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Colorado Scores Historic Wins for Farmers, Ranchers, Water, Public Lands, Forests and the Outdoors

Governor Polis and other state leaders celebrate passing of key water bill.

DENVER- Colorado’s land, water, wildlife and forests saw increased funding, programs and support that will save Coloradans money and protect our great outdoors as the Colorado Department of Natural Resources outlined its 2022 legislative successes and accomplishments.

“The 2022 legislative session saw new investments and resources for Colorado’s land, water, forests, and people,” said Dan Gibbs, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “Working with our legislative champions and Governor Polis we were able to secure $60 million in federal stimulus funds to help farmers and ranchers in the drought stricken and groundwater resource constrained Republican River and Rio Grande River basins. We have new funding and resources for wildlife highway crossings, forest mitigation and watershed projects, new state parks, outdoor recreation, water projects and orphaned wells, and increased support for our backcountry search and rescue crews, among other accomplishments. We greatly appreciate the support of legislators, the Governor, local governments and many in the nonprofit community who championed more support for Colorado’s outdoors, water, forest and lands. These programs will help save Coloradans money as we build off our reduced state parks pass program through the Keep Colorado Wild pass and protect our natural resources. We look forward to moving quickly on these important policies and resources to benefit all Coloradans.”

Highlights Include

Relief for Farmers and Ranchers in the Republican and Rio Grande Basins – SB22-028: Appropriates $60 million from the Economic Recovery and Relief Cash Fund to accelerate progress on meeting groundwater sustainability deadlines in the Rio Grande and Republican river basins in coordination with the Division of Water Resources, the Rio Grande Water Conservation District and the Republican River Water Conservation District.

Safe Crossings For Colorado Wildlife And Motorists – SB22-151Creates the Colorado Wildlife Safe Passage Cash Fund to provide funding for projects that provide safe road crossings for connectivity of wildlife and reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, and allocates $5 million to help the Colorado Department of Transportation leverage federal dollars to build more wildlife highway crossings in consultation with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. This will help drivers save money, make our roads safer and protect our iconic wildlife. 

Investments in our Parks and Recreation to meet Demand for Coloradans Love of Outdoors and our State Parks –  HB22-1329 : Appropriates $5.9 million and new staff for CPW to advance the goals of the Future Generations Act to improve wildlife populations, increase the number of fish stocked, maintain parks and wildlife areas and respond to the impacts of rapid population growth and increasing outdoor recreation.  The bill also appropriated $860,000 for CPW’s Colorado Outdoor Regional Partnerships Program and $515,000 to work with partners to develop Colorado’s next state park at Sweetwater Lake.

New Support for Backcountry Search and Rescue Teams: SB22-168: Responds to the needs of nearly 2,800 backcountry search and rescue (BSAR) responders by providing $1 million to support BSAR volunteers, including providing mental health programs, and allows search and rescue volunteers (and their beneficiaries) to receive educational benefits if they are injured, or if they die while on a search and rescue incident.

Creating an Enterprise to Clean up Orphaned Oil and Gas Wells – SB22-198: creates the Orphan Wells Mitigation Enterprise Fund to clean up old oil and gas well sites, reducing pollution and providing cleaner air for Coloradans. The landmark bipartisan legislation creates an enterprise to collect mitigation fees to fund the plugging and reclamation of orphaned oil and gas wells. 

Increase Colorado’s capacity to enhance watershed health and wildfire mitigation: HB22-1379: invests $20 million of American Rescue Plan Act funding in the Colorado State Forest Service’s Healthy Forest, Vibrant Communities fund to conduct wildfire mitigation work to protect watersheds, the Colorado Water Conservation Board to fund grants in the Watershed Restoration Grant Program,  to the Department of Natural Resources to enhance its Colorado Strategic Wildfire Action Program, and in technical assistance and local-capacity to secure federal funding for projects that promote watershed and forest resilience. 

Innovative Turf Replacement Initiative – HB22-1151:  directs the Colorado Water Conservation board to provide $2 million for state matching funds for turf replacement programs to promote water-wise landscaping to protect our water.

Improve State Tree Nursery to Create more Climate Resiliency – HB22-1323: provides $5 million for improvements to the Colorado State Forest Service’s tree nursery to substantially increase its capacity to provide low-cost, native and climate-adapted trees; to build climate-resilient watersheds and forests; and to enhance carbon storage to meet the state’s climate mitigation goals.

Protecting and Investing in Colorado’s Wildlife – HB22-1329: includes an additional $1 million in general funds  for CPW to support voter approved wolf reintroduction and management activities.  Because of this support, funding for wolf reintroduction will not come from revenues from hunting or fishing license sales.

To read more about these bills in depth and all of our accomplishments see: Colorado Scores Historic Wins for Water, Public Lands, Forests and the Outdoors Legislative Accomplishments May 2022

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