Conservation wins you helped make possible

Groundbreaking $33 Million Project is Reconnecting the Colorado River. Built in the 1980s to supply water to booming Front Range communities of Colorado, the Windy Gap Reservoir helped meet water supply demands of these growing communities but has also considerably damaged the river’s fish populations and water quality. TU is championing a solution to build a natural stream channel around the reservoir to improve the quality of this Gold Medal Trout Fishery and nearly 30 miles of the Colorado River. The reservoir’s dam impedes movement of native fish and wild trout up and down the river, and is a source of warm, sediment-laden water to the downstream reach of the Colorado River. But now, TU and its partners are reconnecting this section of the Colorado River and reversing some of the damage the Windy Gap project has done over the past four decades. With funding from a wide array of sources, TU and its partners – Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District Municipal Subdistrict, Grand County, the Upper Colorado River Alliance, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and others – broke ground on construction of the Colorado River Connectivity Channel in August 2022. The project will reopen the Colorado to fish passage, improve downstream habitat and water quality, and open up a mile of Gold Medal-quality public angling access.  

Final Step Achieved to Begin the Largest Dam Removal Project in History. After two decades of unrelenting advocacy, untold hours of work by Tribal Nations, TU, and our NGO partners, and the investment of many philanthropic partners, four dams on the lower Klamath River in California are coming down. On November 17, 2022, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued the Final License Surrender Order for the Lower Klamath River Hydroelectric Project – clearing the last major hurdle necessary to implement the largest river restoration project in history. The deconstruction of all four dams should be completed in 2024. Above and below the dams, habitat restoration work has been underway for years, and TU is partnering with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Restoration Center and the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission to identify and prioritize the most impactful habitat and water quality projects in the reservoir reach so steelhead, coho and Chinook salmon, and other native species can take full advantage of the habitat.

Milestone Wins Achieved for Alaska’s Rivers and Fisheries 

Defending Bristol Bay. The Kvichak and Nushagak Rivers are world-renowned fisheries that provide half the world’s sockeye salmon and are a ‘bucket list’ destination for anglers from around the world. For more than two decades, the proposed Pebble Mine at the headwaters of these mighty rivers has threatened local communities and jobs, a sport and commercial fishing industry worth $2 billion, and arguably the world’s best salmon and trout sportfishing destination. In 2021 a TU lawsuit helped to get Clean Water Act protections back on track for the waters and wetlands in the vicinity of the Pebble deposit. On January 31, 2023, the EPA finalized Clean Water Act protections for waters and wetlands near the Pebble Deposit, essentially blocking the proposed mine. Together, we will continue to establish durable, long-term protections for this world class fishery and the people who have established traditions and businesses around it. 

Restoring the Tongass. TU has been working for nearly two decades to establish lasting conservation measures in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. On January 25, 2023, the U.S. Forest Service announced it is restoring the Roadless Rule on the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, re-establishing roadless protections on 9.3 million acres in the largest intact temperate rainforest in the world. The Tongass is a large carbon sink that slows the effects of climate change. The amount of carbon dioxide stored in the Tongass National Forest – if left standing – is equal to the yearly CO2 emissions of over 421 million vehicles. To address more than 700 improperly placed or damaged culverts blocking hundreds of miles of quality fish habitat throughout the forest, our dedicated restoration biologist for the Tongass is advancing a robust body of work in high value areas with maximum benefit to local fisheries and communities. We will continue to restore waterways and defend the forest from unsustainable industrial clear-cut logging of old-growth and ensure unnecessary and costly roads are not built in areas important to fish and the extensive tourism and fishing industries they support.

Three Hundred and Five Miles of Trout Habitat Protected in New Mexico. Thousands of miles of trout streams in New Mexico are susceptible to the historic drought plaguing the Southwest—and TU helped protect 305 of them throughout northern New Mexico from degradation and mining. As of July 12, 2022, using a state-level designation known as Outstanding National Resource Waters, a.k.a. Outstanding Waters, these rivers and streams are now protected from land use impacts like mining and road development that could degrade water quality. Outstanding Waters are the state’s highest form of water quality protection, and although the designation process is usually straightforward, it took three years of advocacy by NGOs, tribes, landowners, and local leaders to get it done. Thanks to the work of TU and our partners, more of that watershed, including a segment of the mainstem Pecos River and 165 miles of its tributary streams, now have protections in place to prevent water quality impairments from mining and other activities expected to harm trout habitat and downstream water users.

Restoring Spread Creek in Wyoming. In 2010, the removal of an obsolete dam opened up over 50 miles of the Spread Creek watershed to migratory trout and other native fish. The second phase of this collaborative, $1.6 million project was completed in July 2022, when a vital fish screen was installed that now allows migratory trout and other native fish (formerly trapped in the irrigation system) to continue their migrations towards the Snake River five miles downstream and is stabilizing the diversion, banks, and channel in the project area. A recent TU film, “Spread Creek,” beautifully shares this story about wild, native cutthroat trout and the power that partners can have when we come together.  “The story of Spread Creek is a story of persistence. It’s a story of resiliency, not just for the fish and the stream and our beautiful native cutthroat trout, but also the partnerships and the relationships we’ve built.” – Leslie Steen, TU’s Wyoming State Director

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