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Hickenlooper, Bennet Cheer Committee Passage of Mt. Blue Sky Wilderness Renaming, Fish Recovery Program Legislation

Dec 14, 2023

Hickenlooper-led Measures Head to Senate Floor

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet applauded passage of two Colorado priorities out of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) – the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins Endangered Fish Recovery Programs Act, cosponsored by Senator Mitt Romney, and the Mount Blue Sky Wilderness Act.

View Hickenlooper’s remarks at today’s Committee vote HERE.

“From our highest mountains, to our captivating riverways, to even our bright blue skies, these bills are Colorado led and Colorado focused,” said Hickenlooper. “Honored to shepherd them through the Senate on behalf of our state!” 

“I appreciate the Committee’s consideration of this legislation, which will support Utah’s efforts to recover threatened and endangered fish species in the Upper Colorado and San Juan Rivers by providing the necessary tools to comply with complicated federal mandates,” said Senator Romney. “Now, it’s time to get it across the finish line.”

“I’m pleased to see these two Colorado priorities pass out of committee today with bipartisan support,”said Senator Bennet. “Renaming the wilderness area surrounding Mount Blue Sky is an important step to honor the federal government’s responsibility to Tribal communities, and restoring threatened and endangered fish in the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins will help protect our ecosystems and provide certainty to water users in Colorado.”


S. 2247, the bipartisan Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins Endangered Fish Recovery Programs Reauthorization Act extends federal support for the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program and San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program for seven years, which, combined, protect four threatened and endangered native fish species, Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, humpback chub, and bonytail. 

The Act will: 

  • Extend the Bureau of Reclamation’s participation in the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Recovery Programs for seven years, providing certainty for Upper Basin water use and fulfilling the federal government’s trust responsibility to Tribes.
  • Ensure continued Endangered Species Act compliance for 2,500 water projects spanning federal, Tribal, and non-federal jurisdiction, including every Bureau of Reclamation project upstream of Lake Powell.
  • Authorize up to $92 million for the Bureau of Reclamation to contribute annual cost shared funding for program implementation, continuing work to stock the threatened and endangered fish species, conduct research, manage habitat and river flows, combat nonnative species, and operate fish passages and hatcheries through fiscal year 2031.
  • Add up $50 million to the authorization ceiling for capital projects, which will fund infrastructure improvements essential to recovery of the endangered and threatened fish.
  • Enable program partners to deploy their own commitments, enlisting the Upper Basin states, Tribes, and non-federal partners to provide their own contributions to meet shared species recovery goals.

S. 3044 changes the name of Colorado’s Mount Evans Wilderness to Mount Blue Sky Wilderness. The change aligns with the U.S. Board of Geographic Names’ recent decision to officially rename Mount Evans to Mount Blue Sky. Only Congress can authorize a change to the wilderness area name. 

Currently, the wilderness area is named for the second territorial Governor of Colorado John Evans, who paved the way for Colorado’s Sand Creek Massacre. On November 29, 1864, U.S. soldiers killed 230 Cheyenne and Arapaho people at Sand Creek — most of them women, children, and the elderly.

The proposed new name recognizes the Cheyenne people, whose annual ceremony of renewal of life is called Blue Sky, and the Arapaho people, who are also known as the Blue Sky People. 

The proposal to rename the mountain was first proposed by the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes and The Wilderness Society, and has continued to gain support from Tribes, local governments, community groups, and non-profit organizations. 


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