is PLREDA?

On July 17, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Rep. Mike Levin (D-CA) introduced the bipartisan Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act (PLREDA). 

  • Congressman Gosar’s press release on the bill is available, here.

  • Congressman Levin’s press release is here.

The Public Land Renewable Energy Act would create a new system for efficient, responsible renewable energy development on public lands. By identifying priority areas for wind, solar and geothermal development, PLREDA encourages smart siting and efficient permitting of projects in places with high potential for energy and low impact on wildlife and habitat. 

Critically, the act would also strategically direct the royalty revenue from development to invest in local communities, fish and wildlife resources and more efficient permitting for renewable energy projects. 

Why PLREDA?

The nation’s public lands system provides Americans with the some of the world’s richest opportunities for outdoor recreation. In some cases, federal holdings also represent a reasonable setting for well-planned and properly mitigated renewable energy development projects. These energy projects could stimulate job growth, reduce carbon pollution, and contribute to the protection and restoration of fish and wildlife habitat on public lands.

Utility-scale wind and solar projects are a growing presence on our public lands. These projects will help us move toward a clean energy future, but can take up large chunks of land for long periods of time, and may cause some unavoidable impacts on fish, wildlife and water resources and recreational access. The Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act provides the conservation counterbalance to unavoidable impacts on our public lands.

PLREDA offers a way to offset issues created by development on public lands by designating a conservation fund derived from royalties and other revenues generated by wind and solar energy projects operating on federal land. The bill also directs a portion of the royalty and lease revenues from public land wind and solar projects to compensate for states and counties impacted by development. Read more about the bill details in our factsheet.

Why this Matters for Trout Unlimited

Public lands contain some of the most valuable trout and salmon habitat in the nation. In most western states, public lands comprise more than 70 percent of the available habitat for native trout, representing the vast majority of remaining strongholds for coldwater species. PLREDA offers a way to advance development of renewable energy on public lands in a responsible and innovative fashion, while also ensuring funds flow back into Trout Unlimited’s critical on-the-ground conservation work that benefits anglers and downstream communities.

How you can help

We need your help to build even more support for PLREDA. Urge your member of Congress to sign on as co-sponsor of the Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act. 

TU letters / statements:

Upcoming: Chris Wood to testify in support of PLREDA before a House Committee on July 25th at 10am eastern. Read Chris’ written statement or visit the hearing page to find witness testimony and to watch the hearing live or on replay.

That’s all for this one! Please contact Kate MillerRob Catalanotto or Steve Moyer with any questions.

Speak Up for South Park, the South Platte and the Arkansas Rivers

Untitled design.png

The Bureau of Land Management’s Royal Gorge Field Office is currently revising the plan that will determine the future management of 658,000 acres of public lands in the Arkansas and South Platte river drainages in eastern Colorado, and local sportsmen and women are encouraged to take part. These public lands offer world-class trout fishing, crucial habitat for Colorado’s most iconic wildlife, and some of the best backcountry hunting opportunities in close proximity to the Front Range.

Please attend a local public meeting (schedule below) in the next few weeks to share your perspective as a public land user and ensure that anglers have a say about the places where we love to fish. These events will offer updates on the planning process, allow the public to share their ideas and opinions on the draft plan, and suggest ways for citizens to stay involved.

This is your opportunity to voice concerns and make recommendations on how our public lands are managed. The 90-day comment period on the BLM’s Draft Eastern Colorado Resource Management Plan & Environmental Impact Statement closes Sept. 20, 2019.

Where and When:

  • Canon City - The Abbey Event Center, Benedict Room, 2951 East Hwy. 50, Canon City, CO 81212 - July 9 - 5:30-7:30 p.m.

  • Fairplay - Foss Smith Multipurpose Room, 640 Hathaway Street, Fairplay, CO 80440 - July 11 - 5:30-7:30 p.m.

  • Walsenburg - Washington School, Auditorium, 201 E. Fifth Street, Walsenburg, CO 81089 - July 15 - 5:30-7:30 p.m.

  • Denver - Denver Marriott West, Monart Room, 1717 Denver West Blvd., Golden, CO 80401 - July 18 - 5:30-7:30 p.m.

  • Colorado Springs - Westside Community Center, 1628 W. Bijou Street, Colorado Springs, CO 80904 - July 22 - 5:30-7:30 p.m.

  • Greeley - Greeley Recreation Center, Room 101 ABC, 651 10th Ave, Greeley, CO 80631 - July 23 - 5:30-7:30 p.m.

You can read the Draft Plan here.

Online COMMENTS:

Can’t make a public meeting? Comments are being accepted online here.

Just click the “Comment on Document” button.

Suggested Talking Points:

Arkansas River.

Arkansas River.

