Nederland CO repeals “rights of nature” in favor of reservoir

Rights of nature repealed in Nederland Colorado
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  • The Nederland town board voted to repeal the 2021 Rights of Nature resolution.
  • A proposed dam on Middle Boulder Creek sparked the decision.
  • The town aims to secure its water rights amid opposition from environmental groups.

May 16, 2024 — The effort to grant “rights of nature” to Boulder Creek through Nederland, intended as a lasting environmental legacy, was repealed after less than three years.

The human guardians appointed to advocate for these rights served for less than five months. On Tuesday, May 7, 2024, the Nederland town board unanimously voted to repeal a 2021 resolutionOpens in a new tab. that was designed to enhance watershed environmental protections. This decision was influenced by a dispute with a nonprofit organization opposing a dam the town plans to build on Boulder Creek’s middle branch. The board claimed they were misled by Save the World’s Rivers and its leader, Gary Wockner, who initially supported the river protections but later filed formal objections in water court against Nederland’s reservoir plan on Middle Boulder Creek.

Summary of Mayor Billy Giblin’s Opposition to Rights of Nature Resolutions.

Before the May 7 vote, Nederland’s Mayor Billy Giblin (aka “Mayor Billy”) submitted an Agenda Information MemorandumOpens in a new tab. to the Board of Trustees.  Key points:


  • The Town of Nederland filed a diligence application in Colorado water court for its conditional Nederland Reservoir water right, which must be renewed every six years.
  • This water right is crucial for providing a reliable upstream water supply, as the town currently relies on storage at Barker Meadow Reservoir through a lease with the City of Boulder.

Reasons for Repeal.

  • Developing the Nederland Reservoir is essential for securing water against droughts, increasingly common due to climate change.
  • Upstream storage would ensure better control over water quality, protecting the supply from post-wildfire runoff or mine contamination.
  • The town’s Rights of Nature resolution, initially intended to incorporate environmental input into decision-making, has been used against the town in legal proceedings, jeopardizing its water security.
  • Legal opposition has arisen in multiple water court cases related to local drainages, impacting not just Nederland but also neighboring areas.

Environmental Commitment.

  • Despite repealing the Rights of Nature resolution, the town remains committed to environmental sustainability.
  • The Sustainability Advisory Board (SAB) will continue to provide environmental perspectives, possibly with an elevated role in town decision-making.

Questions Before the Board.

  • Does the Board of Trustees approve Resolution 2024-20, repealing the Rights of Nature resolutions?

Proposed Motions.

  • Approve Resolution 2024-20, repealing the Rights of Nature resolutions.
  • Deny Resolution 2024-20, maintaining the Rights of Nature resolutions.

Image licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0Opens in a new tab. Unported license.



Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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