H.R. 1839: Tipton’s Hermosa Creek Legislation Moves Forward in House

March 7, 2014

Here’s the release from U.S. Representative Scott Tipton’s office:

Congressman Scott Tipton’s (R-CO) Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act of 2013 (H.R. 1839) received a legislative hearing in the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation. The community-driven legislation would protect the Hermosa Creek Watershed—a 108,000 acre area in the San Juan National Forest north of Durango—as well as protect multiple use of the land.

“When it comes to land use designations, I support a balanced approach that includes respecting the environment that we all deeply value, while making the best use of our natural resources. Recreation, preservation, access and job creation are all important aspects of the multiple use management for which these lands are truly intended,” Tipton said. “I’m a firm believer that land use designations should be driven with a balance of local initiative and consideration that public lands belong to all Americans. Such is the case with Hermosa Creek Watershed, where I have worked with local citizens and groups and Senator Michael Bennet to put forward a plan to permanently protect the area while maintaining access and multiple use of the land. The Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act has truly been a locally-driven effort and has broad community support.”

Read Tipton’s opening statement here.

The Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act has been endorsed by a broad coalition of stakeholders including: the City of Durango, the La Plata County Commission, the Southwestern Water Conservation District, the San Juan County Commission, Region 9, the Colorado Snowmobile Association, Jo Grant Mining Company, Inc., in addition to numerous business and sportsmen groups, among others. Tipton submitted their letters of support to the record.

During the hearing, Scott Jones, a representative from the Colorado Snowmobile Association and other Colorado-based off road groups, testified in support of the legislation.

“The motorized community supports this legislation, as we believe the legislation represents a significant step towards protecting multiple use recreation and highly valued natural resources in the proposal areas,” said Jones. “For the motorized community there are two major components of the legislation we support, which are the release of the Wilderness Study area and designation of the special management area for the protection of motorized recreation. The motorized community does agree that the area to be designated Wilderness has generally not seen a high level of motorized recreation and the area is suitable for designation.”

Read Scott Jones’s testimony here.

Under H.R. 1839, much of the land will remain open to historic uses, including mountain biking, motorized recreation, hunting, fishing and selective timber harvesting. Grazing will be permitted in the entire watershed. This legislation ensures that areas currently open to snowmobiling on Molas Pass will remain open for future use. This will benefit outdoor recreation enthusiasts and continue to provide an important source of economic activity for the area. If this bill is not passed, then snowmobiling will cease in this region following the 2013/2014 winter season. This legislation also contains important provisions that allow for active land management in areas designated by the bill as necessary to control wildfires, insect infestations and disease outbreaks.

H.R. 1839 will now need to receive a markup in the full House Natural Resources Committee. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) is carrying companion legislation in the Senate (S.841).

Learn more about the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act here.

From The Durango Herald (Katie Fiegenbaum):

The House Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation held a hearing on the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act (HR 1839) on Thursday. Here’s what you should know about the act and the hearing…

Within three years of the bill’s passage, a management plan would have to be developed for the area, based on recommendations from the Hermosa Creek River Protection Workgroup, a diverse group of constituents.

About 37,000 acres of this area, on the west side of Hermosa Creek, would be designated as federal wilderness. No road, mineral or other development would be allowed inside this area.

About 68,000 acres, mostly on the east side of the creek, would be designated as the “Hermosa Creek Special Management Area.” It would remain open to historic uses, including mountain biking, hunting, fishing, motorized recreation and selective timber harvesting.

Grazing would be allowed throughout the protection area.

Why is it important?

The area in the bill has long been recommended for a wilderness designation and is some of the most pristine in Southwest Colorado. The land surrounds Hermosa Creek, which flows into the Animas River and is an important water source for Durango and surrounding areas.

“Water is the most important thing we get from this area,” said Ed Zink, a Durango rancher and small-business owner, who attended the hearing. “And to protect the water, we have to protect the land.”

He says the water in Hermosa Creek is much better quality than in the Animas and provides dilution and better overall water quality.

“It’s easier to protect the Hermosa than to fix the Animas,” Zink said…

Many studies since the Wilderness Act passed in 1964 have recommended a federal wilderness designation for this land, but it has never materialized. For the last six years or so, people in the area have worked on the bill to preserve the historic use of the land and give it a wilderness designation.

“A lot of various groups worked very hard to bring this together,” Tipton said in a phone interview after the hearing. “We’ve got something that is very appealing at the local level, and it should serve as a model for writing future legislation.”[...]

