A management plan for a variety of recreational uses in the Hermosa Creek watershed has officially been finalized, the U.S. Forest Service announced Wednesday.
The announcement is significant, as Congress, when it passed the legislation in 2014, gave the agency three years to come up with the plan.
The management plan will spell out the uses for the protected area, such as when seasonal wildlife closures will be enacted, as well as when and where mountain bikes and motor vehicles can travel.
The Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection legislation was the result of a robust grass-roots, nonpartisan movement that began in 2006 with a diverse range of public land users seeking the same goal: to find a balanced approach to protecting the land.
After years of conversations between hunters and anglers, snowmobilers, water districts, environmentalists, mountain bikers and mining industry representatives, to name a few, a deal was reached.
In December 2014, the Hermosa Creek act easily passed the U.S. Senate on a 89-11 vote. With President Barack Obama’s subsequent signature, the bill set aside 37,400 acres as a wilderness area and 70,600 acres as a special-management area around Hermosa Creek, north of Durango.
However, the U.S. Forest Service was tasked with drafting a management plan that held to the spirit of compromise that got the bill passed.
For the past few years, the Forest Service has collected thousands of public comments on what people would like to see in the newly protected area.
An environmental analysis and decision notice the Forest Service released gives an indication about the many land uses in the Hermosa Creek watershed. However, it’s unclear until the final plan is released in January how issues were resolved from the last round of public comments this fall.
The Forest Service said the final plan will include:
The restriction of motorized and mechanized (bicycle) travel to designated roads and trails.Opening of two new trails to bikes.Allowing electric bikes on certain trails.Building a new campground to replace an outdated one.Expanding acreage for over-snow motorized use.Protecting wilderness areas by eliminating extraneous trails.As a result of objection resolutions, some changes include:
Hermosa Creek, Big Lick and Elbert Creek trails and Lower Hermosa Road will remain open to bicycle use.Condition-based seasonal management of trails (closures) within elk winter concentrations will allow for longer trail-use seasons, though the criteria have not yet been defined.Trails within the Purgatory Resort permit boundary area will be managed by terms defined in the ski area permit instead of becoming Forest Service system trails and will not be bound by the “no net gain” trail guideline or by the same seasonal closure email@example.com