Environmental Management and the New Politics of Western Water: The Animas-La Plata Project and Implementation of the Endangered Species Act


This paper explores the new politics of western water policy through an examination of the Animas-La Plata water project and implementation of the Endangered Species Act. It is suggested that the focus of western water programming has shifted from the source of distributed funds, the United States Congress, to the agencies originally created to deliver federal benefits because funding for new project construction has not been forthcoming. Under this new system, members of Congress continue to excite their constituents with promises of money for new project starts, while the administrative agencies perform the myriad duties needed to keep these projects alive. The result is that political objectives have replaced operational/management objectives in administrative processes. In this case, the author demonstrates how resource managers in the Bureau of Reclamation manipulated hydrological analysis to control administrative process, why their manipulation was unfair, and perhaps illegal, and why biologists from the US Fish and Wildlife Service accepted the analysis. While ostensibly protecting all interests, the result is that none of the objectives of federal water programming are achieved.


Political Science

Document Type





Environmental management; Administrative politics; Water policy; Endangered Species Act; Animas-La Plata, Bureau of Reclamation

Publication Date


Journal Title

Environmental Management