We appreciated the Heralds coverage of the Hermosa Creek hike with Sen. Bennet (May 30). There is additional important information for the public to know about the River Protection Workgroup project the overall effort through which the Hermosa Creek Workgroup completed its work.
During the process, 35 to 50 people, representing many diverse interests, regularly participated. This project was started by the Southwestern Water Conservation District and the San Juan Citizens Alliance in 2006 to convene workgroups on five selected river and stream segments, including Hermosa Creek, the San Juan River, Vallecito Creek/Pine River and the Animas and Piedra rivers.
These segments were selected because the Forest Service, in its 2007 Draft Land Management Plan, determined segments of them to be suitable for Wild and Scenic River status the actual designation of which can only occur through Congressional action.
These workgroups are open to anyone wanting to discuss the important values for each segment and to help recommend how those values can be protected while allowing suitable water development.
The project balances the need to plan for future water supplies while protecting existing uses such as conservation, recreation, grazing and other economic values. The article said that the purpose was to protect wildlife one of the many values identified, but not an accurate summary of the projects goals.
The Hermosa Creek Workgroup met for 22 months and considered the entire Hermosa Creek watershed. That work groups deliberations led to the legislation that Sen. Bennet now is carrying. Work groups for the other rivers may arrive at entirely different recommendations.
Finally, the Trout Unlimited Five Rivers Chapter, The Wilderness Society, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Division of Water Resources and Division of Wildlife, as well as the San Juan Public Lands Center and federal elected officials staff, are members of the River Protection Workgroup Steering Committee.
The Animas River Workgroup starts June 23 in Silverton. We look forward to hearing ideas from that rivers stakeholders about protection of values and suitable water development.
Bruce Whitehead, Southwestern Water Conservation District, and Dan Randolph, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Durango