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A member of CoNPS has brought to the attention of the CoNPS Board and the Conservation Committee concern over a piece of legislation moving through the Colorado House of Representatives. This legislation is House Bill 15-1006, which would establish a grant program to manage invasive phreatophytes (invasive, non-native species, growing in the riparian corridors, and consuming a high amount of water), namely Russian olive and tamarisk.

Jennifer Bolton, a lobbyist on behalf of the Audubon Society, testified against the bill in the House Agriculture, Livestock, and Natural Resources Committee Hearing. Their society was afraid the bill did not go far enough to mandate restoration with native species. This hearing occurred on February 2, 2015. The bill passed unanimously out of committee, but it was amended to address some concerns of environmental lobbyists. Amendments at that time included “giving priority to proposed projects that demonstrate an integrated management approach to invasive phreatophytes and achieve specified management objectives”.
The bill was also amended “to protect the riparian habitat native to each basin in which projects are proposed”. The bill can be found here: /F67AD6EA00B4C33187257D90007828BF?Open&file=1006_01.pdf and a summary of amendments here:


Members of the CoNPS Conservation Committee investigated this bill. We solicited feedback from the CoNPS board. Members of the board were generally in support of the bill, and no negative feedback was received. Megan Bowes, Ecologist at the City of Boulder OSMP, responded her agency has received support from this program in the past. She hoped that the bill would not mandate any specific restoration prescription, because in some cases, depending on the existing plant community, the only prescription necessary is to remove invasives and let nature take its course. Jenny Neale contacted Anna Sher, Biology Professor at the University of Denver and expert on exotic invasives and restoration. She was supportive of the bill. Mo Ewing and I also spoke with Steve Ryder, State Weed Coordinator with the Colorado Department of Agriculture, and Eric Lane, State Director of Natural Resources. Steve and Eric are also supportive of the bill, especially as amended in Committee.

They believe that the bill provides the flexibility in managing invasive removal, and would not benefit from more specific requirements. Eric stressed that each site is different, and that some sites may need active restoration with native species, but in others, where the number of invasives removed was minimal and a healthy population of native plants was present, the best response would be to just let nature take its course.

This bill will fund projects that use Best Management Practices as determined by the grant review
committee. The committee will be an inclusive body, involving multiple stakeholders, including local representatives. Steve asked if CoNPS would like to be involved in the process of project review, and we agreed that we may have members who are experts and we may be able to be involved. We asked him to keep us in mind in that process.


Summary and Future Actions:

Therefore, we believe this is not a bad bill and we should not oppose it.  The bill has now moved to the House Appropriations Committee and will probably remain in a holding pattern until early April.  If we want to actively support this bill, we should follow up with lobbyist Jen Bolton (who Eric Lane believes is now in support of the bill) and Brent Moore, lobbyist with the Colorado Weed Management Association and Colorado Association of Conservation Districts.  I will get their contact information and reach out to them, asking if they recommend taking any action on moving this bill forward, and what CoNPS can do if our Board decides to actively support this bill (i.e., to whom to write a letter).  Mo and I believe this may be a good way to establish a conservation advocacy partnership with them.
Jessica P. Smith is a member of the CoNPS Board of Directors and works for CNAP (Colorado Natural Areas Program).