Colorado’s land, water, wildlife and forests have seen increased funding, supported by programs and assistance that save Colorado residents money and protect our natural environment as the Colorado Department of Natural Resources outlined its legislative accomplishments and accomplishments for 2022.
“The 2022 legislative session saw new investments and resources for Colorado’s land, water, forests and people,” said Dan Gibbs, executive director, Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “By working with our legislative leaders and Governor Polis, we were able to secure $60 million in federal stimulus funding to help farmers and ranchers in the drought-stricken and groundwater-constrained Republican River and Rio Grande River basins. We have new funds and resources for wildlife highway crossings, forest reduction and water catchment projects, new state parks, outdoor recreation, water projects and abandoned wells, and increased support for our backcountry search and rescue teams, among others. We greatly appreciate the support of the legislature, the governor, local governments and many in the nonprofit community who have campaigned for more support for Colorado’s nature, water, forest and country. These programs will help save Coloradans money as we expand our reduced state park pass program with the Keep Colorado Wild Pass and protect our natural resources. We look forward to rapidly implementing these important policies and resources to benefit all Colorado residents.”
Aid to Farmers and Ranchers in Republican and Rio Grande Basins – SB22-028: Provides $60 million from the Economic Recovery and Relief Cash Fund to support progress towards meeting groundwater sustainability deadlines in to expedite the Rio Grande and Republican watersheds in coordination with the Department of Water Resources, the Rio Grande Water Conservation District and the Republican River Water Conservation District.
Safe Crossings For Colorado Wildlife And Autoists – SB22-151: Creates the Colorado Wildlife Safe Passage Cash Fund to fund projects that provide safe road crossings for wildlife connectivity and reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and provides $5 million ready to support the Colorado Department of Transportation are using federal funds to build more wildlife crossings in coordination with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. This helps motorists save money, make our roads safer and protect our iconic wildlife.
Investing in our parks and recreation areas to meet demand for Coloradan’s love of nature and our state parks – HB22-1329: Provides $5.9 million and new employees for CPW to advance Future Generations Act goals, to improve wildlife populations and increase fish numbers, maintain parks and wildlife sanctuaries, and respond to the effects of rapid population growth and increased outdoor recreation. The bill also earmarked $860,000 for CPW’s Colorado Outdoor Regional Partnerships Program and $515,000 to work with partners to develop Colorado’s next state park on Sweetwater Lake.
New Support for Backcountry Search and Rescue Teams: SB22-168: Responds to the needs of nearly 2,800 backcountry search and rescue (BSAR) personnel by providing $1 million in support to BSAR volunteers, including the provision of mental health programs, and enables search and rescue volunteers (and their beneficiaries) to receive educational services if they are injured or die during a search and rescue incident.
Forms Orphan Wells Mitigation Enterprise Fund Company – SB22-198: Forms the Orphan Wells Mitigation Enterprise Fund to remediate abandoned oil and gas wells, reduce pollution and provide cleaner air for Colorado residents. Groundbreaking bipartisan legislation creates a company to collect abatement fees to fund the plugging and reclamation of orphaned oil and gas wells.
Increasing Colorado’s capacity to improve watershed health and fight wildfires: HB22-1379: invests $20 million from American Rescue Plan Act funds in the Colorado State Forest Service’s Healthy Forest, Vibrant Communities fund to work to conduct wildfire response to protect watersheds, to the Colorado Water Conservation Board for funding of grants in the Watershed Restoration Grant Program, to the Department of Natural Resources to enhance its Colorado Strategic Wildfire Action Program, and in technical assistance and local capacity to secure federal funding for Secure projects that promote resilience of watersheds and forests.
Innovative Turf Replacement Initiative – HB22-1151: Directs the Colorado Water Conservation Board to allocate $2 million to state matching funds for turf replacement programs to encourage water-centric landscaping to protect our water.
Improve State Tree Nursery to Create more Climate Resiliency – HB22-1323: Provides $5 million for improvements to the Colorado State Forest Service’s tree nursery to significantly increase its capacity to provide low-cost, native and climate-adapted trees; build climate-resilient watersheds and forests; and improve carbon storage to meet the state’s climate protection goals.
Protecting and Investing in Colorado’s Wildlife – HB22-1329: Includes an additional $1 million in general funds for CPW to support voter-approved wolf reintroduction and management activities. Because of this support, wolf reintroduction is not funded by income from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses.
To learn more about these bills and all of our achievements, see: Colorado Scores Historic Victories for Water, Public Land, Forests, and Outdoor Legislative Achievements, May 2022