Protection of aquatic wildlife, stream health and Gold Medal fisheries: We are asking that the BLM establish and maintain strict stipulations for surface occupancy for oil and gas development surrounding bodies of water containing or designated for introduction of native cutthroat trout (400 meter buffer) and those designated as Gold Medal Trout Waters (805 meter buffer) along the South Platte and Arkansas river drainages. The current draft includes these stipulations but they need to be maintained through the final plan.

Conservation of unfragmented, functional habitats: We ask that the BLM safeguard our best hunting and fishing areas by adopting the Backcountry Conservation Area (BCA) management tool designed to conserve important big game habitat, prioritize active habitat restoration and enhancement, and support important public access for hunting, angling and other forms of recreation.

Conservation of big game migration corridors and seasonal habitat: We’d like to see the BLM take steps to ensure the conservation of identified big game migration corridors and winter range. This should not only include corridors that have already been mapped and analyzed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, but also ensure that the RMP is flexible enough to conserve migration corridors that will be mapped in the future.

Public access: Public access is necessary for outdoor recreation and we encourage the BLM to identify opportunities to increase access to public lands that are landlocked or difficult to access because there are few or no access points across private land that allow the public to reach BLM lands.

Community-driven planning: We support conservation measures to maintain the scenic, wildlife, and recreational values of the South Park valley, and the management direction for this iconic Colorado landscape should align closely with the community recommendations developed by local stakeholder groups along with Park County.

A Good Year for Trout at the Capitol

1280px-CO_State_Capitol_dusk.jpg

Legislative Recap

By Jen Boulton, CTU Legislative Liaison

The 2019 session was one of the most intense in recent years. There was some Washington DC level obstruction on numerous bills; which led to some very long days, and even longer nights. After the dust settled, however, the conservation community achieved some remarkable successes.

One of the highest priorities for CTU was HB1113 to revamp some of the hard rock mining laws in the state. Most notably, the bill prohibited reliance on perpetual water treatment for newly permitted mines. Under the previously existing law, companies could apply for permits knowing that perpetual mine drainage pollution would result from their activities. In fact, the policy of the State of Colorado hasn’t allowed the practice for several years; but with passage of HB1113, the practice is prohibited by law so our streams and rivers are less reliant on the policies of a single department. HB1113 also prohibited the use of “self-bonding” for recovery on mining sites. Self bonding allowed companies to claim that a healthy corporate balance sheet negated the need to post bonds in order to ensure sufficient resources for reclamation. Lastly, the bill gave specific authority to State regulators to require bonds to protect water quality, rather than solely for surface reclamation. Put together, these provisions will help ensure that future mining operations are required to operate responsibly and in a manner that adequately restores the environments where mining takes place.

Another key measure was passage of the oil and gas regulation bill. One of the biggest obstacles to updating regulations on the oil and gas industry to protect streams and rivers has been the statutory provision that the agency responsible for regulation has also been required to foster development of oil and gas resources. That dual mission has led to significant difficulties in protecting water quality, as well as public health and safety. There has been a tremendous amount of misinformation circulated about this bill. It was absolutely not a resurrection of the 2018 ballot measure on setbacks – a measure that Colorado TU did not support. In fact, the word setback wasn’t even in the bill.

The bill actually addressed two major issues, and several smaller issues to streamline the process and improve transparency. First it removed the requirement that the State foster development. Instead, it made the regulatory agency responsible solely for regulating the industry. Second, the bill gave increased authority to local governments to regulate the siting of facilities in accordance with their land use policy. This provision was one of the most contentious. Industry claimed that the resulting patchwork of regulations would make development prohibitively expensive. Ironically, the bill merely put the oil and gas industry on the same footing with all other commercial and residential development, which was already subject to regulation and permitting by each local jurisdiction in the State.

On a more disappointing note, we were unable to pass HB1218, a bill that would have expanded the existing program allowing temporary leasing of water for protection of instream flows. The bill expanded the existing program from allowing temporary leases three years in a single ten year period; to allowing up to five years of leasing in ten, with renewal for up to two additional ten year terms. This program has already been used to help keep more water in drought-stricken streams, including three times (through 2018) on the Yampa River where leasing partnerships with the local water conservancy district have been essential in maintaining the fishery through drought years.  Unfortunately, the opposition was strong enough to derail the bill, and force it into a discussion during the Summer at the water resources and review committee.

Stay tuned: this fight will be back next year.

Colorado Trout Unlimited Applauds Progress to Save LWCF

Senate passes bill to restore the Land and Water Conservation Fund and protect special places

(Feb. 12, 2019) Denver, CO. – The United States Senate has voted to advance S. 47, the Natural Resources Management Act. Importantly, the bipartisan legislation permanently authorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which has been expired since September 30. The legislation now goes to the House of Representatives where supporters are urging quick passage.

