Bear Creek Watershed
LAND MANAGER'S RESOURCES
The U.S. Forest Service Pikes Peak Ranger District is the Land Manger for the Bear Creek Watershed, any questions or comments about this project should be directed to the Land Manager. RMFI will not serve as the point of contact for comments regarding this project.
1. Read the Bear Creek Watershead Restoration Project page from the Pike Ranger District with additional resources here
2. Specific FAQ's provided by Pike Ranger District on Illegal Trail Closures in the Bear Creek Watershed here.
AT A GLANCE
The Bear Creek Watershed Restoration Project is a multi-year effort to protect the federally protected greenback cutthroat trout. The project is a collaborative effort led by the United States Forest Service – Pikes Peak Ranger District. The primary goal of the project is to protect the greenback cutthroat trout and its habitat while allowing for appropriate and sustainable recreation in this very popular area of El Paso County. One of the primary threats to the fish and its habitat is excessive sedimentation into the creek. Higher sedimentation reduces the amount of viable habitat for the fish. RMFI, at the direction of our U.S. Forest Service partners, implements a variety of trail and restoration projects in the watershed, including the closure and decommissioning of illegal non-system trails, trail and drainage improvements on system trails, and hillslope erosion control treatments. While responsible outdoor recreation is permitted in the watershed, off-trail travel is strictly prohibited. The creation or use of illegal, unauthorized, non-system trails in the watershed, whether intentional or unintentional, is extremely impactful to the fish and its habitat. Illegal trails increase erosion and lead to downhill sedimentation into the creek. We encourage everyone to enjoy the area, but stand with our land management partners in insisting that users stay on designated trails.
Just west of Colorado Springs, Bear Creek holds the only remaining, genetically pure, self-sustaining population of greenback cutthroat trout, Colorado’s state fish. The greenback cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki stomias) are found in a mere 4-mile stretch of habitat within Bear Creek, which creates a very vulnerable situation for this population. This 4-mile stretch of Bear Creek is the only place on Earth where a naturally reproducing population of greenback cutthroat exists. The population of fish in Bear Creek also serves as the only brood stock, critical to repopulation efforts to reintroduce the fish into the wild. 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.
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. 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. An Environmental Assessment of the Creek and the fish’s habitat was conducted in 2015, and the results of that Assessment led the Forest Service to adopt a Decision to appropriately manage the Watershed. The decision highlights excessive sedimentation caused by travel routes (roads and trails) as a primary threat to the fish and its habitat. Active management of system and non-system trails in the Watershed is essential to protecting the greenback. This included relocating some system trails away from the Creek, and the closure and decommissioning of all non-system trails in the Watershed.
Bear Creek is just one of many project locations in which RMFI performs our stewardship work. We work across Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak Region, completing a variety of projects. We perform trail construction and maintenance projects in many beloved parks and open spaces including Palmer Park, Garden of the Gods, Red Rock Canyon Open Space, Black Forest and many others. RMFI supports all user groups including hikers, trail runners, mountain bikers, equestrian users, and motorized users. RMFI envisions a world where our work fosters vibrant and healthy natural systems that are respected and cared for by the public. Click here if you’d like to learn more about our History, Mission, Vision, and Values.
MORE INFORMATION AND COMMENTS
Please contact the U.S. Forest Service Pikes Peak Ranger District at 719-636-1602 with any questions or comments about this project.
We recognize the following nations, whose traditional territories we work on in the Bear Creek Watershed:
- Núu-agha-tʉvʉ-pʉ̱ (Ute)
- Jicarilla Apache
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 Captain Jacks 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
If you are interested in donating your time to this project or other similar projects, please check our calendar for workday opportunities or contact Calla Balliett, our Volunteer & Partnership Coordinator with any questions: 719-471-7736 ext. 4# or [email protected]