The area to be designated as federal wilderness hasn’t seen a high level of motorized recreation and is suitable for that designation, Jones said…

The House version of the bill will be scheduled for markup by the full committee and voted on.

“I am confident that there will be no pushback on the bill from the committee,” Tipton said.

He thinks the bill will move forward quickly and said he would work to expedite the process.

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., introduced the bill in the Senate in April 2013. The Senate version is co-sponsored by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.

It received a committee hearing in the Senate in November, but has yet to be voted on in committee. According to Philip Clelland, Bennet’s deputy press secretary, his office is working with the committee and is hopeful that a vote will be scheduled soon.

More Hermosa Creek coverage here and here.


US Representative Scott Tipton Testifies on Hermosa Creek Legislation in Senate

November 29, 2013
Hermosa Park

Hermosa Park

Here’s the release from Representative Tipton’s office:

Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO), today, testified in support of the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act of 2013 in the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee. Tipton and Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) have introduced companion bills in the House (H.R. 1839) and Senate (S.841) to protect the Hermosa Creek Watershed–an area in the San Juan National Forest north of Durango–as well as protect multiple use of the land.

In his testimony, Tipton spoke on the community effort behind the legislation that is endorsed by a broad coalition of stakeholders including: the City of Durango, the La Plata County Commission, the Southwestern Water Conservation District, the San Juan County Commission, Region 9, the Colorado Snowmobilers Association, Jo Grant Mining Company, Inc., in addition to numerous business and sportsmen groups, among others.

More Hermosa Creek watershed coverage here and here.


Bennet, Tipton Reintroduce Companion Bills to Preserve Hermosa Creek Watershed

May 12, 2013

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Here’s the release from US Representative Scott Tipton’s office:

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and Representative Scott Tipton are introducing a 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 bill would establish management for the Hermosa Creek 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’s bill was introduced today, while Tipton will introduce his bill in the House as early as tomorrow.

“We are lucky in Colorado to be able to enjoy many of the country’s most beautiful landscapes in our backyards. The Hermosa Creek Watershed represents some of the best Colorado has to offer,” Bennet said. “This bill will protect this land for our outdoor recreation economy and for future generations of Coloradans and Americans to enjoy. It is the result of a local effort that took into account the varied interests of the community, and that cooperation helped us put together a strong bill with the community’s input.”

“As one of Colorado’s most scenic areas, Hermosa Creek has long been treasured by the local community and by countless visitors who have explored all that the region has to offer,” Tipton said. “Local stakeholders including snowmobilers, anglers, hunters, other outdoor enthusiasts, elected officials, miners and Southwest Colorado residents have voiced their support to preserve the Hermosa Creek watershed and the multiple use recreation opportunities it provides. In response to this locally driven effort, Senator Bennet and I have joined together to put forward legislation to, without any additional cost to taxpayers, protect and preserve this special place, and ensure that Coloradans as well as visitors to our great state have the opportunity to experience Hermosa Creek’s abundant natural beauty for generations to come.”

“On behalf of the La Plata County Commissioners, I thank Senator Bennet and Congressman Tipton for their great work for the interests of La Plata County citizens,” said Julie Westendorff, La Plata County Commissioner. “This bill protects the clean waters of our Hermosa Creek and promotes the responsible use of federal lands for the recreation that supports our economy and sustains our quality of life.”

“We are very excited about this bill. We are hopeful that all the hard work and cooperative partnership that went into the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act will lead to the swift passage of this bill for the benefit of Southwest Colorado and all the visitors to our area.” said Pete McKay, San Juan County Commissioner.

“The Hermosa Creek Wilderness bill rests on a foundation of broadly-based stakeholder input,” said Dick White, mayor of Durango. “It will protect the watershed while preserving historical and recreational values. In addition, it provides protection for iconic scenic and recreational areas near the City of Durango. The bill will contribute both to the natural amenities that attract residents and tourists to Southwest Colorado and to the economic benefits that they bring.”

“It was my privilege to represent the interests of the Southwestern Water Conservation District and San Juan County, Colorado during this process. Interests of the Southwestern Water Conservation District included protecting existing water rights and uses; and, the potential for future water development. The interests of San Juan County included protecting existing water quality, county road access, mineral development potential, forest product harvesting, and recreational uses,” wrote Stephen Fearn, President, Jo Grant Mining Company, Inc. “Both the District and San Juan County have voted to support the proposed legislation.”

The bill, which is cosponsored by Senator Mark Udall, 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.