 

“Even when this hugely successful program was falling victim to Washington’s partisan dysfunction, Senators Bennet and Gardner never stopped working to secure its passage. We deeply appreciate their unflagging commitment to investing in Colorado’s public lands and outdoor recreation,” said David Nickum, Executive Director of Colorado Trout Unlimited.  

 

Gunnison Gorge, CO Picture from: Unsplash.com

Gunnison Gorge, CO Picture from: Unsplash.com

For over half a century, LWCF has used a portion of federal offshore energy revenues — at no cost to taxpayers — to conserve our lands, water, and open spaces and protect the outdoor recreation opportunities they offer. LWCF has invested over $268 million in Colorado, helping to secure access and conserve special places, across the state, including the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve and boat launches on the Colorado River.

 

“We still need to fully fund LWCF and we’ll continue working toward that end, but permanent authorization is an enormous accomplishment for all who have working tirelessly on this issue,” said Scott Willoughby, Colorado Field Coordinator for Trout Unlimited. “In addition to LWCF, there are dozens of bipartisan provisions across the country that will help sustain our public land heritage, including new Wilderness areas, Wild and Scenic River sections and National Conservation Areas. This is one of the most important pieces of public lands legislation in recent memory and we urge the House of Representatives to quickly pass this bill.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

 

Feb. 12, 2019

Contacts: 

David Nickum, Colorado Trout Unlimited 

303-440-2937 x1 dnickum@tu.org

 

Scott Willoughby, Trout Unlimited

970-390-3676 swilloughby@tu.org  


###


Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s trout and salmon and their watersheds. Follow TU on Facebook and TwitterInstagram and our blog for all the latest information on trout and salmon conservation.

 

Colorado leaders join bipartisan rally to help save LWCF

LWCFCoalition.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 29, 2018

CONTACT: Justin Bartolomeo

(202) 789-4365

jbartolomeo@hdmk.org

Bipartisan Conservation Champions Rally to Save LWCF by Year’s End

Washington, D.C. – Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) champions in the House and Senate rallied on the steps of the U.S. Capitol with conservation leaders and outdoor recreation advocates today calling on Congress to reauthorize and fully fund America’s most important conservation and recreation program before the end of the year.

"Two months ago, America lost one of its best conservation tools,” said Lynn Scarlett, Former Deputy Secretary of the Department of Interior and head of External Affairs at The Nature Conservancy. “The Land and Water Conservation Fund helps protect national parks, expand outdoor recreation opportunities and bolster local economies, all at no cost to the American taxpayer. It’s too important to continue leaving its future in doubt. Now more than ever, we have the bipartisan momentum to get LWCF the permanent reauthorization and full funding it deserves. For the protection of our lands, waters and the benefits their conservation bring to communities and our economy, now is the time to save LWCF.”

“Colorado’s beautiful public lands rely on the Land and Water Conservation Fund and Congress needs to ensure it remains in place for years to come,” said Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO). “I’ll continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that we do what is right and permanently reauthorize and fully fund this vital outdoors conservation program.”

“The expiration of a widely popular program like LWCF demonstrates just how broken Washington is. If we don’t want to find ourselves in this exact position again down the road, we must permanently reauthorize LWCF. And if we want to grow our outdoor recreation economy and protect treasured landscapes, we must fully fund it. I’ll keep working across the aisle to find a solution that gives this conservation tool the longevity and funding it deserves,” said Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO).

“Since it was enacted 54 years ago, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has helped protect many of the nation’s most popular national parks, forests, and public lands. It has provided millions of Americans the opportunity to hunt, fish, hike, vacation and enjoy the beauty of nature and our great American landscapes,” said Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA). “It has pumped billions of dollars into the outdoor economy and provided millions of good jobs.

“Protecting our public lands is good for the environment, it’s good for the economy and it’s good for the health and welfare of our people. Money made available through the Land and Water Conservation Fund is money well spent,” Senator Cantwell added.

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund remains the single most successful conservation program in American history,” said Senator Richard Burr (R-NC). “Nearly every congressional district in the country benefits from its funding – at no cost to the taxpayer – and millions enjoy the parks, ballfields, and landscapes it maintains every day. My colleagues and I will continue to push for a permanent reauthorization of this important program.

About the Land and Water Conservation Fund

The Land and Water Conservation Fund is America’s most important conservation program, responsible for protecting parks, trails, wildlife refuges and recreation areas at the federal, state and local level. For more than 50 years, it has provided critical funding for land and water conservation projects, access to recreation including hunting and fishing, and the continued historic preservation of our nation’s iconic landmarks from coast-to-coast. LWCF does not use any taxpayer dollars – it is funded using a small portion of revenues from offshore oil and gas royalty payments. Outdoor recreation, conservation and historic preservation activities contribute more than $887 billion annually to the U.S. economy, supporting 7.6 million jobs.

