Bennet, Udall, Tipton Welcome USDA's Conservation Designation for Colorado River Basin

Lawmakers Pushed USDA for Designation

Will Provide Resources for Critical Conservation Projects 

U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall and U.S. Representative Scott Tipton today welcomed Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s announcement that the Colorado River Basin is being designated a Critical Conservation Area (CCA) under the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).

The announcement follows a request from the lawmakers to make the designation in order to complete critical conservation projects throughout the river basin. Bennet also pressed Secretary Vilsack on the designation at a Senate Agriculture hearing earlier this month.

“Colorado is the headwaters state and the Colorado River is a precious source of water for not only our state, but also 19 other states downstream,” Bennet said. “With persistent drought conditions and a growing population across the West, the demands on the river are greater than ever. This designation is crucial to moving forward with projects that will help sustain the river for all of its uses into the future.”

“The Colorado River — from its headwaters in the Rocky Mountains through to the Pacific Ocean — sustains Colorado and the West. Despite this past winter's snowfall, the river and every community and industry it touches is at risk due to rising temperatures and persistent drought,” Udall said. “Designating the Colorado River basin as a Critical Conservation Area through provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill, which I strongly supported, will help preserve this iconic waterway — and bolster local efforts to safeguard our water.”

“The Critical Conservation Area designation for the Colorado River basin will provide resources requested by a broad coalition of regional stakeholders to help manage historic drought conditions and better ensure sustained agriculture production and economic health in the headwaters region,” said Tipton.

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.

The 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.