Bennet, Udall, Tipton Fight for Farm Bill Resources to Sustain Colorado River Basin

Designation from USDA will provide critical conservation tools

Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet, Mark Udall, and Congressman Scott Tipton are requesting that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) designate the Colorado River basin as a Critical Conservation Area (CCA) under the 2014 Farm Bill’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).

The designation will provide producers in the Colorado River basin with necessary resources and funding to implement conservation projects and increase the sustainability of regional water, soil, wildlife, and related natural resources. In the face of hotter, drier conditions and the state’s growing population it is becoming increasingly challenging for the river basin to meet agricultural, recreational, and municipal demands.

In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the Colorado lawmakers wrote: “Despite above average snowpack in some portions of the region this past winter, the Colorado River basin as a whole continues to be in the midst of historic drought conditions that are only projected to worsen in the coming years.  The region is in need of coordinated federal assistance to continue providing robust agricultural and economic output into the future and would benefit greatly from the resources and programs offered through the RCPP.”

Secretary Vilsack is expected to announce the recipients of the RCPP in the coming weeks. This designation has the support of the Colorado River District, Mesa County Commissioners, Dolores Water Conservancy District, Denver Water, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the Southwest Water Conservation District, and other groups around the state.

The RCPP was created under the new conservation title of the 2014 Farm Bill, which Bennet and Tipton helped craft as respective members of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees. Bennet was also a member of the conference committee convened to work out the differences between the Senate and House versions of the Farm Bill, and he is the Chairman of the Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, which has jurisdiction over the RCPP Program.

For more info on the RCPP, click here.

Read the full text of the letter below:

Dear Secretary Vilsack:

As Members of Congress representing the headwaters of the Colorado River, we write to request that you designate the Colorado River basin as a Critical Conservation Area (CCA) under the 2014 Farm Bill’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).  Despite above average snowpack in some portions of the region this past winter, the Colorado River basin as a whole continues to be in the midst of historic drought conditions that are only projected to worsen in the coming years.  The region is in need of coordinated federal assistance to continue providing robust agricultural and economic output into the future and would benefit greatly from the resources and programs offered through the RCPP.

We have seen strong support for designation of the Colorado River Basin as a CCA in our home state.  The sentiments outlined in the enclosed letter from the Colorado River District – Colorado’s largest water district – have been echoed across the ideological spectrum.  We’ve heard from diverse interests, including ranching organizations, recreation businesses, sportsmen, and conservation groups about the many ways that a CCA designation will support agriculture, river system health and our state’s economy.

Colorado’s population is projected to double by 2050 and municipal water needs will continue to put pressure on agriculture unless we manage the Colorado River more sustainably.  We feel the RCPP can help us meet the future challenges brought on by a growing population and a drier climate.  We strongly urge you to designate the Colorado River basin as a CCA.  Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,