About the LWCF Coalition

The LWCF Coalition is comprised of more than 1,000 state and regional conservation and recreation organizations of all sizes, land owners, small businesses, ranchers, sportsmen, veterans, the outdoor recreation industry and conservationists working together to protect America’s public lands and safeguard our shared outdoor heritage for future generations. The Coalition is united in its advocacy for the permanent reauthorization and full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which will ensure the continued conservation of our national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, wilderness, civil war battlefields, working lands and state and local parks. For more information on LWCF and the places in each state that LWCF funds have protected, visit www.lwcfcoalition.org.

Time for Congress to support our great outdoors

Repost from the Grand Junction Sentinel:

by THE DAVE DRAGOO

With elections behind us, Congress is reconvening for its so-called "lame duck" session. One of its first orders of business should be to permanently reauthorize our nation's most successful outdoor recreation program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

Over its more than 50 years, the LWCF has provided more than $16 billion in protecting valuable habitats, expanding public access to America's public lands, and supporting local projects for outdoor recreation. And it has done so without busting the federal budget — relying on revenue generated by the success of America's energy sector, not taxpayer dollars.

Close to home, LWCF has helped western Colorado with investments from protecting the Ophir Valley above Telluride, to securing key inholdings at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, to supporting the community Riverwalk in Pagosa Springs. More than $268 million has flowed into Colorado from LWCF, securing key public lands, opening up improved hunting and angling access, and supporting community trail and park development.

Yet despite bipartisan support and a long track record of success, Congressional gridlock allowed the LWCF to expire on Sept. 30. The loss of LWCF could seriously hamper future efforts to conserve valuable habitats and expand public access to America's public lands. Fortunately, the lame duck session gives Congress a second chance to reinstate the program with full, dedicated annual funding.

Here in Colorado, we know that protecting our outdoor resources isn't just about the environment and our quality of life — it is also an investment in our state's economy and our communities. Outdoor recreation in Colorado contributes $62.5 billion to our state economy, and supports 511,000 jobs. For businesses like Mayfly, the great outdoors is our corporate infrastructure — and the LWCF helps provide the outdoor resources for our customers that allow us to invest in our companies, our workforce, and our communities.

Sens. Bennet and Gardner and Congressman Tipton have all supported permanent reauthorization of LWCF, for which Coloradans can be grateful. Now it is time for them, and the rest of Congress, to finish the job and ensure that this vital program continues to support Colorado's — and America's — great outdoors and the multi-billion outdoor recreation economy that it supports. The time is now to #SaveLWCF.

David Dragoo is president of Mayfly Outdoors, a Certified B Corp that operates Montrose-based Abel Reels and Ross Reels with the goal of conserving wildlife and fish habitats.

Article Link

Ring the Victory Bells

Conservationists: Victory for the Maroon Bells Wilderness

Maroonbellsprotected.jpg

Final agreement means Aspen will abandon plans to build dams on Maroon & Castle Creeks

Aspen, CO (Oct. 16, 2018) – Today, Wilderness Workshop, Western Resource Advocates, American Rivers, and Colorado Trout Unlimited celebrated news that the city of Aspen has reached the last agreement necessary for it to permanently abandon its plans to build dams on Maroon and Castle creeks. 

“This agreement is a huge victory for the Maroon Bells Wilderness and the Maroon and Castle creeks. The city of Aspen deserves tremendous credit for agreeing not to build these dams and instead pursue smart water alternatives that will enable the city to respond to future needs and to climate change, while preserving this amazing natural environment that draws visitors from all around the world,” said Western Resource Advocates President Jon Goldin-Dubois. “Communities throughout the Colorado River basin face similar dilemmas; Aspen is showing true leadership by demonstrating that it’s possible to find solutions that protect our rivers, preserve our quality of life, and enable future growth.”

“The signing of this final document means the end of conditional water rights that would have allowed dams to be built across Castle and Maroon creeks. The city of Aspen played a leadership role in working to find a set of solutions that will both protect Castle and Maroon creeks and ensure continued water for the citizens of Aspen,” said Will Roush, Executive Director at Wilderness Workshop. “Castle and Maroon creeks have tremendous ecological and community values, this is a moment to celebrate both the continuation of their free-flowing character and the partnership and collaboration with the city of Aspen that led to this outcome.”

“This is a significant victory for rivers in the Roaring Fork Valley,” said Matt Rice, Colorado River Basin Director for American Rivers. “We applaud the city of Aspen for working with the community to find more sustainable and cost-effective water supply solutions. Thanks to the hard work and persistence of so many people who love this special place, these creeks will forever flow free.”

Sacrificing the places that make Colorado great is the wrong answer for meeting future water needs,
— David Nickum, CTU Executive Director

“We appreciate the city of Aspen’s commitment to meet its water supply needs in ways that protect these much-loved valleys and creeks, and the wild trout that call them home” said David Nickum, Executive Director of Colorado Trout Unlimited.

