NEWS RELEASE: March 4, 2002
DENVER, CO- The Center for Biological Diversity, Colorado Rivers Alliance and Taxpayers for the Animas River today filed a lawsuit in Denvers Federal District Court, alleging that six Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Field OfficesGlenwood Springs, Grand Junction, Kremmling, Little Snake, San Juan and Uncompahgrehave violated the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (the Act) by failing to assess the eligibility of rivers and streams within their boundaries for inclusion in the Wild and Scenic Rivers system. Passed in 1968, the Act is intended to protect Americas remaining free-flowing rivers from dam proposals and other harmful projects. More than 150 river segments nationwide, totaling approximately 10,500 miles, have been designated as Wild and Scenic.
In recognition of the fact that many of our nations rivers flow through public lands, especially in the western United States, the Act requires federal land managers such as the BLM and the Forest Service to identify eligible Wild and Scenic rivers during their land management planning processes. The six BLM Field Offices being sued have all failed to conduct these studies. Partially as a result of this negligence, the Cache la Poudre River, designated in 1986, is currently the only Wild and Scenic river in Colorado.
We hope this lawsuit will finally awaken BLM to its important duties under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, stated Brian Segee, public lands specialist with CBD. It is almost inconceivable that more than 30 years after the Acts passage, there is only one designated river in Colorado. Indeed, today there are more designated Wild and Scenic rivers in New Jersey than in Colorado, concluded Segee.
Eligibility studies involve a simple process whereby free-flowing (i.e. undammed) rivers are analyzed for outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geological, ecological, historical, or cultural values. If a river or stream possesses one of these values, it is eligible for Wild and Scenic protection. Potential Wild and Scenic rivers at issue in this suit include the North Platte, Yampa, Green, San Miguel and Uncompaghre Rivers.
Eligibility is only the first step in the long process towards official Wild and Scenic river status, a designation ultimately requiring Congressional approval. To ensure that eligible rivers and streams will be protected until such final designation, BLM is required to develop and implement interim guidelines prohibiting dam proposals, and addressing mining, recreational development, energy development and other practices. The lawsuit also seeks to compel these important protections.
This case is about obtaining BLM compliance with an important Congressional mandate and affording the outstandingly remarkable rivers and streams of Western Colorado the protection they deserve, said Matthew Bishop, an attorney with Western Environmental Law Center who is representing the groups in the lawsuit.
The Center for Biological Diversity, formed in 1989, is a science-based environmental advocacy organization with more than 6,000 members that works on wildlife and habitat protection issues throughout North America and the Pacific.
The Colorado Rivers Alliance is a statewide coalition of groups and individuals dedicated to the support of grass roots river conservation efforts in Colorado.
The Western Environmental Law Center is a public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the West. WELC represents activists, Indian tribes, local governments and citizen groups who seek to protect and restore the forests, rivers, grasslands, wildlife, and human communities of the West.
To see a map of BLM Field Offices: