Legislation to establish wilderness and a special management area protecting Southwest Colorado's Hermosa Creek watershed passed unanimously through a US Senate Committee this week. The legislation, S.841, was introduced by Senator Bennet and cosponsored by Senator Udall, who also serves on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee which passed the bill out of committee on Thursday, November 13. A companion bill, HR 1839, is sponsored by Representative Tipton and already has passed out of House committee. TU and other supporters of the bill hope that it can get a floor vote in both chambers during the "lame duck" session, and be forwarded to the President's desk for signature.
The Hermosa watershed bill, which incorporates an agreement crafted by a broad range of local stakeholders, preserves an array of recreational opportunities in and around the areas designated for protection. The package of protections will help protect hunting and fishing values, motorized recreational opportunities, popular hiking and biking trails, and wilderness-quality lands. The bill designates approximately 37,000 acres of new wilderness and a 70,000 acre special management area to protect watershed values.
On a disappointing note, specific reference to Hermosa's native trout was removed from the bill. However, the watershed and land protections still accomplish protection for the area's highly-valued native cutthroat trout fishery.
And a big "thank you" goes to Senators Bennet and Udall for their efforts in moving S.841 forward in the Senate, and to Representative Tipton for his continued leadership for Hermosa in the House.