If built, the dams proposed on Maroon and Castle creeks would have flooded important wildlife and recreation areas in addition to portions of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area, forever changing two of the most beautiful, visited, and photographed valleys in Colorado.

The plans were opposed by Wilderness Workshop, Western Resource Advocates, American Rivers, and Trout Unlimited, as well as several other parties, including Pitkin County and the U.S. Forest Service. This spring, after extensive negotiations, the conservation organizations signed agreements with the city, requiring it to relocate its water rights and abandon plans to build reservoirs with dams on Castle and Maroon creeks, regardless of whether it is successful in moving these rights to alternative locations. However, the agreements were contingent on the city reaching accord with other opposers in the case. Final agreement ending plans for a dam and reservoir on Castle Creek was reached in late summer. Today, the city announced a final settlement regarding the dam and reservoir on Maroon Creek.

The agreements commit Aspen to pursuing more river-friendly water storage strategies. The city will seek to move a portion of its water rights to a suite of more environmentally friendly water storage locations within and downstream of the city limits, including a site near the gravel quarry at Woody Creek. The city of Aspen played a critical role in helping find solutions to protect the two creeks while maintaining an important source of water for the community.


Western Resource Advocates works to protect the West’s land, air, and water so that our communities thrive in balance with nature. WRA’s team of scientists, lawyers, and economists craft and implement innovative solutions to the most complex natural resource challenges in the region. For more information, visit www.westernresourceadvocates.org and follow us on Twitter @wradv.

Wilderness Workshop is dedicated to preservation and conservation of the wilderness and natural resources of the White River National Forest and adjacent public lands. WW engages in research, education, legal advocacy and grassroots organizing to protect the ecological integrity of local landscapes and public lands. WW is the oldest environmental nonprofit in the Roaring Fork Valley, dating back to 1967 with a membership base of over 800.  Learn more at http://www.wildernessworkshop.org/.

American Rivers protects wild rivers, restores damaged rivers, and conserves clean water for people and nature. Since 1973, American Rivers has protected and restored more than 150,000 miles of rivers through advocacy efforts, on-the-ground projects, and an annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® campaign. Headquartered in Washington, DC, American Rivers has offices across the country and more than 275,000 members, supporters, and volunteers. Rivers connect us to each other, nature, and future generations. Find your connections at www.AmericanRivers.org.

Colorado Trout Unlimited is dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring Colorado’s coldwater fisheries and their watersheds. With a grassroots base comprised of nearly 12,000 members in 24 local chapters across the state, CTU works both locally and statewide through advocacy, education, and on-the-ground restoration projects. For more information visit www.coloradotu.org.




NEWS RELEASE             

 Contacts:

Jennifer Talhelm, Western Resource Advocates Communications Director,

202-870-4465, Jennifer.talhelm@westernresources.org

Will Roush, Wilderness Workshop Executive Director,

206-979-4016, will@wildernessworkshop.org

Matt Rice, American Rivers Colorado River Basin Program Director,

303-454-3395, mrice@americanrivers.org

David Nickum, Colorado Trout Unlimited Executive Director,

303-440-2937 x1, david.nickum@tu.org

A threat to Colorado's Rivers (and Taxpayers)

Copy of Untitled.jpg

A Threat to Colorado’s Rivers (and Taxpayers)

Colorado TU says NO on 74!! 

We rarely get involved with ballot measures, but Amendment 74 poses a fundamental threat to Colorado TU’s mission to conserve, protect and restore coldwater fisheries. The Amendment is risky and extreme.  Under current law, when government takes private property for public use, it must compensate the owner – and that is as it should be.  Amendment 74 would expand that concept so that government (i.e., we the taxpayers) would have to compensate land and property owners when government regulates the use of land or property and thereby cause any perceived diminution of value – even where such regulations are needed to protect their neighbors’ property, our communities, or our environment. 

A wide range of important governmental programs could be attacked under Amendment 74. Possibilities could include:

  • Local requirements on construction projects to protect our waterways, such as maintenance of riparian buffer strips and management of stormwater runoff, could provide the basis for a diminution of property argument by a property owner that would require governmental compensation under Amendment 74 – or abandonment of those important protections.

  • Since only the Colorado Water Conservation Board can hold instream flows, when such a state-held instream flow right requires another private water right holder to curtail their diversions in order to meet a water “call” for the instream flow, that could be interpreted as a governmental action diminishing the value of private property and require taxpayers to compensate the junior water right holder.

  • The Colorado Division of Water Resources is in charge of dam safety inspections; if threats revealed in an inspection led the State to place restrictions on how much water can be safely stored behind a dam, that could lead to Amendment 74 claims since the owner of the water storage right would see their ability to use that right (and thus its value) diminished.

