The Headwaters Protection Act would enhance partnerships that provide clean water, benefit fish and wildlife habitat.
On Wednesday, Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) introduced the Headwaters Protection Act in an effort to invest in America’s forests and watersheds by expanding support for two U.S. Forest Service Programs created in the 2018 Farm Bill: The Water Source Protection Program (WSPP) and the Watershed Condition Framework (WCF).
If passed, the bill would support critical public-private partnerships working to ensure our National Forests provide clean water to downstream communities, benefit agricultural water users, and protect fish and wildlife habitat important to hunters and anglers.
“Source watersheds – the forests, meadows, and streams that supply water to cities and farms – is an integral part of the nation’s water system infrastructure,” said Alex Funk, director of water resources and senior counsel of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The Headwaters Protection Act will support critical public-private partnerships that will increase the pace and scale of restoration and conservation efforts that maximize the water reliability and quality benefits of healthy source watersheds, which in turn helps support adaptation to drought and wildfire, while benefiting fish and wildlife habitat.”
Other Senators supporting the bill include Senators Feinstein (D-Calif.), Risch (R-Idaho), Lujan (D-N.M.), Kelly (D-Ariz.), Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), and Heinrich (D-N.M.).
Conservation organizations across the country, including the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, American Fly Fishing Trade Association, American Sportfishing Association, American Water Works Association, Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, Conservation Northwest, Family Farm Alliance, National American Grouse Partners, National Deer Association, National Wildlife Federation, Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition, Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities, The Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, Watershed Research and Training Center, and Western Landowners Alliance have all been advocating for this effort.
The Headwaters Protection Act would:
- Reauthorize the Water Source Protection Program (WSPP) and increase the authorization of appropriations for the program from $10 million per year to $30 million per year.
- Broaden the range of water users, including historically disadvantaged communities, who could participate in and benefit from the WSPP.
- Reduce financial barriers for water users to participate in the WSPP.
- Prioritize WSPP projects that benefit drinking water quality and improve resilience to wildfire and climate change.
- Make a technical change to the Watershed Condition Framework (WCF) that ensures healthy watersheds do not become degraded and authorizes $30 million in new appropriations per year.
WSPP and WCF projects would:
- Conserve freshwater resources within National Forest System Lands, which supply drinking water to one in five Americans and contain much of our country’s best remaining cold-water habitat for salmon, steelhead, and trout.
- Complement and strengthen the Forest Service’s Wildfire Crisis Strategy by encouraging partnerships with water users to reduce threats to water supplies and infrastructure from wildfire and climate change.
Additional Statements of Support
“The Nature Conservancy in Colorado strongly supports Senators Bennet, Crapo, Feinstein, Risch, Heinrich, Lujan, Kelly, and Hickenlooper’s Headwaters Protection Act. Healthy forested watersheds provide the natural infrastructure that supplies clean water for people and communities, agriculture, hydropower, and fish and wildlife. Many of these forested watersheds are on both public and private lands, and many are in unhealthy condition, at risk of high-severity wildfire, and in need of ecologically based restoration. The Headwaters Protection Act reauthorizes and improves the Water Source Protection Program, a tool that can bring investments from non-federal partners to support forest health, restoration, and watershed protection projects. This bill is a smart investment in our future,” said Carlos Fernandez, Colorado state director for The Nature Conservancy.
“A healthy river system performs three basic functions. It catches, stores, and slowly releases water over time. Floods, fire, and drought can wreak havoc to healthy river systems. The Headwaters Protection Act would provide a pathway for collaborative stewardship so we can restore healthy rivers that provide cold, clean water for both downstream communities and trout and salmon alike. We thank Senator Bennet for his leadership and look forward to working with our partners to make this program a success on the ground,” said Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited.