San Juan County commissioners are being asked to endorse a proposed Special Management Area for the Hermosa Creek drainage, encompassing some 150,000 acres in northern La Plata County and southwest San Juan County.
A public hearing on the matter is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 10 at the San Juan County Courthouse.
The proposal was drafted by the Hermosa Creek Workgroup, which includes a number of stakeholders, including Steve Fearn, San Juan County’s representative to the Southwest Colorado Water Conservation District.
The process was started as a joint effort between the SWCD and San Juan Citizens Alliance.
Fearn said the Hermosa Creek Workgroup is asking Congress to designate 50,000 acres on the west side of Hermosa Creek as wilderness. The eastern boundary would be set back from the creek by one-fourths of a mile to allow possible development of water resources on the creek.
The inventoried roadless area within the drainage would be managed to remain unroaded, although some motorized use would be allowed.
The San Juan National Forest would be directed to prepare a management plan for the SMA, including a comprehensive travel-management plan.
And the entire SMA would be withdrawn from mineral leasing, except for 300 to 400 acres at the northern boundary of the SMA in San Juan County and about 1,000 acres on the southwestern boundary, surrounding a number of patented claims.
Fearn said the workgroup has “not ruled out wild and scenic river designation for a segment” of Hermosa Creek, but he said water-rights issues complicate the matter.
He said the proposal for a Special Management District came after some 21 meetings during a two-year process.
He said similar workgroups are envisioned for the Upper Animas, the Upper San Juan, the Vallecito and Pine rivers and other headwaters in the region.
Fearn said that not much will change in the Hermosa drainage if the Special Management District is established.
Fearn said he will be asking the county commissioners to write a letter to Rep. John Salazar, D- Colo., in support of the proposed management district.
“We would just like to have something more permanent than the forest management plan,” he said.