Bennet Testifies in Support of Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill to Protect Hermosa Creek Watershed
Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining in support of his bipartisan bill to protect more than 100,000 acres of the Hermosa Creek Watershed, an area in the San Juan National Forest north of Durango.
The Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act 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 in April with Senator Mark Udall (D-CO), while Representative Scott Tipton (R-CO) introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives. Tipton also testified at today’s hearing.
“Hermosa Creek represents some of the best Colorado has to offer. It deserves a management plan that balances all of the land’s competing uses and gives the local community certainty into the future,” Bennet said. “This bill represents a community-driven process to cement a long-term plan for their community’s future. Congressman Tipton and Senator Udall have been great partners, and we urge the committee 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 business and sportsmen groups, among others.
In 2011, Bennet penned an op-ed in the Durango Herald, outlining his plans to seek feedback from interested Coloradans to build on the framework the workgroup set for the bill. The Durango Herald published an editorial in favor of the bill following its initial introduction in 2012.
For more information on the bill and Hermosa Creek, visit Bennet’s website at https://www.bennet.senate.gov/hermosacreek/.