About the Upper Colorado River
Endangered Fish Recovery Program

In 1988, the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program was established to help bring four species of endangered fish back from the brink of extinction: the humpback chub, bonytail, Colorado pikeminnow, and razorback sucker.

The Recovery Program is a unique partnership of local, state, and federal agencies, water and power interests, and environmental groups working to recover endangered fish in the Upper Colorado River Basin while water development proceeds in accordance with federal and state laws and interstate compacts.

This major undertaking involves restoring and managing stream flows and habitat, boosting wild populations with hatchery-raised endangered fish, and reducing negative interactions with certain nonnative fish species. The goal of recovery is to achieve natural, self-sustaining populations of the endangered fish so they no longer require protection under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The Recovery Program was initiated in 1988 with the signing of a cooperative agreement by the Governors of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming; the Secretary of the Interior; and the Administrator of Western Area Power Administration. In 2001, these parties agreed to extend the cooperative agreement through September 30, 2013. The Recovery Program provides Endangered Species Act compliance for continued operation of federal water and power projects in accordance with project purposes.

With its demonstrated successes, the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program has become a national model for its collaborative conservation efforts to protect endangered species.

Program Partners:

The Intermountain West is the nation’s fastest-growing region and an important energy-producing area of the country. Recovery Program partners recognize that their collaborative conservation partnership provides the most workable approach to recover endangered species while meeting energy and water demands. Each partner fully participates in developing and implementing management actions leading toward delisting of the endangered Colorado River fishes.

The Recovery Program’s success is a direct result of the active commitment and participation of its partners:

  • State of Colorado
  • State of Utah
  • State of Wyoming
  • Bureau of Reclamation
  • Colorado River Energy Distributors Association
  • Colorado Water Congress
  • National Park Service
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Utah Water Users Association
  • Western Area Power Administration
  • Western Resource Advocates
  • Wyoming Water Association

Recovery goals

The Recovery Program relies on recovery goals to develop and implement management actions and measure success. The recovery goals provide objective, measurable criteria for downlisting to “threatened” and delisting (removal from Endangered Species Act [ESA] protection).

Recovery is based on reduction of threats and improvement of a species’ status during the time it is listed under the ESA. Recovery goals identify the number and age of fish that comprise a specified number of self-sustaining wild populations. They also identify site-specific management actions that reduce threats to the species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will consider downlisting or delisting the endangered fishes once the required demographic and genetic standards for self-sustaining populations are reached and the necessary management actions are achieved to reduce the threats that caused the fish to be listed.

The Service approved the initial recovery goals on August 1, 2002, with the requirement that they be reviewed and updated at least every five years to include any new information.