From water quality monitoring to invasive species removal to increasing recreational opportunities, we are committed to fostering healthy river and riparian corridors on the Western Slope.
For the past 20 years, we have worked to reclaim a problematic instream gravel mine and convert it to a public access park, now known as the Paonia River Park, complete with a restored river, healthy & well-functioning wetlands, an ADA-accessible 1 mile trail loop system, boat ramp, educational signage, picnic tables, and more. Additionally, we have a 15+ year baseline of water quality monitoring data of the North Fork of the Gunnison River and Lower Gunnison Watershed.
Colorado's western slope's greatest assets lay in our public lands and waters. Our livelihoods have been built on the availability of clean water, healthy forests, rich geology, and fertile soils. As our traditional economies have been supplemented by industries like organic farming, recreation, and tourism, our public lands and waters continue to support our way of life. The Conservation Center is dedicated to protecting and enhancing these resources and access to them to ensure that the Lower Gunnison Watershed remains healthy and intact for generations to come. We are heavily engaged in important public lands planning processes currently underway across the Western Slope, from BLM to USFS to Delta County. These plans will shape our home for years to come, and we need your help!
The Bureau of Land Management's Uncompahgre Field Office is currently updating their Resource Management Plan, which will guide the management of our public lands for the next several decades. We successfully requested the BLM include the North Fork Alternative - a citizen's conservation alternative - in the Draft RMP. The North Fork Alternative seeks to ensure the strongest level of long-term protection for resources such as water supplies and riparian areas; scenic qualities of the valley and our 'million dollar' viewsheds; undeveloped wildlife lands including winter range and migration corridors.
In 2011 & 2012, we organized a campaign against oil and gas lease sales that included parcels in the North Fork Valley that directly threatened our community's natural resources and way of life. We convinced the BLM to defer these leases, and they have not been brought to sale since. More recently as of July 2018, another oil & gas lease sale is threatening our watershed. Along with our regional conservation partners, we successfully convinced Governor Hickenlooper to request deferral of these leases in the December 2018 lease sale.
The Western Slope Conservation Center is dedicated to protecting and enhancing our public lands. Today more than ever, public lands are under threat of being overused, overloved, and overworked. As avid users of the public lands, trails, and forests it is our responsibility to also look out for them! Stewardship is giving back our time and effort to protect and care for the land that gives us so much.
The Conservation Center is partnering with the U.S. Forest Service and focusing on the land that comprise the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests. We host Trail Stewardship Days where volunteers join Forest Service staff on boots on the ground projects including trail construction and maintenance, brushing, and more. We also conduct wilderness monitoring, where we volunteers equipped with rugged tablets provide relevant trail, user, and environmental monitoring data to the Forest Service. This shared information will then be used to prioritize and plan work and management of Wilderness Areas.
Our Stewardship program, though in its infancy, has been successful in maintaining healthy ecosystems and enjoyable user experiences on our public lands. Each summer, we co-host 2-3 Trail Stewardship Work days with the USFS. For our most recent tail days, ~30 volunteers helped the USFS construct turnpikes (or low-bridges) over muddy and boggy sections on some of the most popular trails in the Gunnison National Forest. The result improved trail access/use, while allowing the ecosystem to function naturally.