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Protecting Watersheds: Hermosa Creek to lead by example
Credit: TU press release
DURANGO -- A stakeholder-driven collaborative effort came to fruition Wednesday when Sen Michael Bennet, D-Co, introduced the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act of 2012. The bill will pave the way to designate the Hermosa Creek watershed as a Special Management Area, giving it a unique set of protections tailored by the people who know it best. Located just outside of Durango, Hermosa Creek is an increasingly rare example of a place where things are going right - healthy fish, healthy game herds with plenty of opportunity for sportsmen to enjoy those attributes. And the hunters and anglers who use it have the rare opportunity today to protect an entire watershed and the exceptional hunting and fishing that goes with it.
The Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act of 2012 was formed from a set of recommendations put together by a working group that came together to find balanced solutions to preserve the area. Of particular importance to those involved was the protection of the watershed as a whole, a tactic not widely used. By using the watershed to define the boundary of the special management area, stakeholders were able to keep a pristine and intact habitat just as it is today.
“The Hermosa area is a jewel for all outdoor enthusiasts,” said Pat Oglesby of the Grand Valley Anglers Trout Unlimited chapter. “My passion is fly fishing and Hermosa Creek offers my wife and I easy access to one of the most gorgeous locations in southwest Colorado where we can catch native Colorado River cutthroat trout in a beautiful setting. The Protection Act will guarantee that future generations will be able to enjoy this special place as we have.”
A few highlights in the bill:
•About 108,000 acres of the San Juan National Forest will be designated as the Hermosa Creek Special Management area, with boundaries that are drawn specifically around the watershed. •Of that acreage, some will receive more stringent protections, some less. For instance, 25 percent of the SMA will allow current and historical uses such as mountain biking, motorized recreation, selected timber harvesting, grazing etc. •Another 40 percent will allow those activities to take place, but will no longer be eligible for future building of roads or timber harvesting. All of the SMA, save for about 2,000 acres will be withdrawn from future mineral development. •The remaining 35 percent will be designated as wilderness. Of special importance to Trout Unlimited are the reintroduced population of native Colorado River cutthroat trout. “The Hermosa Creek Watershed stands as an exceptional fishery,” said Buck Skillen of the Five Rivers Chapter of Trout Unlimited. “The on-going native Colorado River Cutthroat Trout recovery program in the upper reaches of Hermosa Creek is just one of many beneficiaries of the efforts by Sen. Bennet.”
With some of the highest quality water in the state, Hermosa Creek offers this population the opportunity to re-establish itself in some of its native range.
“Cutthroat and brook trout are key indicator species to healthy riparian environments in Western Colorado and deserve our attention,” said Tim Patterson, owner of RIGS Adventure Company in Ridgway, Colo. “Critical trout habitat found in roadless areas, like upper Hermosa Creek, are a testament to Colorado’s legacy of great wild places.”