Colorado Trout Unlimited

50 years protecting rivers, and we’re just getting started.

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  • The Colorado Council of Trout Unlimited holds it inaugural meeting in Vail. The gathering also marks the 10th anniversary of the founding of TU in Michigan. Chapter representatives, including those from Colorado’s first two chapters – Cutthroat and Ferdinand Hayden - make up the Board of Directors.
  • Two small populations of Greenback cutthroat trout – previously thought extinct – are confirmed in Colorado; the species is listed as “endangered” and TU begins efforts with a multi-agency partnership to begin the highly successful recovery of the Greenback.
  • With CTU and its grassroots in a lead advocacy role, the Colorado General Assembly authorizes the state to appropriate water for instream flows to “protect the environment to a reasonable degree.” For the first time, water left in streams for fish is recognized as a beneficial use.
  • With input and advocacy from CTU and its conservation associates, the General Assembly passes the Colorado Water Quality Control Act within a year of the passage of the U.S. Clean Water Act.
  • CTU issues a resolution calling for fish stocking be reduced or eliminated in any stream that will support a wild trout population and launches an effort to influence public policy.
  • The Colorado Wildlife Commission adopts its first wild trout policy, establishing more than 200 miles of “Wild Trout” water, including segments of the Blue River, the Big Thompson, the Eagle, the Arkansas and the Fryingpan.
  • CTU, its chapter, grassroots and partners wage an all-out public campaign against the proposed Two Forks Dam, which would have inundated cherished sections of the South Platte River near Deckers. United behind the slogan “Why Two Forks?” CTU activists lobby public officials from the governor and legislators on down to local planning commissions. CTU Executive Director Dave Taylor is featured in a New York Times article. CTU helps defeat 25 bills designed to expedite construction of the dam.
  • Myxobolus cerebralis – the parasite that causes whirling disease – is first detected in Colorado.
  • After ongoing advocacy by CTU against a proposed dam site on Rock Creek near Gore Pass, the Colorado River Water Conservation District instead selects aptly-named Muddy Creek as the site for Wolford Mountain Reservoir, preserving Rock Creek and improving the fishery on Muddy Creek.
  • CTU helps convince the Colorado General Assembly to mandate the use of water meters in Colorado’s larger cities. It’s about time!
  • The Gunnison Angling Society stages its first Superfly competition. It’s still going strong!
  • EPA chief William K. Reilly vetoes the Two Forks Dam permit, citing “unacceptable adverse effects” the South Platte’s “diverse riverine/wetland/upland complex with extremely high fisheries, wildlife and recreational values.” Besides marking a major victory for conservationists, the Two Forks defeat prompts water providers to take a much more collaborative approach to water project planning.

    1990 EPA Report on Recommended Determinatin to Prohibit Construction of Two Forks Dam and Reservoir
  • With CTU’s support, the General Assembly adopts legislation requiring cities to adopt water conservation plans in order to be eligible for loans from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, and creating a grant program to support innovation in water efficiency.
  • At the peak of the Arkansas River’s “Row vs. Wade” battle that pitted rafters against anglers, CTU seeks - and wins - an injunction to stop a flow plan that might have decimated the river’s outstanding brown trout fishery. The debate is ultimately solved with a cooperative flow management program that provides augmented flows for rafting through August, followed by stable flows to protect brown trout through spawning and the winter.
  • The Colorado Wildlife Commission adopts a wild and gold medal trout management policy that emphasizes conservation of self-sustaining trout populations and protection of high quality fisheries and habitat.
  • CTU lobbies to create Great Outdoors Colorado to help preserve, protect, enhance and manage the state’s wildlife, park, river, trail and open space heritage. A year later, CTU helps turn back an effort to subject GOCO to spending limits opposed by the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR). Since then, GOCO has funded 2,700 projects to the tune of more than $500 million.
  • CTU launches a successful effort to make the Greenback Cutthroat Trout Colorado’s state fish.
  • The familiar Cheesman Canyon trail map and display, built to honor former Wild Trout, CTU and National TU President Steve Lundy, is dedicated. Imagine how many people have stopped to ponder that sign!
