Valley Voice December 2021

Page 14

14

December 2021

Valley Voice

More Wilderness? Located at Neste Auto Glass

Sarvis Creek Wilderness Expansion By Jim Hicks

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Through tagging and relocating research by the Colorado Division of Wildlife (now Colorado Parks and Wildlife), it was documented that the lower Harrison and Green Creek areas are important winter range and calving areas for several hundred elk. The Green Creek meadows up on top are important nursery areas for elk. Historically Green Creek had large beaver colonies that built the long, wide meadows. The landscape is mostly aspen and lodge pole pine on the south facing slopes and dark spruce and sub alpine fir on the north facing slopes. Due to the pristine nature of Green Creek it is important to protect this area as wilderness to provide habitat for wildlife and back country recreation for the public. This area has remained in a pristine state because of the difficulty of access.

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Wildlife is abundant in the Green Creek drainage. There is a significant elk herd in the Green Creek area, estimated at 250 to 300 elk. Also many elk move into this area in the summer from the old mining areas further west. Beaver are no longer abundant in Green Creek. A few beaver are left and the population will eventually return as the aspen growth expands closer to the creek. Mule deer summer in this area, but move many miles west into Moffat County in the winter. Green Creek has a healthy population of brook trout. No threatened or endangered species reside in the Green Creek drainage.

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The Trappers Lake Group of the Sierra Club is proposing an expansion of the Sarvis Creek Wilderness Area. The expansion would include the lower portion of the Green Creek drainage so all the National Forest land in the Green Creek drainage would be in the wilderness area. Placing the land into the wilderness area protects it from mechanized use. As the Yampa Valley becomes more popular for recreation, people will be attracted to this area. A wilderness designation would protect the land and its wildlife in a natural state. The proposed expansion area, lower Green Creek, was in the original Sarvis Creek Wilderness Proposal, but the land was removed from the proposal at the request of the Catamount Ski Area developers to be within the ski area boundary. The Sarvis Creek Wilderness, 47,140 acres, became official in 1993. The ski area was never built and the permit has since expired. The land is now designated in the forest plan as Recreation by the U.S. Forest Service. The expansion would add 7,200 acres to the existing wilderness area. All the Sarvis Creek Wilderness plus the expansion area is no longer used for grazing of livestock. There are no human habitation or roads in the expansion area. There is a user trail from Harrison Creek curve on US 40 into Green Creek. The main activities in the expansion area are hunting and back country skiing.

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The other species are typical of sub-alpine habitats, pine squirrels, pine martin, snowshoe hare, red-tailed hawks, mink, black bear and mountain lions. Even some bighorn sheep spent a winter there. There would be an increase to economic development through more hiking opportunities off of Rabbit Ears Pass, US 40. There are no water projects planned for Green Creek. There are no economical minerals to extract in the expanded wilderness area proposal. The Sarvis Creek Wilderness is the only wilderness area in Colorado below timberline. Its elevations are 7,000 to 10,700 feet. There are no alpine areas in Sarvis Creek. Most of the area is not steep terrain. The area features broad slopes of aspen, spruce, fir and lodgepole pine trees. The climate is characterized by cool summers and heavy snows in the winter. The Sierra Club hopes for your support and approval of this small, proposed expansion. Placing all of the Green Creek drainage in the wilderness will help Colorado permanently conserve 30% of lands and water by 2030. It will also prevent future motorized use. Volunteer opportunities: Photos of the area, help create a “Sarvis Creek Wilderness” website, help create promotional materials.

Trappers Lake Group of the Sierra Club contact: Jim Hicks JHicksofsteamboat@gmail.com