D.C. to the rescue: preserving pikeminnow, chubs and desert vistas

Washington took steps to preserve some critical Colorado natural resources Wednesday, with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on hand for the dedication of the new Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area on the Uncompahgre Plateau south of Grand Junction, and Sen. Mark Udall introducing a bill to help with the recovery of endangered fish on the Western Slope.

The Dominguez Canyon Wilderness area is comprised of 66,000 acres of Colorado desert -– where there will be no development allowed –- surrounded by 140,000 acres the Bureau of Land Management will continue to permit grazing and any other uses allowed for nearby private property owners.

“It’s fitting that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who brought a pragmatic western problem-solving attitude when he represented Colorado in the U.S. Senate, is here to dedicate this wonderful conservation achievement,” Gov. Bill Ritter said in a release.

Udall, meanwhile, announced the introduction of a bill that would allow the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to release water in Ruedi Reservoir. The bill would make permanent a temporary agreement in place since 1999 when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ruled water users on the Western Slope must dedicate 10,825 acre-feet of water to help with the recovery of four endangered fish species – the Colorado pikeminnow, the razorback sucker, the humpback chub and the bonytail chub.

A permanent solution was needed by next year, and water users have agreed that half of the amount will be met by converting unused agricultural rights and half will come from water in the Ruedi Reservoir that is not currently obligated.

Udall’s Ruedi Reservoir Water Allocation for Recovery of Endangered Fish Act would authorize the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to release 5,412.5 acre-feet of unsold water currently stored in the Ruedi Reservoir.

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