Per the community recommendations the following trails all remain open to mountain biking: Hermosa Creek, Dutch Creek, Elbert Creek, Corral Draw, the Colorado Trail, Little Elk Creek, Jones Creek, Pinkerton-Flagstaff and Goulding Creek. Also, in keeping with the community recommendations, the following trails will remain open to motorized use: Hermosa Creek, Jones Creek, Pinkerton Flagstaff, Dutch Creek and Corral Draw. In addition the bill will allow areas in the Hermosa Creek watershed currently used by snowmobiling to remain open to that use. Also, at the request of Silverton and San Juan County, the bill ensures areas currently open to snowmobiling on Molas Pass will remain open for that use.

The bill contains several provisions to provide for active land management in areas designated by the bill as necessary to control wildfires, insect infestations and disease outbreaks. Finally, per the request of the Durango City Council and La Plata County Commission, the bill would prohibit future federal mineral leasing on Animas Mountain, Perins Peak, Ridges Basin and Horse Gulch.

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., in addition to numerous business and sportsmen groups, among others.

More Hermosa Creek Watershed coverage here and here.


Restoration: Colorado Parks and Wildlife stocks Hermosa Creek with Colorado River cutthroat #coriver

September 15, 2012

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Here’s a look at restoration efforts on Hermosa Creek, from Dale Rodebaugh writing for The Durango Herald. Click through for the Herald video taken on Wednesday at the headwaters. Here’s an excerpt:

Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists and volunteers, including Trout Unlimited, planted 11,000 fingerlings about 3 inches long and 200 10-inchers in the main stem of Hermosa Creek upstream from Hotel Draw. Fish were carried in bags from trucks and emptied into Hermosa Creek at various points. If the fish had to be carried any distance, they were transported in super-oxygenated water to ensure they arrived in good condition.

Michael Martinez, a fish culturist at the Parks and Wildlife hatchery in Durango, brought the fingerlings Tuesday from the Rifle Falls hatchery in Garfield County…

Native cutthroat trout don’t compete well with other species, so efforts to increase their population – they occupy only 14 percent of their historic habitat – focus on giving them exclusive use of certain waters…

In pre-Columbian times, the Colorado River variety was found in all cool-water habitat above present-day Glen Canyon…

More restoration coverage here and here.


The second phase of the Hermosa Creek restoration project is underway — Brookies are in their gun sights

July 28, 2012

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

Rotenone, derived from the root of a tropical plant, is registered by the Environmental Protection Agency as a pesticide. It degrades quickly, leaves no residue and is no threat to humans or other wildlife.

“We did the first treatment last summer,” Joe Lewandowski, a parks and wildlife spokesman, said Thursday. “Then in June they went back to electroshock, which found fish that can live in little water.”

The Rotenone applied this week will catch all survivors, Lewandowski said.

In late summer or in the fall, native Colorado River cutthroat will be stocked in that section of the stream, Lewandowski said.

More Hermosa Creek coverage here and here.


Senator Bennet sponsors bill that would set up protection for the Hermosa Creek watershed

July 19, 2012

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Here’s the release from Senator Bennet’s office:

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today introduced a 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 bill would establish a long-term management plan for the land based on recommendations from the Hermosa Creek River Protection Workgroup, which includes local water officials, conservationists, sportsmen, mountain bikers, off-road-vehicle users, outfitters, property owners, grazing permit holders and other interested citizens.

“The Hermosa Creek Watershed represents some of the best Colorado has to offer. It deserves to be protected for our outdoor recreation economy, and for future generations of Coloradans and Americans to enjoy,” Bennet said. “This bill originated from a local effort that took into account the varied interests of the community. Their collaborative approach set the tone early for a public process that led to a strong bill.”

The bill, which is cosponsored by Senator Mark Udall, 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, selective timber harvesting and grazing.

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. The Wilderness Act also contains several provisions to provide for active land management in wilderness areas as necessary to control wildfires, insect infestations and disease outbreaks.

Finally, per request of the Durango City Council, the bill would protect Animas Mountain and Perins Peak near Durango from future federal mineral leasing.

Supporters of the bill include the La Plata County Commission, the San Juan County Commission, the International Mountain Biking Association, and the Durango Herald editorial board among others.

“We commend you for respecting the hard work of the Hermosa Creek Workgroup. We support the legislation, and stand ready to help in whatever way to see it enacted into law,” said the La Plata County Commissioners.

