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The Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

 

January 20, 2005

CONTACT:     Debbie Felker   303-969-7322, x227 

AGREEMENT ADDRESSES WATER NEEDS OF
YAMPA RIVER BASIN RESIDENTS AND
PROMOTES RECOVERY OF ENDANGERED FISHES
 

Lakewood, Colo.—The Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program (Recovery Program) announced today the signing of a cooperative agreement that launched implementation of a management plan to help ensure that current and future water needs are met for people in the Yampa River Basin while promoting recovery of four species of endangered Colorado River fish -- the humpback chub, bonytail, Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker.  The agreement was signed by the States of Colorado and Wyoming, the Colorado River Water Conservation District and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service). 

The Recovery Program developed the management plan after nearly a decade of close collaboration with the Yampa River Basin Partnership and other Yampa Valley residents.  As a component of the Recovery Program, the plan cooperatively addresses endangered species recovery and water development in the Yampa River Basin and its tributaries in Colorado and Wyoming.  The plan reflects both current and projected water needs in the Yampa River Basin through the year 2045, and commits the cooperating parties and the Recovery Program to implement management actions to benefit the endangered and other native fish species. 

Located in northwest Colorado, the Yampa River is regarded as one of the most important tributaries in the Upper Colorado River Basin for recovery of the four endangered fish species.  This is primarily due to its relatively unaltered patterns of seasonal flows and habitat which are important to the endangered fishes’ life cycle. 

“As the largest tributary to the Green River, the Yampa River is one of the crown jewels of the Upper Colorado River system,” said Recovery Program Director Bob Muth.  “In addition to directly providing habitat, it delivers flows and sediment downstream to the Green River, helping to maintain a river system with hundreds of miles of habitat considered vital to the recovery of the endangered fishes.” 

The plan is intended to offset the impacts of water depletions on endangered fishes.  It identifies  Recovery Program activities to augment base river flows, manage nonnative fish populations, evaluate the impacts of existing diversion structures, stock endangered fishes and monitor habitat and fish populations. 

“The State of Colorado will greatly benefit from this agreement,” said Colorado Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Russell George, who signed the agreement on behalf of the State of Colorado.  “It allows for the sound management of water resources in the Yampa River Basin to meet the needs of local citizens and support river flow conditions for the endangered Colorado River fishes.  The plan’s management actions will also benefit other native fish populations and help the State achieve its dual goals of conserving threatened and endangered species while providing for recreational fishing opportunities.” 

Another signatory to the Agreement, the Colorado River Water Conservation District, helped develop the plan in accordance with Colorado water law and interstate compacts. 

"The use of water for current and future economic development in the Yampa River Basin can coexist with the recovery of endangered species," said Colorado River Water Conservation District General Manager Eric Kuhn. "By cooperating with reasonable partners and implementing creative solutions, we're ensuring all species, including humans, have a more promising future in this region."

As a Recovery Program partner, the State of Wyoming’s interest in the Cooperative Agreement stems from the flow of water from Wyoming’s Little Snake River into the Yampa River.

“As Wyoming’s population and demands increase, we see tremendous benefits from the ESA compliance this plan provides,” said Pat Tyrrell, Wyoming State Engineer.  “This is consistent with Governor Freudenthal’s emphasis on continued development of water resources to benefit all citizens of Wyoming.” 

The agreement will remain in effect as long as any of the four endangered fish species remains listed under the ESA.  Prior to removing any fish species from ESA protection, conservation plans must be in place to ensure the long-term survival of the species. 

“The Service is extremely appreciative of the cooperative relationships established with the States of  Colorado and Wyoming, as well as residents of the Yampa River Basin,” said Mountain-Prairie Regional Director Ralph Morgenweck.  “It is not easy to develop a multi-purpose plan like this, especially when it involves water.  Implementation of this plan demonstrates the dedication of both states and their residents toward sound management of the Yampa River well into the future.”  

The Recovery Program is a voluntary, cooperative program whose purpose is to recover the endangered fishes while water development proceeds in accordance with federal and state laws and interstate compacts. For more information, 303-969-7322, ext. 227, or coloradoriverrecovery.fws.gov. The Yampa River Management Plan and accompanying documents are available at http://www.r6.fws.gov/crrip/yampa.htm.  

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