Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act
The Hermosa Creek watershed, just north of Durango, encompasses one of Colorado's largest and most biologically diverse forests, and contains some of the largest stands of old-growth ponderosa pine remaining in the San Juan Mountains. It hosts thriving populations of native Colorado River cutthroat trout, with over 60 miles of streams eligible for Wild and Scenic River designation.
The Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act would designate 37,236 acres as Wilderness. An additional 70,000 acres would be designated for special management protection, in which mountain biking, some timber harvest and grazing will still be available, but no new developments or roads will be permitted.
Senator Michael Bennet introduced the Act on July 18, 2012, with Senator Mark Udall as co-sponsor. The bill considers the Hermosa Creek watershed as a whole, and is widely supported by the community, local businesses, and conservation organizations.
The Act would also provide for a mineral withdrawal for Perins Peak and Animas City Mountain, two important wildlife and recreation areas. The acreage that would be protected from future mining (including oil and gas development) would be 8,549 acres. These two areas are not within the Hermosa Creek watershed, but nearby in the Durango vicinity.
For a map of the proposed designations, click here.
The Hermosa Creek watershed includes some 17 separate ecosystems, ranging from low elevation scrub oak and pinyon-juniper woodlands to lush mixed conifer forests at higher elevations. The majority of the watershed has no roads and minimal human impact -- in fact, is is the largest unprotected roadless area in the entire Southern Rocky Mountains. Legislative protections are critical to preserve its wild character and ecological values.
Hermosa Creek and its watershed provide an important roadless corridor between the Animas Valley, across the La Plata Mountains, and then into the Dolores River watershed. An ideal habitat for the rare Canada lynx, Hermosa also sustains large herds of deer and elk, bears, and diverse wildlife species. Thousands of hunters visit each year, and its large trail system attracts hikers, mountain bikers, horseback riders, and many other recreationalists.
For more information, go to www.hermosacreek.org.
Colorado Department of Wildlife