Bear Creek Watershed
Just west of Colorado Springs, Bear Creek holds the only remaining pure population of greenback cutthroat trout, Colorado’s state fish. The Bear Creek Watershed lies just west of the City of Colorado Springs along the eastern flank of the Pikes Peak Massif (38°48’15”, 104°55’30”). Encompassing National Forest lands administered by the Pike National Forest, El Paso County, private lands owned by Colorado Springs Utilities, and lands administered by the City of Colorado Springs, the watershed is extremely important for its recreational opportunities, its value as a water resource, and as vital habitat for the greenback cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki stomias).
As the highest priority site for conservation of the greenback, RMFI, U.S. Forest Service, El Paso County, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and other project partners have been working to better manage activities within this high-value watershed and minimize impacts to the fish and its habitat. The greenback cutthroat trout are found in only 4 miles of habitat within Bear Creek, which creates a very vulnerable situation for this population. The population is currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. To protect this last remaining population of greenback cutthroat trout, it is of critical importance to restore this limited habitat to a fully functional condition.
RMFI has worked with the U.S. Forest Service, Colorado Springs Utilities, El Paso County, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in this watershed since 2009 and is an active member of the Bear Creek Roundtable. This group is comprised of a diverse set of stakeholders who meet quarterly to discuss critical management issues within the watershed.
RMFI's initial work in the watershed between 2009-2015 focused on short-term, immediate projects to reduce the amount of sediment transported from the trail to Bear Creek. Solutions included two short trail re-alignments to create a larger vegetation buffer between the trail and creek, constructing sediment traps off the trail to collect sediment, and constructing rock drains to allow water seeps to cross the trail without collecting sediment from the trail. Starting in 2017, RMFI turned its attention to decommissioning and actively restoring trails within the riparian corridor.
- Continue restoration of several miles of decommissioned trails in the watershed on U.S. Forest Service and El Paso County property.
- Complete improvements to the new Kineo Trail (Trail #667).
- Restore riparian areas along Bear Creek through willow planting and streambank stabilization treatments.
PROJECT PARTNERS AND FUNDERS
- Bear Creek Roundtable Members
- Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
- City of Colorado Springs
- Colorado Healthy Rivers Fund
- Colorado Parks and Wildlife
- Colorado Springs Utilities
- Colorado Water Conservation Board
- El Paso County
- U.S. Forest Service