Colorado restores protections for wetlands in response to Supreme Court decision

May 10, 2024

Lawmakers in Colorado have agreed on measures to protect thousands of acres of wetlands and miles of streams, left unprotected by a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year. In the Sackett case, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that federally protected wetlands must be directly adjacent to a “relatively permanent” waterway “connected to traditional interstate navigable waters,” such as a river or ocean. This stripped protection from many ephemeral waterways and wetlands in the West. 

Many wetlands in Colorado have a sub-surface connection to streams, rather than one that can be observed above ground. Colorado’s House Bill 1379, which passed Monday, protects wetlands and ephemeral streams

“Colorado is the first state to pass legislation on this issue,” Josh Kuhn, senior water campaign manager for Conservation Colorado, told the Colorado Sun. “It had a lot of attention because of the magnitude of the bill. There were dozens and dozens of meetings to try and strike the right balance. We’re really happy with this final piece of legislation.”

Western spills report shows regulations work

Each year, the Center for Western Priorities analyzes state-level data from Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming for wells on private, federal, and state land. This year’s report shows that the rate of spills in all three states has gone down over time, proving strong regulations don’t impede production. 

In Colorado, the amount of drilling-related liquid spilled annually has gone down slightly since 1999, while annual oil production has gone up over the past decade. In New Mexico, the amount of drilling-related liquid spilled annually has increased slightly since 2014, while annual oil production has increased steadily. In Wyoming, the amount of drilling-related liquid spilled annually has gone down since 2017, while annual oil production has stayed about the same.

Quick hits

Colorado to shield wetlands and streams after U.S. Supreme Court left them vulnerable

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Quote of the day

Our Elders fought to retain our ancestral lands in the Upper Kobuk, emphasizing both their subsistence value and mineral resource potential. It is our responsibility to steward these lands for future generations.”

Gia Hanna, chair of the NANA board of directors

Picture This

blue geyser with steam


Hot springs and geysers, and mudpots, oh my! Did you know there are five different types of hydrothermal features readily visible in Yellowstone? Can you properly match each photo of a feature to its description below? Test out your naturalist skills in the quiz on our story!

Hot springs: Pools of hydrothermally heated water.
Geysers: Hot springs with constrictions in their plumbing, which causes them to periodically erupt.
Mudpots: Hot springs that are acidic enough to break down rock into clay.
Travertine terraces: Hot springs that rise up through limestone, dissolve the calcium carbonate, and deposit calcite, creating terrace formations.
Fumaroles: Also known as steam vents, fumaroles constantly release hot steam due to their limited water supply.