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Calendar No. 627
108th Congress Report
2d Session 108-303
RIO GRANDE NATURAL AREA
July 13, 2004.--Ordered to be printed
Mr. Domenici, from the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources,
submitted the following
R E P O R T
[To accompany S. 1467]
The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, to which was
referred the bill (S. 1467) to establish the Rio Grande
Outstanding Natural Area in the State of Colorado, and for
other purposes, having considered the same, reports favorably
thereon with an amendment and an amendment to the title and
recommends that the bill, as amended, do pass.
The amendments are as follows:
1. Strike out all after the enacting clause and insert in
lieu thereof the following:
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the ``Rio Grande Natural Area Act''.
SEC. 2. DEFINITIONS.
In this Act:
(1) Commission.--The term ``Commission'' means the Rio Grande
Natural Area Commission established by section 4(a).
(2) Natural area.--The term ``Natural Area'' means the Rio
Grande Natural Area established by section 3(a).
(3) Secretary.--The term ``Secretary'' means the Secretary of
SEC. 3. ESTABLISHMENT OF RIO GRANDE NATURAL AREA.
(a) In General.--There is established the Rio Grande Natural Area in
the State of Colorado to conserve, restore, and protect the natural,
historic, cultural, scientific, scenic, wildlife, and recreational
resources of the Natural Area.
(b) Boundaries.--The Natural Area shall include the Rio Grande River
from the southern boundary of the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge to
the New Mexico State border, extending \1/4\ mile on either side of the
bank of the River.
(c) Map and Legal Description.--
(1) In general.--As soon as practicable after the date of
enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall prepare a map and
legal description of the Natural Area.
(2) Effect.--The map and legal description of the Natural
Area shall have the same force and effect as if included in
this Act, except that the Secretary may correct any minor
errors in the map and legal description.
(3) Public availability.--The map and legal description of
the Natural Area shall be available for public inspection in
the appropriate offices of the Bureau of Land Management.
SEC. 4. ESTABLISHMENT OF THE COMMISSION.
(a) Establishment.--There is established the Rio Grande Natural Area
(b) Purpose.--The Commission shall--
(1) advise the Secretary with respect to the Natural Area;
(2) prepare a management plan relating to non-Federal land in
the Natural Area under section 6(b)(2)(A).
(c) Membership.--The Commission shall be composed of 9 members
appointed by the Secretary, of whom--
(1) 1 member shall represent the Colorado State Director of
the Bureau of Land Management;
(2) 1 member shall be the manager of the Alamosa National
Wildlife Refuge, ex officio;
(3) 3 members shall be appointed based on the recommendation
of the Governor of Colorado, of whom--
(A) 1 member shall represent the Colorado Division of
(B) 1 member shall represent the Colorado Division of
Water Resources; and
(C) 1 member shall represent the Rio Grande Water
Conservation District; and
(4) 4 members shall--
(A) represent the general public;
(B) be citizens of the local region in which the
Natural Area is established; and
(C) have knowledge and experience in the fields of
interest relating to the preservation, restoration, and
use of the Natural Area.
(d) Terms of Office.--
(1) In general.--Except for the manager of the Alamosa
National Wildlife Refuge, the term of office of a member of the
Commission shall be 5 years.
(2) Reappointment.--A member may be reappointed to the
Commission on completion of the term of office of the member.
(e) Compensation.--A member of the Commission shall serve without
compensation for service on the Commission.
(f) Chairperson.--The Commission shall elect a chairperson of the
(1) In general.--The Commission shall meet at least quarterly
at the call of the chairperson.
(2) Public meetings.--A meeting of the Commission shall be
open to the public.
(3) Notice.--Notice of any meeting of the Commission shall be
published in advance of the meeting.
(h) Technical Assistance.--The Secretary and the heads of other
Federal agencies shall, to the maximum extent practicable, provide any
information and technical services requested by the Commission to
assist in carrying out the duties of the Commission.
