One of the more beautiful areas in Colorado’s San Juan National Forest — a treasured wildlife area that is also well-known for recreational resources — is one step closer to permanent protection thanks to new legislation introduced by Sen. Michael Bennet.
The Hermosa Creek Watershed comprises breathtaking views, and has some of Colorado’s more pristine old-growth ponderosa pine forests, which provide critical wildlife habitat for species such as the Canada lynx and native trout.
Bennet’s proposal would protect and preserve the Hermosa Creek Watershed by minimizing future road construction, timber harvesting and mineral mining.
One of the few relatively undisturbed landscapes in Colorado, the Hermosa Creek Watershed has been formally recommended by the U.S. Forest Service for wilderness designation — the largest such recommendation on the forest — as it has several valuable ecosystems that need preservation and recovery actions to maintain their ecological richness.
After a two-year process of extensive research and negotiations, the Hermosa Creek Workgroup, composed of area residents, developed a proposal that is the basis for Senator Bennet’s legislation. Roughly 108,000 acres have been proposed in Senator Bennet’s bill as Wilderness and Special Management Areas.
Under the bill, approximately 40,000 acres would be designated as wilderness, where no timber harvest would be allowed. Among the areas proposed for Wilderness protection are Hermosa Creek Trail, Dutch Creek and Elk Creek.
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.
Mining would be minimized to about 2,000 acres, to minimize the impact on existing ecosystems.
The Wilderness Society is working with Senator Bennet to get this wilderness protection bill moving forward to preserve the stunning landscape and vast array of wildlife that outdoor enthusiasts travel to Colorado to admire.