HomeNewsColorado River Lawsuit Draws Criticism As ‘Publicity Stunt,’ Hickenlooper Praises States ‘Working...

Colorado River Lawsuit Draws Criticism As ‘Publicity Stunt,’ Hickenlooper Praises States ‘Working Together’ To Protect It

Gov. Hickenlooper/Western Wire

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office responded on Tuesday night to a controversial lawsuit filed by anti-fossil fuel groups, which is being touted as a ‘first-in-the-nation’ lawsuit seeking recognition of inherent “rights” for the Colorado River.

While Gov. Hickenlooper refrained from commenting on the ongoing litigation, his office informed Western Wire that the legacy of the Colorado River is one of the Western states and citizens collaboratively working together to safeguard the river.

“Colorado and countless partners have long understood the significance of the Colorado River system and the need to balance our needs for water with conservation and enhancement of the river ecosystem,” Hickenlooper’s spokeswoman, Jacque Montgomery, told Western Wire. “This extends from efforts to protect—and improve habitat for—endangered fish in the river over the course of decades to the recent development of Colorado’s Water Plan.”

The lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Colorado, is facing criticism, with some labeling it as a publicity stunt. The legal action is led by a coalition of environmental groups, including the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), attorney Jason Flores-Williams, and the environmental activist group Deep Green Resistance.

Western land and water attorneys are among the critics, expressing skepticism about the lawsuit’s intentions. Deep Green Resistance, associated with the legal action, advocates for “sabotage and asymmetric action” in a four-phase plan called “Decisive Ecological Warfare,” aiming to dismantle critical infrastructure needed for industrial civilization to function.

CELDF stated that the lawsuit, titled “Colorado River v. State of Colorado,” seeks a ruling asserting that the Colorado River and its ecosystem possess certain rights, including the right to exist, flourish, evolve, regenerate, and restoration.

The state of Colorado is the defendant, said CELDF, and “may be held liable for violating the rights of the River.”

But protecting the river has been the cornerstone of Colorado’s mission, Hickenlooper’s office argued.

“That plan’s very essence is about working together to ensure sufficient water supplies for agriculture, cities, recreation and the environment as our state continues to grow,” Montgomery said. “The Colorado River, and its protection, has been a fundamental focus of Colorado as a state, but also of local governments and water utilities who themselves depend upon the river’s health and function as necessary for their own success.”

Mountain States Legal Foundation President William Perry Pendley was critical of CELDF’s mission and the lawsuit itself, calling it a “stunt.”

“The CELDF does not believe in private property, corporate entities–such as those established by family farms and small businesses, or that those seeking redress in federal court must meet the Constitution’s requirements—including a specific injury, traceability, and redressability, before doing so,” Pendley said.

“It [CELDF] seeks to turn the judicial system on its head and destroy the confidence that American people have in that hollowed institution.  This is a stunt that was rejected by federal courts in New Mexico, but it is a dangerous one nonetheless,” Pendley said.

Land and water law attorney Kent Holsinger has expressed the view that the lawsuit should be perceived as a publicity stunt. He has emphasized that, despite its apparent lack of legal merit, the legal action poses a threat to existing complex legal arrangements. These arrangements are specifically designed to facilitate, rather than hinder, conservation and multiple-use practices for residents in the Western United States.

“The plaintiffs’ shallow publicity stunt would seek to do away with it all to the detriment of our communities and the environment,” Holsinger said.

“Water is unquestionably precious and water law in the West developed with that firm understanding. Contrary to the goal of these radical litigants, Western water laws promote the conservation, development and use of water for the comfort, welfare and safety of its peoples,” said Holsinger.

“We must have strong and sensible laws to provide for a clean and healthful environment,” Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) said in an email to Western Wire.

But, Daines said, “rivers and trees are not people.”

Nishan Dahal
Nishan Dahal
Nishan Dahal is a versatile writer and skilled editor with a passion for storytelling and a keen eye for detail. At Western Wire, Nishan leverages his expertise to craft compelling narratives and provide insightful analysis across a range of topics, from breaking news to entertainment updates. His commitment to journalistic excellence and accuracy makes him an invaluable member of the Western Wire team.

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