SEC. 5. POWERS OF THE COMMISSION.
(a) Hearings.--The Commission may hold such hearings, meet and act at
such times and places, take such testimony, and receive such evidence
as the Commission considers advisable to carry out this Act.
(b) Cooperative Agreements.--
(1) In general.--For purposes of carrying out the management
plan on non-Federal land in the Natural Area, the Commission
may enter into a cooperative agreement with the State of
Colorado, a political subdivision of the State, or any person.
(2) Requirements.--A cooperative agreement entered into under
paragraph (1) shall establish procedures for providing notice
to the Commission of any action proposed by the State of
Colorado, a political subdivision of the State, or any person
that may affect the implementation of the management plan on
non-Federal land in the Natural Area.
(3) Effect.--A cooperative agreement entered into under
paragraph (1) shall not enlarge or diminish any right or duty
of a Federal agency under Federal law.
(c) Prohibition of Acquisition of Real Property.--The Commission may
not acquire any real property or interest in real property.
(d) Implementation of Management Plan.--
(1) In general.--The Commission shall assist the Secretary in
implementing the management plan by carrying out the activities
described in paragraph (2) to preserve and interpret the
natural, historic, cultural, scientific, scenic, wildlife, and
recreational resources of the Natural Area.
(2) Authorized activities.--In assisting with the
implementation of the management plan under paragraph (1), the
(A) assist the State of Colorado in preserving State
land and wildlife within the Natural Area;
(B) assist the State of Colorado and political
subdivisions of the State in increasing public
awareness of, and appreciation for, the natural,
historic, scientific, scenic, wildlife, and
recreational resources in the Natural Area;
(C) encourage political subdivisions of the State of
Colorado to adopt and implement land use policies that
are consistent with--
(i) the management of the Natural Area; and
(ii) the management plan; and
(D) encourage and assist private landowners in the
Natural Area in the implementation of the management
SEC. 6. MANAGEMENT PLAN.
(a) In General.--Not later than 4 years after the date of enactment
of this Act, the Secretary and the Commission, in coordination with
appropriate agencies in the State of Colorado, political subdivisions
of the State, and private landowners in the Natural Area, shall prepare
management plans for the Natural Area as provided in subsection (b).
(b) Duties of Secretary and Commission.--
(1) Secretary.--The Secretary shall prepare a management plan
relating to the management of Federal land in the Natural Area.
(A) In general.--The Commission shall prepare a
management plan relating to the management of the non-
Federal land in the Natural Area.
(B) Approval or disapproval.--
(i) In general.--The Commission shall submit
to the Secretary the management plan prepared
under subparagraph (A) for approval or
(ii) Action following disapproval.--If the
Secretary disapproves the management plan
submitted under clause (i), the Secretary
(I) notify the Commission of the
reasons for the disapproval; and
(II) allow the Commission to submit
to the Secretary revisions to the
management plan submitted under clause
(3) Cooperation.--The Secretary and the Commission shall
cooperate to ensure that the management plans relating to the
management of Federal land and non-Federal land are consistent.
(c) Requirements.--The management plans shall--
(1) take into consideration Federal, State, and local plans
in existence on the date of enactment of this Act to present a
unified preservation, restoration, and conservation plan for
the Natural Area;
(2) with respect to Federal land in the Natural Area--
(A) be developed in accordance with section 202 of
the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (43
(B) be consistent, to the maximum extent practicable,
with the management plans adopted by the Director of
the Bureau of Land Management for land adjacent to the
Natural Area; and
(C) be considered to be an amendment to the San Luis
Resource Management Plan of the Bureau of Land
(A) an inventory of the resources contained in the
Natural Area (including a list of property in the
Natural Area that should be preserved, restored,
managed, developed, maintained, or acquired to further
the purposes of the Natural Area); and
(B) a recommendation of policies for resource
management, including the use of intergovernmental
cooperative agreements, that--
(i) protect the resources of the Natural
(ii) provide for solitude, quiet use, and
pristine natural values of the Natural Area.
