Bear Creek Watershed Restoration Project

A greenback Cutthroat Trout swimming in Bear Creek

A Greenback Cutthroat Trout in Bear Creek in the fall of 2014. Photo credit: Josh Nehring, Senior Aquatic Biologist, Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Notice

The Pikes Peak Ranger District of the Pike-San Isabel National Forest will temporarily close several trails in the Bear Creek Watershed over the next few weeks to ensure public safety.

Due to the steep slopes and potential for large rocks and materials rolling downhill, several trails below the new trail construction will be temporarily closed to all public entry.  The first closure will affect the FS Trail 720 (Foresters Cutoff) and FS Trail 668 (Pipeline) in mid to late August. Next, there will be a trail closure for several weeks on FST 622 (Seven Bridges Trail) September 5 through September 16. Additional closures may be needed due to the steep terrain and rocky slopes being traversed in conjunction with rock blasting during construction.

Trails Unlimited, a USFS trail building team, began constructing the new 667 Trail in August and will be working through the fall constructing a new multi-use trail on lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and El Paso County. This trail construction is part of the Bear Creek Watershed Restoration Project.

Exact dates of closure will be posted on Twitter  @psicc_nf  #BearCreekTrails

Background

Recent testing has revealed that the fish in Bear Creek (approximately 750 adults) are the sole remaining genetically pure population of greenback cutthroat trout. The population is currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will evaluate these findings and conduct a status review to determine if the population should be listed as endangered. Concerns about the vulnerability of the fish prompted an environmental assessment to find a solution to protect the fish while allowing for appropriate and sustainable recreation in this very popular area.  The assessment is complete and implementation is underway.

Bear Creek Watershed Restoration Environmental Assessment Documents

The alternative selected from the Environmental Assessment is disclosed in the Final Decision document below. The full project analysis is found in the Environmental Assessment.

Bear Creek Watershed Restoration Final Decision and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI)

Bear Creek Watershed Restoration Environmental Assessemnt 

Project Update

The Bear Creek Watershed Restoration Project will being on-the-ground work in early July. The project will protect the greenback cutthroat trout (greenback) while allowing for appropriate and sustainable recreation in this very popular area of El Paso County.

Building new trail will begin the week of July 4 and continue into the fall.  Access will generally be open throughout the summer with short, localized closures necessary for public safety. Decommissioning of some non-system trails and trail parallel to where new trails are being built will be completed concurrently with trail building.

 The project will:

  • Maintain, reconstruct or realign 3.4 miles of road and 15.5 miles of system trails.
  • Close and decommission 7.2 miles of trail, 1.1 miles of which are within the water influence zone of Bear Creek and 0.6 miles are within the Water Influence Zone of tributaries of Bear Creek. Decommissioning trails will also eliminate 20 stream crossings within the Bear Creek Basin.
  • Build 6.4 miles of sustainable system trail.
  • Incorporate 1.7 miles Buckhorn and Palmer non-system trails into the National Forest Trail System.
  • Decommission 9.3 miles of non-system trails.
  • Design and implement stream, riparian, and hill slope improvements.
  • Repair and improve drainage on High Drive to reduce sedimentation from the road into Bear Creek on the portion of the road that runs parallel to Bear Creek.
  • Convert High Drive to administrative use only for motorized traffic.
  • Install interpretive signs
  • Institute a regulation to prohibit public access off system routes, over-snow vehicles, and camping in the Bear Creek Basin.
  • Institute a regulation to prohibit open fires and recreational shooting within the project area.
  • Institute a regulation banning people and domestic animals (i.e. dogs, horses, pack animals, etc.) from entering or being in Bear Creek.
  • Institute a regulation requiring domestic animals to be leashed or harnessed on Trail 666 (Bear Creek) and the proposed “New Mount Buckhorn Connector” Trail.

Related Documents (PDF versions):