In December of 2014 the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act passed both the House and the Senate in a public lands package. The San Juan National Forest and stakeholders in southwest Colorado have crafted a collaborative plan for the future of the 150,000-acre Hermosa Roadless Area, and over 62 miles of Hermosa Creek and tributaries. The Hermosa Creek watershed encompasses one of Colorado's largest, biologically diverse forests, including at least 17 separate ecosystems, ranging from rocky scrub oak and pinyon-juniper at lower elevations to aspen, spruce, and fir. Hermosa contains some of the largest stands of old-growth ponderosa pine remaining in the San Juan Mountains. One of Hermosa's most compelling attributes is the large majority of the watershed is roadless and generally unimpacted by past human activities.
The Hermosa watershed provides ideal habitat for rare Canada lynx, and sustains vast herds of deer and elk that draw thousands of hunters annually. Hermosa's pristine beauty and large trail system entices countless hikers, mountain bikers, hunters, horseback users, and numerous other recreational enthusiasts.
The Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act was first introduced by Senator Michael Bennet in July, 2012. Bennet reintroduced the bill with Senator Mark Udall as a cosponsor in April, 2013, with Rep. Scott Tipton introducing a companion bill in the House. The bill would protect over 100,000 acres in San Juan National Forest, and create 38,000 acres of new wilderness. The plan was developed by the Hermosa Creek River Protection Workgroup, which includes local water officials, conservationists, sportsmen, mountain bikers, off-road-vehicle users, outfitters, property owners, grazing permit holders and other interested citizens. Much of the land would remain open to historic uses of the forest under the bill, including mountain biking, motorized recreation, selective timber harvesting, and grazing. For more information on the bill, visit Bennet's website. After years of collaboration and compromise, the bill enjoys bipartisan and diverse support. In March 2014, Tipton's bill received a legislative hearing in the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation, and it will head to the full House Natural Resources Committee for markup.
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