“The residents of Durango support Senator Bennet’s legislation to protect Hermosa Creek in a way that respects the variety of interests in our community. We especially appreciate the inclusion in this bill of a provision the City of Durango formally requested to put our cherished local icons Animas Mountain and Perins Peak off limits to oil and gas development,” said Durango City Council Member Christina Rinderle.

Last year, Bennet wrote 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.

Thanks to those rabble-rousers at the Colorado Environmental Coalition (@CoEnviroCo) for the heads up.

More Animas River watershed coverage here and here.


Native trout restoration project on Hermosa Creek

July 2, 2011

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Here’s the release from the Colorado Division of Wildlife:

A major initiative by the Colorado Division of Wildlife to restore the native Colorado River cutthroat trout to the San Juan mountains will begin this summer in the upper Hermosa Creek drainage about 35 miles north of Durango.

The three-year project is a cooperative effort of the Division of Wildlife and the U.S. Forest Service, and part of a larger multi-state and agency effort to restore Colorado River cutthroat trout to more of its historic range.

Colorado River cutthroat are native to the Colorado River Basin.

The project will be explained to the public at an open house from 4-8 p.m., July 13, at the Durango Recreation Center’s Windom Room.

“Upper Hermosa Creek offers an excellent location for a native trout recovery project,” said Jim White, aquatic biologist for the Division in Durango. “The area is a big, complex network of tributaries and a main stem river with excellent water quality and trout habitat. The limestone geology is favorable for trout and the area is easily accessible to field crews and anglers.”

Wildlife biologists identified the Hermosa Creek area as a prime spot for restoration about 20 years ago. In 1992, a similar project restored native cutthroats on four miles of the creek’s upper East Fork.

This summer’s project will begin the process to reclaim about nine miles of Hermosa Creek at its headwaters. This phase is expected to take two years to complete, White said. The next phase will connect the main stem of Upper Hermosa Creek to the East Fork of Hermosa Creek. All in all, the full project is expected to last three to five years. When completed, Colorado River cutthroat trout will inhabit more than 20 miles of the Hermosa Creek drainage

Colorado River cutthroat trout currently occupy only a small portion of their historic range. Over-harvest, decline in water quality and the introduction of non-native trout starting in the 1850s nearly wiped out the native fish. Fortunately, Division biologists found remnant populations in Colorado, established brood stocks, and the species is now sustained through habitat protection, hatcheries, and stocking. The goal of the Division’s native trout program is to create sustainable wild populations of cutthroat trout to provide for the long-term survival of the species.

The Colorado River cutthroat trout is listed as a state species of concern; environmental groups have petitioned for it to be listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. The Division hopes that successful restoration programs will eliminate any need to consider listing the fish.

Eliminating non-native fish from Upper Hermosa Creek is the first step of the process. The Forest Service constructed a waterfall barrier on the creek near Hotel Draw last summer that will prevent non-native fish from swimming upstream into the newly reclaimed habitat. In early August, water above the barrier will be treated with Rotenone, a chemical derived from a tropical plant root which is also commonly used as an organic insecticide for roses. Rotenone, an EPA-registered pesticide, will kill the existing fish, mostly brook trout. The chemical is fast-acting, only affects aquatic species, leaves no residue and degrades quickly. Rotenone has been used for decades in fisheries management throughout North America and poses no threat to human health.

Before the treatment, the Division of Wildlife will capture some of the fish in the creek and move them to spots below the treatment area.

Because upper Hermosa Creek comprises a complex system, the water will be treated again in the summer of 2012 to assure that non-native fish are no longer present. This section of the creek will be restocked with native cutthroats in late summer 2012.

The project will result in a temporary loss of fishing opportunity. Plenty of places to fish, however, are available below the barrier and in other nearby waters.

In the third year of the project, another barrier will be built at the confluence of Hermosa Creek and East Hermosa Creek to allow for chemical treatment on the final section. Two years of treatment also will be required for this reach. Restocking with native trout is expected to occur there in late summer of 2014.

Another restoration project is planned for the Woods Lake area in San Miguel County on the north slope of the San Juan mountains this summer

Both areas will accommodate large numbers of fish. These “metapopulations” provide defense against disease outbreaks and other threats, such as wild fires, that can quickly wipe out small populations.

“While we truly regret the inconvenience to anglers, we want to remind folks that these measures are necessary to maintain Colorado’s native trout,” White said. “There are many miles of streams in this area to fish including the East Fork of Hermosa Creek and below Hotel Draw. And in a couple of years, people will be able to fish for native cutthroats in all these creeks.”

For more information, contact White at j.white@state.co.us, or (970)375-6712.

