One of the ways I first became active with the San Juan Citizens Alliance, back in 1994, was helping to craft the Citizens Management Alternative for the San Juan National Forest.
For the next four to five years, we pored over maps, hiked, flew over the forest and met with loggers, ranchers and Forest Service personnel. Our goal was to submit a management plan alternative as one option, one perspective, on how the San Juan National Forest should be managed.
Our vision was a forest that continued to be multiple use, with grazing, logging, biking, hiking, wild critters and hidden spots all included. We knew our vision would not become the official plan, but we wanted to help influence the local communities and Forest Service, and eventually the management of the forest itself.
Early on we recognized Hermosa Creek as one place where a lot of different people had active desires and interests. Its close to town, heavily used, with roads in the upper part and also with a lot of really wild country. Even in our own deliberations we recognized that the best way forward was to try and find a way to balance all those interests.
For the last several years, a much broader group has been having much the same conversation. As the first workgroup of the River Protection Workgroups (of which there are five), the Hermosa Creek Workgroup came together with the focus of identifying important values (of all kinds) and determining how to protect those values. Included in this discussion was whether the creek should be a Wild and Scenic River (an official, protective designation that can only be made by Congress and prohibits actions that would degrade the river or stream). In time the workgroup chose to look at the whole watershed.
The Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act is the result of these efforts. It is not the same as San Juan Citizens Alliance had envisioned, nor is it what the San Juan National Forest recommended in its Forest Management Plan. Rather, it is the consensus agreement of 35 to 45 people who participated through the years. Everyone gave up some of what they would have preferred, and everyone got some of their goals met.
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet has drafted legislation to reflect this consensus agreement and is currently seeking comments from the public through his website http://bennet.senate.gov/hermosacreek/. Please let the senator know that you support this effort. Washington politics being what they are right now, it is important that he hears from us and knows that most people in the area support this reasonable and truly community vision for our local forest.
The Animas River Protection Workgroup will kick off today in Silverton. Again, it is open to everyone who wants to discuss important values and ideas, and management alternatives for the Animas River upstream from Bakers Bridge that is surrounded by the national forest. There will be many opportunities to come to meetings, hear different opinions and have your community hear yours. More information about these efforts can be found at http://ocs.fortlewis.edu/riverprotec tion.
email@example.com Dan Randolph is interim director of the San Juan Citizens Alliance.