by Lisa Cyriacks

Rain-barrel legislation

For the second year, Colorado legislature is debating who legally owns rain. A bill that would allow gardeners to store 110 gallons of runoff from their roof in up to two rain barrels passed on a 10-2 bipartisan vote in a House committee late February. Republicans in the state Senate let a similar bill expire without a vote on the chamber floor at the end of last year’s session.

Opponents cite state water law that says rainfall must be allowed to move unabated back into the ecosystem to feed aquifers and reservoirs for those who hold expensive water rights.

In theory, proponents say, when the rainwater goes on gardens or lawns, it would then return to the larger environment. In the bargain, rain-barrel users would get a sense of how little it rains in Colorado and how much water they use on their property.

Colorado is the only state that bans rainwater harvesting.

Federal Lands in Colorado

When Senator Kerry Donovan (D-Vail) proposed legislation to make a public lands day, her intent was to establish a day for Coloradans to show their appreciation for the state’s vast state and federal public lands.

The bill did pass out of Senate committee but only after Republicans offered an amendment asserting failures in how federal officials have managed and regulated lands across the state. Without compromise, the Republicans were unlikely to support the bill.

The Oregon occupation of Malheur Wildlife Refuge may be over, but the war over public land is just getting started. States like Wyoming and New Mexico are looking at the millions of dollars a year individual states could re- ceive if federal lands were trans- ferred to and managed by the state.

Opponents question the real costs and practicality of such a move. Surveys of the public show that overall, people prefer public lands remain public.

In marked contrast to states in the east, the federal govern- ment owns vast amounts of land in the West. In nine states—Alaska, California, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Wyoming—the feds own more than 40% of the land.

Public land proponents argue that public lands are a birthright for all Americans, not just those whose state the land lie in.

Last year in Colorado, Demo- crats opposed such a measure, cit- ing the costs of wildfire that are currently paid by the federal gov- ernment, and would not begin to offset any anticipated revenues on leasing resources on federal land.