(d) Publication.--The Secretary shall publish notice of the
management plans in the Federal Register.
SEC. 7. ADMINISTRATION OF NATURAL AREA.
(a) In General.--The Secretary shall administer the Federal land in
the Natural Area--
(1) in accordance with--
(A) the laws (including regulations) applicable to
public land; and
(B) the management plan; and
(2) in a manner that provides for--
(A) the conservation, restoration, and protection of
the natural, historic, scientific, scenic, wildlife,
and recreational resources of the Natural Area;
(B) the continued use of the Natural Area for
purposes of education, scientific study, and limited
public recreation in a manner that does not
substantially impair the purposes for which the Natural
Area is established;
(C) the protection of the wildlife habitat of the
(D) a prohibition on the construction of water
storage facilities in the Natural Area; and
(E) the reduction in the use of or removal of roads
in the Natural Area and, to the maximum extent
practicable, the reduction in or prohibition against
the use of motorized vehicles in the Natural Area
(including the removal of roads and a prohibition
against motorized use on Federal land in the area on
the western side of the Rio Grande River from Lobatos
Bridge south to the New Mexico State line).
(b) Changes in Streamflow.--The Secretary is encouraged to negotiate
with the State of Colorado, the Rio Grande Water Conservation District,
and affected water users in the State to determine if changes in the
streamflow that are beneficial to the Natural Area may be accommodated.
(c) Private Land.--The management plan prepared under section
6(b)(2)(A) shall apply to private land in the Natural Area only to the
extent that the private landowner agrees in writing to be bound by the
(d) Withdrawal.--Subject to valid existing rights, all Federal land
in the Natural Area is withdrawn from--
(1) all forms of entry, appropriation, or disposal under the
public land laws;
(2) location, entry, and patent under the mining laws; and
(3) disposition under the mineral leasing laws (including
geothermal leasing laws).
(e) Acquisition of Land.--
(1) In general.--The Secretary may acquire from willing
sellers by purchase, exchange, or donation land or an interest
in land in the Natural Area.
(2) Administration.--Any land or interest in land acquired
under paragraph (1) shall be administered in accordance with
the management plan and this Act.
(f) Applicable Law.--Section 5(d)(1) of the Wild and Scenic Rivers
Act (16 U.S.C. 1276(d)(1)) shall not apply to the Natural Area.
SEC. 8. EFFECT.
Nothing in this Act--
(1) amends, modifies, or is in conflict with the Rio Grande
Compact, consented to by Congress in the Act of May 31, 1939
(53 Stat. 785, ch. 155);
(2) authorizes the regulation of private land in the Natural
(3) authorizes the imposition of any mandatory streamflow
(4) creates an express or implied Federal reserved water
(5) imposes any Federal water quality standard within or
upstream of the Natural Area that is more restrictive than
would be applicable had the Natural Area not been established;
(6) prevents the State of Colorado from acquiring an instream
flow through the Natural Area under the terms, conditions, and
limitations of State law to assist in protecting the natural
environment to the extent and for the purposes authorized by
SEC. 9. AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.
There are authorized to be appropriated such sums as are necessary to
carry out this Act.
SEC. 10. TERMINATION OF COMMISSION.
The Commission shall terminate on the date that is 10 years after the
date of enactment of this Act.
2. Amend the title so as to read: ``A bill to establish the
Rio Grande Natural Area in the State of Colorado, and for other
PURPOSE OF THE MEASURE
The purpose of S. 1467 is to establish a 33-mile stretch of
the Rio Grande River between the Alamosa Wildlife Refuge and
the Colorado and New Mexico state line as a Natural Area, to be
administered by the Bureau of Land Management, to promote the
protection and restoration of the riparian zone of the Rio
BACKGROUND AND NEED
Federal, State, and local officials have looked for a way
to restore and protect the riparian zone of the Rio Grande
River in southern Colorado without creating a management
structure that would conflict with the long-standing water uses
upstream and the agricultural uses in the San Luis Valley. This
group has worked together collaboratively to develop a proposal
for federal designation that protects the resources of concern
and that protects property rights and existing uses.
