The programs are adaptive by nature, and each has an annual review process (shown in the figure below) designed to incorporate information from the previous year into the next year’s plan. The recovery programs are managed by the USFWS to ensure compliance with the ESA. Information from these programs and others is used in USFWS processes like Species Status Assesments (SSA) and 5-year reviews which provide the best available science. Program partners routinely come together to discuss the best path forward, and have done so in a cooperative, collaborative manner for over 30 years.
The Upper Colorado River and San Juan River recovery programs were created out of necessity – but have since become a model for how diverse stakeholders can work together to make progress in complex systems.
About 30 years ago, the programs were created as mechanisms to provide Endangered Species Act compliance for ongoing water development in the Rocky Mountain West. Today, they provide compliance for over 2,500 unique water projects and have not prevented or slowed development of a single one. Since inception, the programs have integrated stakeholder perspectives into the adaptive management process to benefit populations of endangered fishes across the upper Colorado River basin. Program Management, the seventh element of recovery, serves as the foundation of the adaptive processes, ensuring that all perspectives are heard and incorporated into the next year’s action plan. Since our programs were created, we have not lost a single stakeholder. In fact, the programs continue to grow; the San Juan Program is currently working to add the State of Utah as a partner.
The upper Colorado River basin consists of 5 states and has an approximate size of 113,347 square miles (293,570 square kilometers).