Years of collaboration culminated in permanent protections for Hermosa Creek – a HUGE success. Now it’s time to implement them.
What makes Hermosa Creek special?
The 100,000-acre plus Hermosa Creek watershed north of Durango is an incredible wild backcountry that holds Outstanding Waters (the highest standard for surface water quality that the state anoints), native cutthroat trout, some of the largest conifers in Colorado, valuable big game habitat, and a diversity of trails for all user types.
In 2008, the Hermosa Creek Workgroup formed to consider protections for the Hermosa Creek watershed. After six years of meetings, collaboration, and compromise among dozens of stakeholder groups, the Workgroup submitted the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act to Congress. A successful bipartisan legislative effort was led by Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, and Rep. Scott Tipton. President Obama signed the Act into law in December 2014 following supportive votes in the Senate and House. The substance of the bill was built from the ground up and includes designation of the 37,000-acre Hermosa Creek Wilderness and permanent protection from mining, energy development, roadbuilding, and logging on another 70,000 acres comprising the remainder of the Hermosa Creek Watershed.
With the legislation complete, the San Juan National Forest drafted a management plan to implement the Act. The management plan implements the legislation by limiting motorized and mechanized to previously existing routes, and emphasizes protection of the entirety of the Hermosa Creek watershed.
The purpose of the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act is to “conserve and protect for the benefit of present and future generations the watershed, geological, cultural, natural, scientific, recreational, wildlife, riparian, historical, educational, and scenic resources of the Hermosa Creek watershed.”
Check out what it includes:
Wilderness & Roadless
The Act designated the Hermosa Creek Wilderness, a 37,400 acres wilderness between the Animas River and the Dolores River divide. Congress designates Wilderness Areas sparingly these days, so this was a huge win for Colorado. Adjacent to the Wilderness is the Hermosa Creek Special Management Area (SMA), a new protected area of over 70,600-acres which includes a legislatively-protected Roadless Area of 43,200-acres.
Hermosa Creek is rich with diverse recreation opportunities. Within the Wilderness Area hikers and horseback riders can enjoy 30 miles of remote trails. Anglers and hunters can explore thousands of acres of wild backcountry for their sport. Many more trail miles extend throughout the Special Management Area and are open (where designated) to hikers, equestrians, mountain bikes, motorcycles, ATVs, and snowmobiles.
Additionally, the Act protects 13,086-acres outside the Hermosa Creek watershed – Perin’s Peak, Animas Mountain, Horse Gulch, and Lake Nighthorse – from oil, gas, coal, uranium, hardrock, and other mineral extraction.