  • CTU, TU, and member Ron Albert sue the U.S. Forest Service over permits it issued for Long Draw Reservoir in the Cache la Poudre headwaters.CTU challenged the agency’s failure to require minimum bypass flows below the dam to “minimize damage” to fish and wildlife as required under federal law. More than a decade later, TU prevails.
  • Trout Unlimited establishes the Colorado Water Project, providing the legal expertise needed to participate meaningfully in Colorado’s Water Court system.
  • Former CTU Executive Director and Past President Dave Taylor wins National TU’s highest individual honor – The Mortenson Award.
  • After nearly 13 years of often rancorous debate, the Colorado Wildlife Commission (finally!) bans the stocking of fish exposed to whirling disease into trout waters, despite fierce opposition from the aquaculture industry. By this time, nearly all of the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s hatcheries have become infected. Moving forward, CTU will be instrumental in convincing the legislature to approve more than $11 million to fund the Division to clean up its hatcheries.
  • National TU recognizes CTU with its inaugural Tomorrow’s Trout award as the state council that has been most exemplary for its conservation work, new member growth, mentoring of volunteer leaders, and reaching out to other conservationist organizations.
  • CTU rallies to secure “Enterprise Status” for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, a move that frees the cash-strapped agency from TABOR restrictions that put at risk CDOW’s ability to use hunting and fishing license dollars for fish and wildlife.
  • Senate Bill 156, which grew from a TU proposal, becomes law and allows water rights holders to donate greater quantities of water to improve stream flows, not just maintain bare minimum flows.
  • Using data collected by CTU, the Colorado Water Conservation Board files for an instream flow water right on the South Fork of the South Platte – the first time it has made a filing based on a citizen group’s request.
  • National TU honors Salida’s own Fred Rasmussen with the Mortenson Award – its highest individual honor.
  • CTU and its grassroots mobilize to help defeat Referendum A, a proposal that would have the state bond $2 billion for unspecified water projects. Billed as an effort to find solutions for a record drought, the referendum instead ignites heated debate about how best to use and conserve the state's limited water resources. Thanks to opposition from CTU and a coalition of farmers, conservationists, and fiscal conservatives, Ref A goes down to resounding defeat as a majority of voters in every Colorado county reject the “blank check” for dams.
  • The U.S. Forest Service approves the landmark South Platte Protection Plan, an alternative to federal Wild and Scenic River Designation, which is the result of a decade-long collaborative process that involved local governments, water providers, conservationists and recreation interests. CTU plays an important role in drafting a comprehensive stream flow plan for the river from 11-mile dam to Chatfield. CTU and Denver Water – opponents in the Two Forks debate – co-chair the negotiations that result in the Plan.
  • TU’s Colorado Water Project stops the proposed AB Lateral Hydroelectric plant, which would have diverted huge volumes of water from the Upper Gunnison River. In the face of a prolonged fight over the proposal, the AB Lateral project relinquished its water rights.
  • CTU and its chapters hold the first “Great Colorado River Cleanup” with fall stream cleanups statewide.
  • After nearly a decade in court, CTU prevails in its “bypass flows” lawsuit over Long Draw Reservoir. The federal court agrees that the Forest Service must include measures in its permits for Long Draw that minimize damage to fish and wildlife resources. In the aftermath of this victory, CTU begins negotiations with the dam’s owners on a mitigation program that is now poised to jump-start the state’s largest-ever native trout restoration project.
  • Bruce Hoagland of Gunnison receives CTU’s first lifetime achievement award – heretofore known as the Bruce Hoagland Award for Leadership in Conservation, or “The Hoagy.”
  • CTU joins other hunting and angling groups to secure legislative passage of a new “habitat stamp” to provide funds to the DOW for habitat protection and acquisition of public fishing and hunting access.
  • CTU and Boulder Flycasters work with Team USA Fly Fishing to host the first National Fly Fishing Championships, and go on to host the second in 2007.
