The U.S. Forest Service is beginning its study of the Bear Creek watershed just outside of Colorado Springs, which is the last home of Colorado's state fish, the threatened greenback cutthroat trout.
The Indy ran an extensive article on the greenback, its fascinating history, and the current controversy over its preservation here.
The Forest Service study is the first step in offering better protection to the fish. The study will look at the current condition of the watershed, and how current activities — such as motorcycling — are affecting the health of the area.
When the study is complete, the Forest Service will use it to make recommendations for changes to the area that could include, for instance, moving trails further from the creek.
Next, the Forest Service will do a National Environmental Policy Act study, which will determine if proposed changes are, indeed, the best move for the watershed and what effects they will have. The NEPA will ultimately determine if the changes will happen and how they will take place.
The two studies could take years to complete, and there are plenty of opportunities for public comment along the way. Read on:
U.S. FOREST SERVICE BEGINS BEAR CREEK WATERSHED ASSESSMENT
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., Oct. 26, 2012 — Bear Creek on the Pike National Forest is home to the sole remaining population of pure greenback cutthroat trout. This recent discovery has prompted the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to review management of the Bear Creek watershed in El Paso and Teller Counties.
According to Forest Supervisor Jerri Marr, “Given the unique status of the population, we want to ensure our management in the watershed is conducive to the conservation and protection of this rare trout.”
An interdisciplinary team of resource specialists will be conducting a comprehensive review of activities in the watershed. This assessment will describe the current situation and identify key issues affecting the watershed. The outcome will identify opportunities to improve management and provide recommendations for future action. No decisions on future management will be made through the watershed assessment.
We invite the public to visit the USFS website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/psicc for more specific information about the watershed assessment and to view related documents. The public may offer comments regarding key issues and opportunities for improved management by December 1, 2012.
Questions and comments concerning the watershed assessment effort should be directed to Mike Welker, Forest Biologist, at 719-553-1515; email at: firstname.lastname@example.org; or mail correspondence to: U.S. Forest Service, Bear Creek Watershed Assessment, 2840 Kachina Drive, Pueblo, CO 81008.
Following completion of the watershed assessment, the USFS expects to move quickly into a NEPA process, which will also offer a public comment opportunity before decisions are made and projects are implemented.
The Bear Creek watershed is an important recreational area along the Front Range of Colorado. The creek is located on the east slope of Pikes Peak, beginning upstream of Jones Park five miles southwest of Colorado Springs and flowing northeast to Fountain Creek. The entire greenback population is found in 4.1 miles of the stream, of which 1.6 miles are on the Pike National Forest, Pikes Peak Ranger District.
The greenback cutthroat is the State Fish of Colorado and is also listed as a threatened species by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.