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RBC I A proposal by WildEarth Guardians to give the highest protection possible to 200 miles of streams in the White River National Forest in Colorado was approved on June 10.
The Colorado Water Quality Control Commission (CO WQCC), on a vote of 8-1, approved the higher degree of security for critical cutthroat trout streams near the towns of Carbondale, Meeker and Craig.
The “outstanding water” designation is granted only to the highest quality waters with ecological and recreational values and that require an elevated degree of protection. Once designated, the water cannot be polluted.
“Forests and water in the West are faced with increasing uncertainty from climate change and drought,” said Bryan Bird, WildEarth Guardians Wild Places Program Director. “Colorado took an important step in safeguarding its finest waters as ‘outstanding.’”
The pristine water provided by Colorado’s national forests is priceless and the forests themselves are highly valued for their ecological and recreational importance, he said, adding that few places remain where Colorado River cutthroat trout habitat survives in its purest form.
In 2012, WildEarth Guardians asked Colorado to establish an insurance policy for its precious water supply, asking the state to designate its highest quality waters with native cutthroat trout as “outstanding waters.”
The CO WQCC voted for the designation of Outstanding Waters in the Upper and Lower Colorado River Basins (CO Water Quality Regulations #33 and #37). In particular, Cattle Creek and Thompson Creek and their tributaries in the Roaring Fork Basin near Carbondale; Snell and Lost Creek and their tributaries in the White River Basin near Meeker; and Beaver Creek and its tributaries in the Yampa River Basin near Craig.
“The newest outstanding waters are all in undeveloped, roadless forests and have conservation populations of cutthroat trout,” Bird said. “These world-class resources deserve the greatest security.”
Of particular value to Colorado’s anglers is the Colorado River cutthroat, which has been called one of the most spectacular species of cutthroat trout and one of the most beautiful fish in North America. The Colorado River cutthroat trout is now limited to 11 percent of its historic range, primarily in isolated, small headwater streams.
The waters proposed by WildEarth Guardians for outstanding designation in their proposals is designated Critical Cutthroat Trout Habitat by the State of Colorado.
The added protection is necessary because of ongoing activities authorized on the federal lands that impact cutthroat trout habitat, the inability of state agencies to regulate federal lands and trout habitat, as well as increasing pressure from climate change and drought, the group alleged.