Bill to protect endangered fish species, maintain ecosystems in Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins

A roundtail chub is tagged with Passive Integrated Transponder, or PIT tag, that does not require power; instead, the tags have an internal microchip that is activated when it passes close to a special antenna. The antenna is connected to a computer that records the identity of the tag and the time that it passed by the antenna. The Tribe has a permanent antenna installed upstream of Pagosa Junction on the San Jan River; the antenna spans across the width of the river to gather real-time data on several species of native fish.
Southern Ute Wildlife Division Fisheries Biologist, Ben Zimmerman holding a native roundtail chub being tagged with Passive Integrated Transponders, or PIT tags. The roundtail chub were captured and tagged by SUIT Wildlife staff on the San Juan River near Pagosa Junction as part of the Tribe’s ongoing efforts to maintaining healthy native fish populations across the Reservation.
Southern Ute Wildlife Technician, Danielle Austin, tags a roundtail chub on the San Juan River to better track native fish populations across the Southern Ute Reservation.
Courtesy Southern Ute Wildlife Division
Courtesy Southern Ute Wildlife Division
Courtesy Southern Ute Wildlife Division

U.S. Senators John Hickenlooper and Mitt Romney and Representative Joe Neguse celebrated the inclusion in the Fiscal Year 2023 omnibus government funding bill of their bipartisan Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins Recovery Act. The bill would continue protecting four threatened and endangered native fish species in the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins. It extends conservation programs for one year to give Upper Basin communities time to develop a long-term management plan. The bill has already passed in the House and next heads to the president’s desk. 

The fish recovery programs are widely celebrated success stories in the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins. In November 2021, the Fish and Wildlife Service down listed the humpback chub from “endangered” to “threatened” thanks to the recovery programs.  

“Tribes, communities, water users, the state, and now Congress, all came together to protect our native fish and rivers,” said Hickenlooper, a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. “This is how we save our rivers.” 

“This legislation represents an example of what successfully recovering endangered species looks like, and I’m proud to team up with my colleague from Colorado to get it through the finish line. With its passage, we can bolster the State of Utah’s efforts to continue the recovery of the threatened and endangered fish species in the Upper Colorado and San Juan Rivers,” said Romney. 

“Throughout the course of this Congress, we’ve worked tirelessly to push for the enactment of the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins Recovery Act to provide support to these highly successful recovery programs, spearheaded by the states, tribes, and individuals who know the ecosystems best. I am grateful to my colleagues in the Senate for moving quickly to get this bill to President Biden and look forward to the renewal of these vital conservation projects,” said Neguse, Chair of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands.  

Specifically, the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins Recovery Act would: 

  • Extend programs which currently study, monitor, and stock the four endangered fish species, manage habitat and river flows, and combat invasive species. 
  • Authorize the Bureau of Reclamation to continue funding and implementing the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Recovery Programs for one extra year, through 2024. The programs are currently set to expire on September 30, 2023. 
  • Extend the Department of Interior’s reporting deadline by one year, to September 2022. Reporting includes program accomplishments, funds spent, and projected expenditures. 
  • Create the ability to transfer funds from San Juan Basin to Upper Colorado Recovery programs by shifting capital cost ceilings, keeping the total cost constant. 

Congressman Joe Neguse introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives in August 2021, and the House passed the legislation in March 2022. 

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