S. 1467 was introduced by Senator Campbell on July 25,
2003. The Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests held a
hearing on S. 1467 on November 18, 2003. At the business
meeting on June 16, 2004, the Committee on Energy and Natural
Resources ordered S. 1467, as amended, favorably reported.
The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, in open
business session on June 16, 2004, by a unanimous vote of a
quorum present, recommends that the Senate pass S. 1467, if
amended as described herein.
During the consideration of S. 1467, the Committee adopted
an amendment in the nature of a substitute. The amendment
designates the area as the ``Rio Grande Natural Area'' and
clarifies the roles of the Department of the Interior and the
Rio Grande Natural Area Commission in developing and
administering management plans for the area. The amendment is
explained in detail in the section by section analysis below.
Section 1 entitles the bill the ``Rio Grande Natural Area
Section 2 provides definitions used in the bill.
Section 3 provides for the establishment of the Rio Grande
Natural Area, defines its boundaries as including the river
from the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge to the Colorado-New
Mexico State line and extending \1/4\ mile on either side of
Section 4 establishes the Rio Grande Natural Area
Commission which is to be made up of 9 members, consisting of 2
officials of the Department of the Interior, 2 officials of the
State of Colorado, 1 representative of the Rio Grande Water
Conservation District, and 4 individuals representing the
general public. The section also provides guidance on how the
Commission will operate.
Section 5 establishes the powers and duties of the
Section 6 provides guidance on the preparation of
management plans, one for the non-Federal lands within the
Natural Area, prepared by the Commission, and one for the
Federal lands within the Natural Area, prepared by the
Secretary of the Interior. The section directs that the
Secretary and the Commission are to cooperate to ensure that
the two plans are consistent.
Section 7 provides self-explanatory direction for the
administration of the Natural Area. Paragraph 7(a)(2)(D)
prohibits the construction of water storage facilities in the
Natural Area. This paragraph is not intended to preclude the
continuing use and operation, repair, rehabilitation,
expansion, or new construction of water supply facilities,
water or wastewater treatment facilities, stormwater
facilities, public utilities, or common carriers along the Rio
Grande River and its tributaries upstream of the Natural Area.
Section 8 describes the effects on water rights, changes to
stream flow, and private lands.
Section 9 authorizes appropriation of funds.
Section 10 directs the termination of the Commission after
a period of 10 years.
COST AND BUDGETARY CONSIDERATIONS
The following estimate of costs of this measure has been
prepared by the Congressional Budget Office.
Congressional Budget Office,
Washington, DC, June 22, 2004.
Hon. Pete V. Domenici,
Chairman, Committee on Energy and Natural Resources,
U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.
Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for S. 1467, the Rio Grande
Natural Area Act.
If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Megan
(For Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Director).
S. 1467--Rio Grande Natural Area Act
CBO estimates that S. 1467 would not significantly affect
the federal budget. The bill could affect direct spending, but
we estimate that any such effects would be negligible. S. 1467
would not affect revenues. S. 1467 contains no
intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as defined in the
Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and would impose no costs on
state, local, or tribal governments.
S. 1467 would establish the Rio Grande Natural Area on
roughly 10,000 acres of federal and nonfederal land surrounding
a 33.3-mile segment of the Rio Grande River in Colorado. The
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) would manage federal land
within the proposed natural area. S. 1467 would establish a
commission to develop and implement a plan to manage nonfederal
land within the proposed area. Based on information from BLM,
CBO estimates that increased costs to operate that commission
and manage federal land within the area would total less than
$500,000 annually, assuming the availability of appropriated
The bill would withdraw federal land within the proposed
area from programs to develop natural resources. According to
BLM, that land currently generates no significant receipts and
is not expected to do so over the next 10 years. Hence, we
estimate that the proposed withdrawal could have a negligible
effect on offsetting receipts (a credit against direct
The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Megan Carroll.