  • CTU holds its first youth conservation and fly fishing camp, providing a week of in-depth and hands-on learning for 20 high-school age youth.
  • CTU completes heavy-equipment work on the Middle Fork of the South Platte with the Buffalo Peaks Ranch stream restoration project. This $300,000+ project involves multiple chapters and is the largest habitat project that CTU has yet undertaken.
  • CTU, National TU staff, and conservation allies secure passage of the “Healthy Rivers Initiative,” a package of bills that eliminates legal roadblocks to the leasing of water for instream flows and – for the first time – provide state funds to the Colorado Water Conservation Board for acquisition of water for its instream flow program.
  • TU’s Colorado Water Project secures a landmark victory in protecting flows through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. In 2007, TU successfully challenged a proposed settlement between the federal government and water interests that would have resulted in minimal streamflow protections in the Canyon. Working from that victory, TU and its conservation allies reached an agreement with the federal government, the state and water users by which a more natural hydrograph will be protected through the Black Canyon. The accord includes periodic flushing flows needed to scour sediment and maintain a healthy river habitat.
  • CTU plays a role in shaping new oil and gas regulations aimed at protecting water and wildlife resources – then helps fight off an industry effort to weaken the rules in the Colorado General Assembly.
  • Wild trout return to Kerber Creek! After generations of degradation from abandoned mines in the Bonanza district, this stream in the northern Rio Grande basin was shepherded back to health through mine clean-up partnerships among TU, the Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service, and State of Colorado. The project wins national awards from BLM, USFS, the Public Lands Foundation, and the American Fisheries Society.
  • The US Forest Service adopts the final Colorado Roadless Rule, providing strong protections to more than 4 million acres of public land backcountry – including heightened protection for native trout watersheds that were specifically sought by TU through the seven-year rulemaking process.
  • Serious floods cause widespread damage to streams and communities along the Northern Front Range including along Boulder Creek, the St. Vrain and Big Thompson. CTU and its local chapters join in the effort to rebuild and restore, promoting partnerships to improve river habitat and reopen fish passage that had previously been blocked by diversion structures.
  • Denver Water, TU, and Grand County announce a groundbreaking agreement to ensure mitigation and enhancements for Denver’s Moffat Firming Project that will improve the health of the Fraser River basin through investments in habitat improvement, water to address key base flow needs, and a collaborative “Learning by Doing” process for adaptive management.
  • Federal legislation is passed establishing southwest Colorado’s Hermosa Creek basin as the nation’s first “Watershed Protection Area” with heightened protection of public lands throughout the watershed, including 37,000 acres of newly-designated wilderness. The legislation helps protect a stronghold for native Colorado River cutthroat trout in the upper Hermosa watershed.
  • CTU and other conservationists reach a settlement with oil and gas interests and the BLM after six years of litigation over Roan Plateau. Under the agreement, limited and carefully-planned development will take place adjacent to already-developed private leases while more than 90% of the Roan’s valuable backcountry will remain unleased for oil and gas.
  • After years of advocacy by TU and local partners in the Arkansas River basin, President Obama officially designated the Browns Canyon National Monument, protecting 22,000 acres of scenic lands along the Arkansas River – a gold medal trout fishery and the most-used rafting river in the United States.
  • Colorado adopts its first ever statewide “Colorado Water Plan”. TU and its chapters participating throughout the public process leading up to the plan, helping secure key elements in the plan emphasizing river health as a vital statewide goal. The Plan has sense provide a basis for millions of dollars in investment into smart water solutions including “Stream Management Plans” to help assess and meet the needs of rivers.
  • CTU, the US Forest Service and northern Colorado irrigators reach a final agreement in the long-standing battle over bypass flows at Long Draw Reservoir. Under the agreement, a $1.25 million trust is established to fund restoration of native trout across the headwaters of the Cache la Poudre on the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forests and Rocky Mountain National Park. The project will ultimately restore native trout to nearly 40 miles of connected habitat – the largest such project in Colorado history.
  • Colorado Trout Unlimited celebrates 50 years of protecting rivers.

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