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Headwaters magazineLearn about the Endangered Species Act by reading feature articles below, flipping through, or downloading the online version of Headwaters.

Watermarks--Letter from the Editor

Jeopardy. Critical Habitat. Safe Harbors. Since its inception in 1973, the Endangered Species Act has managed to engender, not surprisingly, its very own set of jargon.

In this issue of Headwaters we tackle a complicated conundrum—the balancing act between preservation of struggling species and accommodation of human communities. It is a balancing act which we, in our very human way, have taken on somewhat imperfectly.

Threatened and endangered species in and around Colorado run the gamut, from whooping cranes looking for stop-over sites on the Platte River, to prehistoric-looking fish spawning in the warm silty backwaters of the Colorado River. Rare plants and animals, just like humans, need water to thrive.

Entering into the murky and dynamic world of the biological sciences, we quickly run into a phalanx of questions with no clear end-point: Do we know enough? When is a species finally 'safe'? How do we intervene—fairly, effectively?

Unfortunately, this often translates into uncertainty—uncertainty for water users wondering if they will soon owe a portion of their water for rare fish and birds—uncertainty for regulators looking to prioritize species with the greatest needs. In our panel discussion with ESA experts (p. 6), we pushed the ESA to be accountable on many levels: prevention, intervention, recovery. Some feel that it works best at intervention, but falls down sharply in the areas of prevention and recovery.

And although the panel disagreed in spots, what their discussion did reinforce is that saving species requires on-going conversations and continual learning. We all know we can do better, we just have to figure out what 'better' should be. We're just human after all.

Karla Brown

Editor and Executive Director

New Zealand Invader May Wreak Havoc on Colorado Streams

BOULDER—A tiny mollusk that has crippled stretches of streams and rivers in other western states has recently been confirmed in Colorado waters. The New Zealand mudsnail, a native of the Southern Hemisphere, was recently discovered in Boulder Creek. This raises concerns that the fast-spreading invertebrate could soon spread to other Colorado streams, potentially overwhelming aquatic habitat and harming fish populations.

Known as a ‘nuisance species,’ this exotic invader has no natural predators in North America. Once established, the mudsnail can quickly carpet a stream bottom, upsetting the balance of the native aquatic environment and disrupting the food web. The creature is also highly resilient, able to survive several days out of water and tolerate a wide range of temperatures. The tiny invertebrates, measuring no more than five millimeters in length, can even pass unscathed through the digestive tracts of fish. Because they can reproduce asexually, a single New Zealand mudsnail can colonize a new area.

‘It's an extremely tough little organism,’ says Peter Walker, senior fish pathologist for the Colorado Division of Wildlife. ‘They can cause a lot of damage. These snails are highly adaptable and reproduce in such great numbers that they can actually lock up the available nutrients in an ecosystem.’

It's likely the snail hitched its way to Colorado aboard muddy waders or other fishing equipment. The Division of Wildlife is advising anglers to take precautions to help halt the snail's spread by washing fishing gear and inspecting boats and watercraft, and allowing all equipment to dry thoroughly before heading into new waters.

'Smarter Growth' Conference April 18-20, Denver

Urban conservation issues faced by Western communities will be the focus of an educational conference April 18-20, at the Hotel Denver Tech Center in south Denver.

Keynote speakers for the event, titled ‘21st Century Smarter Growth Conference: Stewardship Across Landscapes,’ include Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs, and several noted natural resource and environmental experts.

The conference will provide a forum for discussion of pertinent conservation issues faced by communities dealing with growth and development.

The conference is designed for professionals in the natural resources, conservation and agricultural fields, the real estate industry, land developers, urban planners, landscape architects, municipal leaders and employees, land managers, consultants and students.

Sessions will feature discussions on water issues, open space, creating sustainable communities, energy, transportation, land conservation, community design and more.

For program details and registration information, visit www.cacd.us or call CACD at (970)248-0070. General registration is $115. Lunches are additional.

2005 AWRA Annual Symposium April 15, Golden

The American Water Resources Association (Colorado Section) is pleased to announce its annual symposium April 15, 2005. Co-sponsored by the Colorado Foundation for Water Education, the symposium will focus on results from the recent state-led Statewide Water Supply Initiative (SWSI) and what these results mean for the future sustainability of Colorado's water supply.

Finalized in December 2004, the SWSI study predicted that communities around Colorado will fall an average 20 percent short of meeting estimated 2030 water demands.

Invited speakers and panelists will discuss innovative solutions to address predicted shortfalls, legal barriers to creative solutions, what the future holds for Colorado water users and water providers, unsustainable use of Denver Basin ground water, and other related topics. Keynote speakers will include former Governor Dick Lamm and Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs.

The symposium will run from 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. at the Mt. Vernon Country Club in Golden, CO. A reception will follow.

To register, go to the AWRA Web site at http://awra.org/state/colorado/ or call (303) 806-8952. The early registration deadline is April 6, 2005. CFWE members receive a $15 registration discount. With additional questions, contact the Foundation at (303) 377-4433.

Weld County Groundwater Users Have Dry Outlook

GREELEY—Farmers and ranchers relying on groundwater augmented by water leases and plans organized by the Central Colorado Water Conservancy District may be in for a very dry summer.

At a board meeting in mid-March, Central's Board of Directors announced that water users in its Groundwater Management Subdistrict may only receive 50 percent of their water this year. Well users who are allowed to pump as part of Central's Well Augmentation Subdistrict may not get any water at all.

However, Central is close to completing several water leases/trades with local municipalities. If these do occur, then the Groundwater Management Subdistrict could get 75 percent of their normal allocation of water, and the Well Augmentation Subdistrict 40 percent.

Because of new groundwater rules and regulations made more stringent to protect senior water rights, Central has been forced to go out and find additional water resources for well-users to pump.

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