This estimate was approved by Peter H. Fontaine, Deputy
Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.
REGULATORY IMPACT EVALUATION
In compliance with paragraph 11(b) of rule XXVI of the
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee makes the following
evaluation of the regulatory impact which would be incurred in
carrying out S. 1467. The bill is not a regulatory measure in
the sense of imposing Government-established standards or
significant economic responsibilities on private individuals
No personal information would be collected in administering
the program. Therefore, there would be no impact on personal
Little, if any, additional paperwork would result from the
enactment of S. 1467, as ordered reported.
The pertinent legislative report received by the Committee
from the Department of the Interior setting forth Executive
agency recommendations relating to S. 1467 is set forth below:
U.S. Department of the Interior,
Office of the Secretary,
Washington, DC, December 18, 2003.
Hon. Pete V. Domenici,
Chairman, Committee on Energy and Natural Resources,
U.S. Senate, Washington, DC.
Dear Mr. Chairman: This letter sets forth the views of the
Department of the Interior on S. 1467, the Rio Grande
Outstanding Natural Area Act. The Administration could support
the legislation with a number of modifications.
From its headwaters in Colorado's San Juan Mountains, the
Rio Grande flows south through Colorado, bisecting New Mexico,
then crossing into Texas where it forms the U.S./Mexico border
until emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. At 1,885 miles long,
the Rio Grande is the fifth longest river in North America (and
among the 20 longest in the world). Its flowing waters have
been essential to survival for prehistoric, historic, and
present day populations.
North from the New Mexico border into Colorado is a 33-mile
stretch of the Rio Grande River that is outstanding for many
reasons. Natural and undeveloped, this free flowing river is
home to extensive wildlife, Significant for its recreational,
scientific and educational uses, the area is dominated by
sweeping views and a long history. Through multiple land
acquisitions from willing sellers, the BLM has acquired a
continuous 20-mile stretch of lands along the western bank of
the Rio Grande now designated as the Rio Grande Corridor Area
of Critical Environmental Concern.
The people who live in the San Luis Valley have come
together in a collaborative fashion to find ways to further
protect and enhance this stretch of this historic river.
Discussions about protection of the corridor began following
completion of the BLM's 1991 San Luis Resource Management Plan.
As part of the plan, BLM conducted a wild and scenic rivers
eligibility and suitability analysis and ultimately recommended
that stakeholders interested in the river create ``some
enduring form of protection.'' The legislation being considered
today is a result of that stakeholder process.
S. 1467, the Rio Grande Outstanding Natural Area Act, was
introduced on July 28th of this year. The bill's stated purpose
is to conserve, restore, and protect this special resource. It
does this by establishing the Rio Grande Outstanding Natural
Area along a 33.3 mile segment of the Rio Grande from the New
Mexico border north to the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge in
a corridor about \1/4\ mile wide on either side of the river.
The overall area includes over 10,000 acres, approximately 35%
of which is BLM-managed public land. The remainder is private
The bill establishes a commission whose purpose is to work
with Federal, State and local authorities to develop an
integrated resource management plan for the area. We support
this type of collaborative effort. The Secretary's 4Cs envision
just this type of endeavor. However, as currently drafted, we
have concerns about the bill's use of a commission as a means
of advising the Secretary on land management decisions
affecting this area. Specifically, the bill does not address
the funding source for the commission, and does not make clear
the nature of the commission's advisory role, or its impact on
affected private property interests. Given these concerns, we
believe an advisory council is a more appropriate vehicle for
this collaboration. Chartered under the Federal Advisory
Committee Act (FACA), an advisory council would be able to fill
many of the same roles as the proposed commission. The BLM
currently works with 39 advisory councils. They range from our
23 Resource Advisory Councils (RACs), which provide advice on
multiple use management of public lands within a state or
region of a state, to area-specific advisory councils, such as
the Steens Mountain Advisory Council or the Canyons of the
Ancients National Monument Advisory Committee in southwestern
Colorado. All recommendations by advisory councils are
considered by the BLM's State/field offices and by the
Washington office when making decisions about the management of
In addition, we would like to work on clarifications to
this section to ensure that the BLM continues to have final
responsibility for planning for the Federal lands. A single
plan covering the entire river corridor is still viable,
provided it is clear that the BLM has ultimate planning
authority for the Federal lands. It is our understanding that
the focus of this process would be restoration of the historic
riparian community along the river. Specifically, issues of
livestock movement through the largely unfenced river corridor,
designation of vehicle access routes to minimize impact on
riparian vegetation, and management of riparian habitat on BLM
lands are likely to be addressed.