To learn more about fisheries management in Colorado, see: http://wildlife.state.co.us/Fishing.

What: Open house to explain Colorado River cutthroat trout restoration on Hermosa Creek
When: 4-8 p.m., July 13
Where: Durango Recreation Center, Windom Room
Information: Jim White, (970)375-6712; j.white@state.co.us

More Hermosa Creek coverage here.


Hermosa Creek: Management plan shows the value of consensus building

March 4, 2010

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From The Durango Herald (Megan Graham):

This latter approach was the one employed in the Hermosa Creek Workgroup process that, after 22 months of debate, discussion, compromise, blood, sweat and tears, produced a set of recommendations that everyone involved supports. This was no small feat, given the range – and diversity – of interests who engaged in the process, and the fact that everyone involved had to give up something important to them and yet still can stand behind the outcome makes it impressive indeed.

More Hermosa Creek coverage here and here.


Hermosa Creek watershed working group recommends protection for all 155,000 acres in the watershed

January 31, 2010

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

The workgroup steering committee formed in 2007 to involve anyone interested in protecting natural resources while allowing water-consuming development to continue. The committee membership includes water-use planners, environmentalists and government and tribal representatives. Hermosa Creek is the first of five similar studies to be conducted with the same goal in mind. “Participants decided that the Hermosa Creek watershed is a special pla ce and said they want to work together to protect outstanding water quality,” Marsha Porter-Norton, who coordinated 21 months of workgroup meetings, said Wednesday. “They rallied around a common goal to find solutions to satisfy as many interests as possible.”

More Hermosa Creek watershed coverage here and here.


Hermosa Creek: Prime cutthroat habitat

September 27, 2009

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From The Durango Herald (Paul Shepard):

The Hermosa Creek basin has two outstandingly remarkable values: recreation, and fish and wildlife. Virtually all outdoor recreation activities are allowed including mountain biking, hunting, fishing, camping, off-roading, horses, hiking, climbing, kayaking, skiing, snowshoeing and recreational vehicles. The basin also supports local agriculture with grazing allotments. To build on the outstandingly remarkable value of fish and wildlife, the Colorado River cutthroat trout reintroduction program is under way, with the Division of Wildlife working with the Forest Service…

Hermosa Creek is considered to be the top location in Colorado because it meets the criteria needed for success, including a waterfall on the East Fork to act as a barrier. If a waterfall is not available, a man-made one must be built. The barriers are needed to keep invasive trout from moving upstream and compromising the native-only populations. Barriers cannot be built just anywhere. Available geologic features must include sufficient gradient and a pinch-point. Additionally, a road must be near for equipment and stocking trucks. Such a road exists in Hermosa Park…

Nearly two decades ago, the Forest Service began this process by acquiring Purgatory Flats on the East Fork of Hermosa via a land swap. In 1991, the Division of Wildlife turned this reach into a cutthroat-only fishery above Sig Creek falls. Two years ago, a man-made barrier was built on the main stem at Hotel Draw, and the reintroduction is ongoing. Once the main stem is completed, this will create two separate populations. Thus far, the cutthroat reintroduction program is considered to be a success. However, the ultimate goal is to connect these two populations, allowing for movement between drainages and promoting population diversity. The Hermosa Park private parcel is the limiting factor to complete success. This is because the confluence of these two sections resides on this private property and is out of the jurisdiction of the Forest Service…

Two years ago, Hermosa Creek received the designation of “Outstanding Waters” by the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission. The creek has such high water quality that, by law, it can’t be compromised. Hermosa Creek is the only stream in Colorado with this designation outside of a national park or wilderness area. Also, the Hermosa Creek watershed is Colorado’s largest unprotected roadless area. Literally tens of thousands of acres are so pristine, they are eligible for wilderness designation. And all this is little more than a half hour’s drive from Durango. However, the Hermosa Park private parcel sits right in the middle of this amazing open space. In an open and public workgroup formed in 2008, unrelated to the land swap issues, a consensus values statement for the Hermosa basin was articulated as: The Hermosa Creek area is exceptional because it is a large, intact (unfragmented) natural watershed containing diverse ecosystems, including fish, plants and wildlife over a broad elevation range, and supports a variety of uses, including recreation and grazing, in the vicinity of a large town.

This diverse working group – ocs.fortlewis.edu/riverprotection/Hermosa – sees the value of an intact watershed and recognizes the special and unique characteristics of the Hermosa Creek area.

More Hermosa Creek watershed coverage here.


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