Dick Jefferies of Fort Collins is in the nation’s capital this week to discuss with members of Congress the importance of protecting Colorado’s small headwater streams from development.
Growing up on a farm in Eastern Colorado, not far from the South Platte, Jeffries quickly learned the value of water.
“In the West, water is literally the lifeblood of anything and everything,” he said.
That’s why Jefferies supports Clean Water Act protections for headwaters streams in Colorado.
Presently, an EPA/Army Corps of Engineers rule-making process is under way across the country that would restore protections to these small waters under the Clean Water Act. These waters were protected under the CWA for the first 30 years of the act’s existence, but a pair of rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court removed protections for these important waters—the wellsprings of our nation’s great rivers.
The court instructed the EPA and the Corps to scientifically clarify the connection between these small waters and the navigable waterways they eventually become. With that proof now in hand, the two federal agencies have crafted a rule that restores the protections for these small waters. Unfortunately, several efforts are afoot in Congress to thwart this rule-making attempt and leave our irreplaceable headwaters vulnerable.
In Colorado, 55 percent of stream miles within historical native trout range are classified as intermittent or ephemeral, while 62 percent of the state’s stream miles are in headwaters, according to a recent report by Trout Unlimited.
Some of these streams might not run year-round, but they are critical parts of the larger watershed—and the state’s quality of life.
Jefferies, 58, owns a small construction firm and is president of a 1,000-plus member Trout Unlimited chapter in Northern Colorado. His farm upbringing made him appreciate the value of clean water to both agriculture and recreation.
“No matter how busy life was on the farm, we also found time for two or three trips to the mountains to fish for trout. I was always amazed at how clean the water was where we were fly fishing . . . fish are such a wonderful barometer of water health.”
Jefferies noted that every part of Colorado’s economy—farms, communities, businesses, recreation—depends on clean water. “We have industries that have moved to Fort Collins because of the quality of the water.”
Jefferies understands how some in the agricultural industry are wary about potential impacts of the CWA. But he said that regulators and members of the agriculture community can work together, through the rulemaking process, to resolve areas of concern.
“We’re grateful to have the support of such a dedicated volunteer like Dick,” said Steve Moyer, TU’s vice president for government affairs. “TU’s strength lies in our grassroots, and when we can get volunteers to come back to Washington and talk directly with lawmakers, it really helps us with our work to make fishing better all across America.”
Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s trout and salmon and their watersheds. Follow TU on Facebook and Twitter, and visit us online at tu.org.