Utah, Colorado lawmakers seek to extend protection of these 4 native fish species

An undated image of the San Juan River as it meanders near Lake Powell. A proposed federal bill would extend programs for the Upper Colorado and San Juan River basins.

An undated image of the San Juan River as it meanders near Lake Powell. A proposed federal bill would extend programs for the Upper Colorado and San Juan River basins. (gokturk_06, Shutterstock)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah and Colorado lawmakers are working together to extend protections for four threatened and endangered native fish species in the two states for at least another year.

Sen. Mitt Romney and Sen. John Hickenlooper, D-Colorado, introduced a bill this week that would help extend protections for the humpback chub, bonytail, Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker. The Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins Recovery Act, if passed, would extend recovery implementation programs for both basins yet again, to 2024.

Both programs were originally created in 1988 and 1992, respectively, and are currently set to expire on Sept. 30, 2023.

"I'm proud to team up with my colleague from Colorado to support Utah's efforts to continue the recovery of the threatened and endangered fish species in the Upper Colorado and San Juan River," Romney said in a statement Friday. "This program has broad buy-in from stakeholders in the eastern part of our state and represents an example of what successfully recovering endangered species looks like."

That extension allows more time to study, monitor and stock native fish, as well as manage habitat and river flows, including ways to combat invasive species. The current version of the bill required the Department of Interior to have submitted a report to Congress on the recovery programs by Sept. 30, 2021. That deadline would be extended to later this year.

A companion bipartisan bill, which was introduced by Utah Reps. Blake Moore and Chris Stewart and Colorado Rep. Joe Neguse last summer, cleared the House Natural Resource Committee in November. Neguse's office wrote in a statement last year "uncertainty and delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic" resulted in the delay of the latest report, hence why it missed the deadline.

A Congressional Budget Office report on the proposed bill stated that it would appropriate $10 million in 2024 for the Bureau of Reclamation "to participate in fish recovery programs, including population monitoring and removal of nonnative fish, in the Upper Colorado River and San Juan River basins."

Hickenlooper, a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, said Friday that protecting the native species in the two basins is important in ensuring a healthy river ecosystem.

"We must protect native fish in the Upper Colorado and San Juan (river basins)," he added, in a statement. This bill shows how states, tribes, federal entities, and water users can come together to get things done."

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Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com.


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