Photo: High spring 2023 flows of the Green River, a tributary of the Colorado River, round the corner of Bonita Bend in Canyonlands National Park. Photo by Paul Badame

DENVER — Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is announcing the availability of the draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for continuation of the Colorado River Recovery Programs (Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program and the San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program). The 30-day public comment period is from December 11, 2023 – January 11, 2024. Comments on the draft EA should be submitted to: coloradoriverrecovery@fws.gov  

The draft EA evaluates the federal action of signing a cooperative agreement between the Department of the Interior, Western Area Power Administration, four Tribes, and four states to continue conservation actions beyond 2024. A copy of the draft EA can be found on the Recovery Programs’ websites at draft-environmental-assessment-colorado-river-recovery-programs. 

The draft EA covers the coordination of actions that the programs take within the seven elements of recovery: instream flow, habitat, nonnative fish, propagation, outreach, research/monitoring, and program management. The draft EA has undergone extensive review by Recovery Program partners and any projects that involve substantial on the ground impacts are analyzed under the National Environmental Policy Act as they occur.  

The Colorado River Recovery Programs provide compliance for Bureau of Reclamation’s facilities, Bureau of Indian Affairs supporting irrigation infrastructure, hydropower generation, and over 2500 water projects in the Intermountain-West. The integrated nature of the agreement means that all parties collectively support and advocate for the benefits that are offered to any particular partner. The programs have successfully balanced water development needs with listed species conservation for over 30 years. 

The Recovery Programs are collaborative Endangered Species Act (ESA) compliance mechanisms that have been working well for more than three decades, serving as a model of effective ESA implementation. The partnerships have made important progress in recovering four native Colorado River fish species, as demonstrated by the reclassification of humpback chub and proposed reclassification of razorback sucker from ‘endangered’ to ‘threatened’ status.  

Today’s announcement comes as the ESA turns 50 years old in 2023. Throughout the year, the Department of the Interior will celebrate the ESA’s importance in preventing imperiled species’ extinction, promoting the recovery of wildlife and conserving the habitats upon which they depend. The ESA has been highly effective and credited with saving 99% of listed species from extinction. 

For more information about the recovery programs visit: https://coloradoriverrecovery.org/