100,000 acres of SW Colorado wilderness now under federal protection

December 22, 2014
Photo: Hermosa Creek Trail
The Hermosa Creek Trail north of Durango, Colorado. (Photo: Courtesy Flickr user Trailsource/Creative Commons)

A 100,000-acre swath of southwest Colorado wilderness is now under federal protection that will preserve the area for use by outdoor enthusiasts.

President Barack Obama signed legislation on Friday that protects the Hermosa Creek Watershed area near Durango. Earlier in December, the U.S. Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act that included the Hermosa bill.

The legislation pulls together three parcels for protection, the Durango Herald reported:

In the western portion, 37,236 acres of wilderness will be created. There would be a 68,289-acre “special management area,” with the northern chunk to be left as is, dirt roads and all. The eastern part, 43,000 acres, would be protected as a roadless area, but it still would allow mountain bikes and motorcycles.

It also establishes the 461-acre Molas Pass Recreation Area, a piece that helped snowmobilers support the plan.

Conservationists, Democrats and Republicans have backed the project, which has been in the works for years. 

"Thanks to the diligent work of U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, U.S. Representative Scott Tipton, and local stakeholders in southwest Colorado, we are poised to add 108,000 acres of protected lands, including 37,236 acres of new wilderness, to the Hermosa Creek Watershed near Durango," Conservation Colorado Wilderness advocate Scott Braden said in a statement.

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