  • In the wake of a tragic explosion caused by a flowline leak near Freestone in 2017, the Oil and Gas Commission adopted new flowline safety rules. Because the rules will increase costs for oil and gas production, they could be argued under Amendment 74 to have diminished the value of the underlying mineral rights and taxpayers could be forced to foot the bill.

  • Fish health restrictions on the stocking of hatchery-produced fish that are not tested and certified disease-free  could be argued to diminish the value of private hatchery properties and thus result in claims against taxpayers for “takings” under 74.

  • Use restrictions placed by local governments (e.g., on placing liquor stores or marijuana dispensaries near schools, or water restrictions applied during drought) could be rendered impossible or prohibitively expensive.

  • Even laws incidentally affecting a business’ profitability (such as minimum wage, or work safety regulations) could be argued to impact the market value of the property occupied by the business, and thereby become prohibitively expensive to enforce.

The language of Amendment 74 is very simple – and very sweeping.  It is so broad that virtually any arguable impact upon fair market value of any piece of private property resulting from state or local government action – no matter how reasonable or justified or minimal or incidental or temporary – could trigger a claim for taxpayer compensation to the property owner. Even where a restriction was essential to protecting neighboring property values – such as by preventing placement of a landfill in the middle of a residential area – such governmental action could trigger claims under Amendment 74.

The exact reach of its impacts would undoubtedly be decided in the courts – tying up state and local governments in needless litigation even if some of the filed claims are rejected by the courts. The other key effect of Amendment 74 would be a major chilling effect on any local or state government rules designed to protect our environment, public health, and our communities – as our local governments may simply decide that the risks of expensive claims from private property owners preclude them from implementing the kind of planning and protections that we’ve come to expect from them.

Amendment 74 isn’t a new idea; Oregon passed a similar initiative in 2004. After three years and $4.5 billion in payouts required from local governments, voters there recognized their mistake and repealed the measure. Colorado can learn from their costly mistake and vote “no” the first time.

Colorado TU’s Executive Committee voted unanimously to oppose Amendment 74, and we are joined in that stance by a wide range of stakeholders – from Club 20 to the Colorado Nonprofit Association, from the AFL-CIO to the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, from the Colorado Association of Homebuilders to the Colorado Water Congress.

Amendment 74 takes a risky and extreme interpretation of “takings” - and worst of all, it would embed it in our state Constitution where we would be stuck with its intended and unintended consequences, without any ability for the legislature to make adjustments to fix problems created by the measure. 

Colorado Trout Unlimited encourages our members and supporters to vote “NO” on 74.

Download PDF of CTU’s statement

https://coloradopolitics.com/in-response-amendment-74-threatens-colorados-outdoor-traditions/

The Thompson Divide: Standing at the Summit

Photo: Trout Unlimited www.tu.org

Photo: Trout Unlimited www.tu.org

Excerpt from Aspen Times, read the full article here.

By Scott Willoughby

In a landlocked rise of rock and ice, Thompson Divide flows like a vein of Colorado gold. This vast sweep of lustrous aspen groves and lush conifer forests surrounded by the iconic sentinel of Mount Sopris, the towering Elk Mountains, rugged Ragged Wilderness and verdant Grand Mesa is flanked by open, grassy meadows and cool, clean trout streams offering a treasure of precious, wild habitat. The 221,000-acre backcountry expanse serves as one of the most pristine natural environments in the West, and among the most deserving of preservation.

Described as a "Colorado Crown Jewel" by Gov. John Hickenlooper himself, the rolling, mid-elevation backcountry is home to a rare combination of natural and recreational resources in the heart one the nation's most popular outdoor playgrounds. Because it supports recreation, ranching and other local industries, the Thompson Divide produces an estimated 300 jobs and pumps more than $30 million into the local economy, much of it during the fall harvest and hunting seasons when the hillsides bustle with life.

Critical keystone habitat supports some of the state's largest herds of Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer and dozens of other species benefiting from one of the densest concentrations of roadless areas in the West. Native cutthroat trout line the vital cold water streams and ponds that continue to serve as a water source for the husky bruins once hunted by conservation champion President Theodore Roosevelt more than 100 years ago.

A new chapter was added to this storied landscape recently when a coalition of local government officials, businesses, ranchers, sportsmen and citizen groups successfully orchestrated the cancellation of 25 oil and gas drilling leases improperly issued in the early 2000s within Thompson Divide's boundaries and settled a lawsuit challenging the cancellation last summer. The leases covered more than 21,000 acres (about 33 square miles), featuring prime big game habitat and native cutthroat trout streams in watersheds providing source water to the Crystal and Roaring Fork rivers, as well as local communities.

But the battle is far from won. Keep reading.

Can’t access the full article, try on Trout Unlimited.

