Trout Unlimited and other local stakeholders yesterday expressed concern with a substitute amendment released on Tuesday, Sept. 16, that alters key provisions of the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act of 2014.

The bill is slated for markup in the House Natural Resources Committee today, Sept. 18. The original bill, H.R. 1839, introduced in May 2013, was the product of years of collaboration and consensus among numerous stakeholder groups in Colorado-and the bill enjoyed strong bipartisan support from its Colorado sponsors, Rep. Scott Tipton and Sen. Michael Bennet. The bill was widely seen as noncontroversial, and a model of collaboration.

Then, two days before this week’s markup-without input from stakeholders-the bill was amended to alter key habitat protections.

“The version of the bill that went into committee was the product of years of hard work and consensus-and it had broad, bipartisan support among local stakeholders, from sportsmen’s and conservation groups to local businesses and county officials,” said Ty Churchwell, Hermosa coordinator for Trout Unlimited. “The amended bill raised a number of questions about whether the original consensus was still being honored.”

One of those questions concerns the 108,000-acre Watershed Protection Area to maintain the health of the Hermosa Creek watershed, safeguarding the purity of its water, its native trout fishery, and its recreational values (§4 of H.R. 1839). That provision was altered by committee to say the land “may be called” the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Area. “In the last 48 hours I have heard varying interpretations of the Watershed Protection Area language,” said Churchwell. “I hope there will be an opportunity to get clarity before the bill progresses further in Congress.”

The original bill also established a Special Management Area to be managed for conservation, protection and enhancement of watershed, cultural, recreational, and other values, and for the protection of the Colorado River cutthroat trout fishery. The new version of the bill released Tuesday removes that language and replaces it with a broader management approach.

“It takes hard work to reach consensus on a bill like this,” said Tim Brass, Southern Rockies coordinator of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. “Congress should make sure that the goal of the original bill is honored as it moves toward becoming law.”

“The Hermosa Creek proposal is the product of Westerners rolling up their sleeves and finding common ground,” said Joel Webster, director of western public lands for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Sportsmen ask that the House Natural Resources Committee advance legislation that honors the intent of the original stakeholder proposal.”

Trout Unlimited and other stakeholders called on Congress to ensure that the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act is true to the proposal put together over three years by a broad stakeholder process that was open, inclusive and transparent.

“Rep. Tipton has been a strong leader on the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act since he introduced the bill early last year,” said Churchwell. “We are talking with his office and gaining a better understanding of the changes, but we have remaining concerns with the language in Tuesday’s amendment. We look forward to working with Rep. Tipton and others in our congressional delegation as the bill moves through the legislative process to ensure that it fully reflects the stakeholder agreements.”

Contact:

Ty Churchwell, 970-903-3010
Keith Curley, 703-284-9428

Logo courtesy Trout Unlimited

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