Audubon Comments as Colorado River Named Nation’s Most Endangered

Amidst dire news of continued severe drought throughout the West, American Rivers today announced its annual list of America’s Most Endangered Rivers. Topping the list for 2013 was the Colorado River.

The National Audubon Society released the following statement:

“The Colorado River plays a crucial role in the arid West,” said Peg Olsen, chief conservation officer for the National Audubon Society. “At risk is the drinking water for 36 million people, a $26 billion per year outdoor recreation economy, and habitat for threatened and endangered wildlife, including the Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Bell’s Vireo.”

The #1 ranked Colorado River is a textbook example of what happens when water is over allocated; in fact, it no longer reaches the sea. According to the Bureau of Reclamation’s Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study (December 2012), there is not enough water in the Colorado River to meet the basin’s current water demands, let alone support future demand increases. Scientists predict climate change will reduce the Colorado River’s flow by 10 to 30 percent by 2050. 

The National Audubon Society this spring launched the Western Rivers Action Network to advocate for conservation actions that will increase river flow, enhance the health of the environment and restore valuable wetlands and forests throughout the Colorado River Basin.

“Audubon is engaging an active network of individuals to help protect our western rivers for the benefit of both people and birds,” explained Olsen.

Audubon’s Western Rivers Action Network (WRAN) hit the ground running this winter with a flurry of activity in state legislatures in New Mexico and Colorado and with outreach at events in Arizona. Audubon supporters were enlisted to ask their representatives to oppose legislation in Colorado that would allow spring runoff to be hoarded instead of increasing beneficial flows in the Colorado River. In New Mexico, Audubon helped defeat a proposed pipeline that would divert water from the free-flowing Gila River to other communities in southern NM. And in Arizona, Audubon laid groundwork to engage the WRAN in protecting priority bird habitat and conservation areas along the San Pedro and Verde rivers.

Those concerned can join Audubon’s Western Rivers Action Network today and rise to this historic challenge to create healthier western rivers for the birds, wildlife and people.