Director, Colorado Water Project
303.440.2937, x. 11
5/5/2004 -- Boulder, Colo. -- The national conservation organization Trout Unlimited (TU) applauded a decision by a federal court in Wyoming, which ruled that the U.S. Forest Service has not only the authority -- but also the duty -- to minimize harm to fish and wildlife when issuing or re-issuing a permit for dams and diversions on federal lands.
Trout Unlimited filed the case almost 10 years ago after the Forest Service failed to require the owner of Long Draw Reservoir on La Poudre Pass Creek to release some water from the dam to maintain the downstream fishery. La Poudre Pass Creek forms the border of Rocky Mountain National Park and flows into the Cache La Poudre River in the section that is designated as a scenic river under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
Based on a review of the information before the Forest Supervisor at the time, the judge ruled that the failure to impose a “bypass flow” was arbitrary and capricious.
“This is a significant victory for Colorado’s rivers and fisheries,” said Melinda Kassen, Director of the Colorado Water Project for Trout Unlimited.
Trout Unlimited argued that the Forest Service has a responsibility under federal law to protect aquatic species, and when water developers on federal lands will not voluntarily leave some water instream, the agency must require minimum flows.
David Nickum, Executive Director of Colorado Trout Unlimited, a co-plaintiff in the case, added, “We hope now that this ruling will silence those who have asserted that the Forest Service does not have the authority to protect rivers on National Forest lands.”
“While this decision reinforces the fundamental responsibility of federal agencies to protect fish and wildlife on public lands,” said Charles Gauvin, TU President, “it also should reinforce to all concerned parties that they can avoid reaching crises on water issues by collaborating on ways to ensure healthy rivers and vibrant rural economies.”
Trout Unlimited expects either the federal government or its allies in the case, including the State of Colorado and some water rights holders, to appeal.
Mission: Trout Unlimited is a national not-for-profit organization with more than 125,000 members, whose mission is to conserve, protect and restore coldwater fisheries and their habitats. Colorado Trout Unlimited is TU’s state council, with over 8,000 members.