Land Use and Natural Resources
The 104th Congress has sought to enact legislation that would weaken, repeal, and undermine America's environmental protection laws--laws that over the last 25 years have made our air and water cleaner, reduced toxics in our environment, and preserved our natural heritage.
Most of the direct attempts to weaken or repeal these laws have failed thus far, but the action has shifted to the Congressional budget process where, in the last year, more than 50 separate antienvironmental policy "riders" were attached to various larger funding bills. In addition, these bills slashed funding for environmental programs . Fortunately for our environment, only a few of these budget riders have been enacted. However, in the spring, Congress plans to send the President an Omnibus Fiscal Year (FY) Appropriations bill (HR 3019) that will contain several of these previously rejected riders.
Signed into law in December of 1973, the Endangered Species Act protects endangered and threatened species and restores them to a secure status in the wild. Both the Senate and the House are submitting amendments that will affect the original Act.
The House bill (HR 2275) and the Senate bill (S 1364) would allow developers to destroy habitat critical to the survival of species and would require taxpayers to pay landowners to protect endangered species.
This Act transfers predator management authority from the Colorado Division of Wildlife to the Colorado Department of Agriculture. Governer Romer signed it into law on April 12, 1996.
This bill, sponsored by Sen. Ament (R-Iliff) and Rep. Jerke (R-LaSalle), grants to governmental entities the same standing as private individuals to assert claims that their water rights have been taken or damaged without just compensation. This measure enables Front Range municipalities and water districts to bring suit against West Slope countie s for interfering with their rights to develop water. SB 219 was assigned to the Senate Agriculture Committee March 20.
In the early 1970s, the Colorado General Assembly authorized the creation of an Instream Flow Program, whereby a water right could be acquired, not for diversion purposes, but for water that would remain in a stream or lake "to preserve the natural environment." In the 1980s, a bill was passed that limited the holding of such a right to one entity--the Colorado Water Conservation Board.
Even though it is acting on behalf of the people of Colorado, the board (like any other applicant) must go to a water court and make a case for an instream flow right that does not damage any existing rights. A new bill (SB 64), sponsored by Sen. Norton (R-Greeley) and Rep. Jerke (R-LaSalle) empowers the board to make an administrative decision to reduce an instream flow right without having to appear in water court unless the decision is challenged.
The bill passed in the Senate on January 23, 1996, and went to the House. The House Agriculture Committee amended the bill to include many provisions put forth by the environmental community. This amended bill creates a procedure for the reduction of instream flow rights by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The bill passed the House on March 12, 1996, and was returned to the Senate. The Senate rejected the House amendments, and it went to conference on March 25.
Air Quality and Transportation
You can get involved by keeping up-to-date with the progress of bills and contacting your senators and representatives. For information go to the Make Your Voice Heard page.
Many other environmental groups are following this legislation. To find out what they're saying, go to the Make Your Voice Heard page.