Undertaking a management plan is a time-consuming task
requiring extensive resources and expertise. We believe the
time deadlines and other specifics of the planning sections
established in the bill may be overly optimistic. In order to
ensure a fully cooperative, collaborative, and consultative
process that is consistent with the National Environmental
Policy Act (NEPA) and other laws and regulations, we would urge
longer timeframes. We would be pleased to work with the sponsor
and the Committee to address this concern.
While the southern Colorado stretch of the Rio Grande is
truly outstanding, we would recommend that the sponsor of the
bill consider whether a different designation for this area
might be preferred. Currently, the BLM manages only one
``Outstanding Natural Area'' (ONA), the Yaquina Head ONA,
located on the Oregon coast. Yaquina Head ONA is a tourist
destination with an emphasis on visitation. Because visitation
is not a stated goal in this area, we are concerned that using
the same terminology could result in confusion. Possible
alternatives would be a ``cooperative management and protection
area,'' such as exists in eastern Oregon in the Steens
Mountains, or ``cooperative river management area.'' We would
be pleased to work with the sponsor and the Committee to
resolve this concern.
There are additional technical issues we would like to work
on as well. For example, we would like the opportunity to work
with the sponsor and the Committee on an accurate map of the
Additionally, Section 11(a) of the bill calls for the
revocation of any existing reservations on the public lands
within the area. There are two such reservations. The first is
a 1949 administrative withdrawal of approximately 2,700 acres
for the purpose of future hydroelectric development (this
withdrawal covers lands both in southern Colorado and northern
New Mexico). The second is a 1939 Executive Order creating
public water reserves for the purpose of livestock and domestic
access. These reservations are no longer necessary, because in
the former case, hydroelectric development has been rejected as
a viable option for this section of the river and in the later
case because access to the Rio Grande now exists due to
subsequent BLM land acquisitions. As written, the language only
revokes the portion of the reservation within the quarter mile
river corridor, and could result in unnecessary management
confusion. As all of these reservations are river-based, we
advocate a complete revocation of the reservations in lieu of a
Section 11(c) of the bill withdraws the public lands within
the newly designated area from a host of public laws and
provisions. To avoid confusion, we would recommend a standard
withdrawal from location, entry, appropriation and/or patent
under the public land laws and mining laws as well as from
operations of the mineral leasing, mineral materials, and
geothermal leasing laws. Such a standard withdrawal will foster
clear understanding and, we believe, reflects the intent of the
The Administration supports sections 9(c), 13, and 14
regarding water rights. This language makes clear that the
designations in this Act shall not be construed to constitute
an express or implied water right.
We believe the goals of this legislation are worthy and we
support them wholeheartedly. The local support for this
proposal is just the kind of effort that this Department and
this Administration encourages. We believe that by working
together cooperatively, this area of the Rio Grande can be a
model for responsible stewardship of the land.
The Office of Management and Budget has advised that there
is no objection to the presentation of this report from the
standpoint of the Administration's program.
Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management.
CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW
In compliance with paragraph 12 of rule XXVI of the
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee notes that no
changes in existing law are made by the bill S. 1467, as