By Ty Churchwell
It’s a special time of year for hunters and anglers. Across the country, hunters are pulling out camouflage clothing and warm boots. Blaze orange hats sit on the dashboards of trucks as they head down county roads, destined for a big-game hunt. Waterfowl hunters are arriving in marshes with decoys, a dog and hot coffee. Anglers are stripping streamers through deep runs, warming their hands with their breath as they remember their summer spent on the high-country creeks.
For success in any of these endeavors, one important component is common to all: They all require healthy habitat to support the game animals sportsmen covet.
Sportsmen are an economic force in America. In one year alone, they contribute more than $76 billion to the American economy and help support more than 1.6 million jobs. If a single corporation grossed as much as hunters and anglers spend annually, it would be among America’s 20 largest. In Colorado, those figures total $1.8 billion into our economy and 21,000 jobs. In La Plata County alone, sportsmen have a total economic impact of $43 million each year and support more than 470 jobs.
Clearly, there is a trend here. Promoting strong, sustainable recreation in the Durango and Silverton area isn’t just a good conservation decision, it’s a good business decision.
The Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act, a bipartisan bill currently in Congress, represents the best of what sportsmen cherish locally. Hermosa Creek is Colorado’s largest yet unprotected backcountry area and is home to some of the finest elk and deer habitat in the state. Additionally, Hermosa Creek is the site for Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s largest and most important native cutthroat trout reintroduction program.
Protecting the places we hunt and fish is nothing new for sportsmen. Sportsmen know that good habitat means good herds and healthy fish. But they also know that maintaining such habitat takes work. So, it should come as no surprise that sportsmen have come together with the entirety of Hermosa stakeholders, city and county governments and well over 100 regional businesses in support of durable protections for one of our local recreation treasures. The Sportsmen for Hermosa coalition represents dozens of regional sportsmen’s businesses, outfitters and guides, fly shops, hunting retailers and national sportsmen’s conservation organizations.
But it’s not just sportsmen who see the value in this place. Mountain bikers, horsemen and motorized recreation enthusiasts cherish the main Hermosa trail and share in its thrills, scenery and ease of access. Families desiring developed or backcountry dispersed camping flock to Hermosa each weekend in summer, looking to reconnect with nature that too often eludes us in modern America. Quiet-use hikers, photographers and mountaineers can easily access the resource, yet can get away from it all in just moments.
As sportsmen, we understand this love of Hermosa Creek, which all user groups share. This is why hunters and anglers played a large role in the collaborative, community-based discussion that came to consensus that the Hermosa Creek area is special, important and worthy of permanent protections. We are thankful for the support, leadership and sponsorship of the bill by Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Scott Tipton. We offer our assistance and encouragement to our sponsors as they work with Congress to move the bill through the legislative process and see it through to enactment.
Hunting and fishing are traditional American values and an activity that binds families and friends in healthy, outdoor activities. But without habitat and healthy game, the sporting endeavors fail to exist. Habitat equals opportunity, and sportsmen support protecting the best of the best.
Ty Churchwell is the backcountry coordinator for Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project. He lives in Durango. Reach him at TChurchwell@tu.org.