#STANDFORPUBLICLAND

Sequoia National Park, California

Sequoia National Park, California

Guest blog by Catherine Belme

When I moved into my @vanforpublicland and drove off on the open road last fall, it was to fuel my soul and better connect with and get to know the land I call home. It’s so much more than that though. I have the deepest, most passionate feelings for this land, for the rivers and plants and animals that inhabit it with us. We are creatures of the wild, somewhere along the lines domesticating ourselves a little too much, in my opinion. I strongly believe all of us have a primal connection to the outdoors, the wild. Some of us just may never have had the chance to explore that yet, and others may have forgotten or suppressed it while caught up in modern life. I want to change that.

Kings Canyon National Park, California

Kings Canyon National Park, California

I strongly, strongly believe that interacting with nature heals the body and soul, grounds us, helps us understand life and get a grip on what actually matters and why, gives us fuel and a deep sense of fulfillment. I want to share the feelings I get when in the outdoors with as many as possible. For these feelings – they’re the first step in developing a lasting relationship. The way I see it, there’s something in the outdoors for everyone, and once found it leads to an appreciation for and love of the environment. Once that foundation is laid, people begin feeling passionate about the wild spaces in their lives, and with that comes a reason to protect these places. Our public lands are threatened every day, not just by humans mistreating them but also by our government and special interest groups. Now, more than ever, there is no guarantee these last wild places will remain protected for future generations to enjoy.

Monahans Sand Hills State Park

Monahans Sand Hills State Park

Bears Ears National Monument

Bears Ears National Monument

Monahans Sand Hills State Park

Monahans Sand Hills State Park

I set out on the road to see as much of our nation’s public lands as possible, with the intent of sharing their largely unrealized beauty and power with others, and to meet with and share the stories of as many folks in the outdoors as I can.
Arches National Park, Utah

Arches National Park, Utah

My hope is that through sharing these stories, others will find someone they can relate to and thus be inspired to engage in the outdoor world. Over time, they’ll get the same wonderful feelings as the rest of the outdoorsy community, feel empowered, and find a reason to protect these spaces. Then, in my wildest fantasy, everyone will fight for conservation and know how to responsibly interact with nature. From exposure to experience to connection to conservation, bam! We all will be out there taking a stand for public land.

Along my journey I have met some of the most interesting and kind people, and witnessed first hand so much lost culture and raw natural beauty. My first stop was to link up with a couple who live on the road with their pup and have fallen in love with Bears Ears National Monument and the surrounding areas. I’ve driven through Utah on trips between Colorado and southern California several times before, but never even realized how much public land is there, and how amazing the topography and rich history of these places is! We drove around the land within the old Bears Ears border, stopping to look at Native American artifacts, kivas, and petroglyphs. The area is sacred to several tribes, and incredibly rich in cultural history. (In case you aren’t aware – last December President Trump announced a reduction in size of Bears Ears National Monument by a staggering 85%; a real blow to The Antiquities Act, outdoor enthusiasts, and especially to Native peoples, to say the least.)

I have really fallen for southern and eastern Utah from my travels, though! Cyanobacteria, lichens, and mosses form a crust over the earth called cryptobiotic soil – it’s very alive and very fragile so you must be careful not to tread on it, but it is so interesting to look at and unlike any other soil I’ve ever seen. The ground is red, and at first glance may seem barren, but when looking deeper you’ll find that’s not the case at all. Buttes, canyons, rivers, and dry creek beds make for a drastic landscape. At dusk and dawn the air is alive with the sounds of coyotes on the hunt. Skies are full of stars and, out there, a full moon lights up the landscape better than any flashlight could. Some of my favorite spots are the Bears Ears area, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Monument Valley, and the area surrounding Moab.

At dusk and dawn the air is alive with the sounds of coyotes on the hunt. Skies are full of stars and, out there, a full moon lights up the landscape better than any flashlight could.
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

My absolute favorite spots in terms of raw beauty that I have traveled so far have been sand dunes. There’s just something about an endless stretch of hills of sand at sunset that makes all the grains getting in my clothes, food, and all over the van totally worth it. White Sands National Monument is in southern New Mexico and is known for it’s sprawling dunes of, you guessed it, white sand. It almost looks like snow at times, and makes for incredibly high likelihood of getting a sunburn. Bring the kids for a sledding trip, or get to the visitors’ center early and reserve a backpacking campsite. My partner met me in El Paso and we spent a day and night at the dunes, I can assure you that sunset is nothing short of magical. My other favorites dunes were at Monahans Sandhills State Park in Texas. The state park is a bit smaller, but they have a good amount of campsites that you can drive right up to, as well as a day-use area. Unfortunately, someone discovered that the area is great for fracking, so there are a ton of extraction sites going up all around the park and some are visible from the sandhills. Definitely still worth a visit though!

