Bipartisan Hermosa Creek Bill Receives Favorable Hearing in House of Representatives

Bennet Crafted Senate Version of Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act

The House Committee on Natural Resources today held a hearing on the companion bill to Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet’s Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act. The House bill is sponsored by Representative Scott Tipton (R-CO).

The bipartisan, bicameral bill would protect more than 100,000 acres of the Hermosa Creek Watershed, an area in the San Juan National Forest north of Durango. It would establish a management plan for the watershed based on recommendations from the Hermosa Creek River Protection Workgroup, which included local water officials, conservationists, sportsmen, mountain bikers, off-road-vehicle users, outfitters, property owners, grazing permit holders, and other interested citizens.  Bennet introduced the bill last April with Senator Mark Udall (D-CO). Last November, Bennet and Tipton testified in support of the bill before the Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining.

“Colorado is rich with beautiful landscapes, and Hermosa Creek is a perfect example,” Bennet said. “This bill represents consensus among local communities to balance the land’s competing uses and will provide certainty for how the land will be managed in the future. Congressman Tipton and Senator Udall have been helpful partners in this process, and we look forward to working with leaders in both the House and Senate to move this bill forward for the people of southwest Colorado.”

The bill would designate roughly 108,000 acres of San Juan National Forest land as the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Area. Much of the land would remain open to all historic uses of the forest under the bill, including mountain biking, motorized recreation, and selective timber harvesting.  Grazing will continue to be allowed in the entire watershed.

In accordance with the consensus recommendations of the Hermosa Creek Workgroup, roughly 38,000 acres of the watershed would be set aside as wilderness, to be managed in accordance with the Wilderness Act of 1964.  No roads or mineral development are permitted in wilderness areas; while hunting, fishing, horseback riding and non-mechanized recreation are allowed.

Supporters of the bill include the City of Durango, the La Plata County Commission, the San Juan County Commission, the Wilderness Society, Trails 2000, Four Corners Back County Horsemen, Jo Grant Mining Company, Inc., and the Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Coalition, in addition to numerous other business and sportsmen groups.

Earlier this week, the Durango Herald published an editorial lauding the House’s action on Tipton’s bill. Last April, the Herald editorialized in favor of the Senate bill Bennet re-introduced.