Big Bend National Park, Texas

Big Bend National Park, Texas

Down in Texas I visited Big Bend National Park. Big Bend lies on the Rio Grande, at the border of Texas and Mexico. Across the border the land is preserved by two national parks as well, so add that to the fact that Big Bend is way off the beaten path, and it makes for an extremely well conserved area. Big Bend is where I learned about riparian areas – it’s the native plants and trees surrounding a waterway to help stabilize the banks, shade the water to keep it cool, and filter the soil, to put it briefly. The park may as well be three parks in one, actually. The eastern part is right on the Rio Grande and has a lush riparian zone as well as natural hot springs and a slot canyon. The central area is the Chisos Basin and Chisos Mountains – where you may encounter bears while hiking the mountainside or javelina at your campsite. The mountains are beautiful and have trails leading along the ridge of the canyon, where you can see the Rio Grande below. I met a kind artist from Austin and camped with her in the Chisos, photographing her painting process and chatting all evening long. To the western side is Santa Elena Canyon and a few desert hikes. I saw several kayakers here as well, and I believe you can even float the river from that area. Beyond that is a dirt road that it seems not too many drive down, which is a shame. The views are spectacular and it is rich with historical sites as well. While exploring the west side I met an older gentleman named Terry who has lived out of his little sedan for a few years and camps at National Parks every night. He was delightful to talk to and I cannot wait to get ahold of him again for a feature in my project. I can only hope my retirement is half as adventure filled as his. I also befriended a family with a few daughters who was finishing up a spring break road trip. The parents were amped to meet a woman traveling solo and enjoying the outdoors, as they have intentionally raised their daughters in the outdoors and taught them to be daring and self sufficient. I thought that was so neat, and I am so excited for those girls to grow up and keep up their passion for nature.

After the southwest, I traveled up the Pacific coast to meet up with some folks in Olympic National Park. They’re a young couple living full time in an RV in the city, working in the city, and getting out of town every weekend they can to go camping. They even had an RV cat that they put on a leash and let wander around the campsite! How funny is that! Oh my gosh though – Olympic National Park is gorgeous. The lush rainforest (I didn’t realize we had a rainforest in the US until I visited up there), the rivers, the lakes, the mountains, and the seashore – all amazing. We only spent two nights together, so I definitely am due back for further exploration – but one night we camped in the Hoh Rainforest and the other at Kalaloch Beach campground. The Hoh is filled with towering trees, greens of every shade blanket the landscape, and the Hoh River cuts right through it. I hear it’s a great spot to fly fish, and that if you’re there at the right time of year you can see and hear the Roosevelt Elk bugling to each other. Over at the beach was also nice, however completely different. There’s a big cliff with a few trails leading down to a beach that seems to go on forever along the coast, and the tide goes out pretty far so it is wide too. The friends I met in Olympic used to be campsite hosts at the Hoh Campground, and currently are ambassadors for a trail clean up program. They have such a deep connection to the park after living there for a season and looking after the rainforest. Told you I’ve been meeting and collecting stories from the most interesting people!

Navajo Nation, Arizona

Navajo Nation, Arizona

Our country has so much to offer, so many beautiful places, so many hidden gems.

It’s been about a year, and I can promise you I am nowhere near done with this project. Our country has so much to offer, so many beautiful places, so many hidden gems. It’s almost a catch-22: the less human traffic in these places the more wild, serene, and awe-striking they tend to be, however, that also means the less people who have an understanding of the land and why it needs to be protected – which often leads to lands being leased, sold, developed, mined, fracked, etc. and the majority of our country being none-the-wiser. I am working at a conservation district in eastern Washington for now, learning and doing all I can to restore the land. I’ll be continuing my #standforpublicland project as a weekend warrior, visiting and learning all about new places to share with others, sharing stories of those I meet out enjoying the great outdoors, and helping to spread responsible practices for interacting with Mother Nature. To celebrate National Public Lands day (September 22, 2018) I’ll be hiking through Palouse Falls State Park and some other areas in the Palouse region, getting to know my new home better and see all of its beauty! I hope to hear you’re out doing whatever it is you love to do most in the outdoors! Just please always remember to practice leave no trace ethics, welcome others into the outdoors, and leave each place better than you found it. I’d love for you to join my quest for public lands conservation, and please feel free to get in touch so I can share your stories to help inspire others!

Snake River, Idaho

Snake River, Idaho


A note from CTU:

Learn more about National Public Lands Day here.

See who else is celebrating and find an event near you!

The fourth Saturday of each September marks National Public Lands Day. This September 22, 2018 we are reminded what makes our public lands great and because of that, all National Parks are free on that day. We want to thank Catherine for sharing her story and perspective on public lands and invite you to celebrate these beautiful places. Currently, we are trying to urge Congress to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund which has been key in establishing, conserving, and protecting some of your favorite places in Colorado such as the Great Sand Dunes National Park, Mesa Verde, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison. The fund is expiring soon, but you can speak up!