Recognizing the need for a robust, collaborative conversation about public lands protection, the Gunnison Board of County Commissioners convened the Gunnison Working Group for Public Lands (“the Working Group”). From February 2016 to June 2017, the Working Group met monthly - with the help of a professional facilitator - to discuss a public lands proposal that will protect community values, take into account the various needs of user groups, and provide long-lasting stability to important public lands in the Gunnison County landscape.
The Working Group is the outgrowth of conversations that have been occurring throughout the county for the past five years around concerns about the future of public lands in Gunnison County.
In 2012 U.S. Senator Michael Bennet heard from the Gunnison community on proposals to protect local public lands. At that time Senator Bennet said, “Any conversation about managing Gunnison County public lands must begin with the voices of the local community—those who live here, who know the land and whose economic future depends on these areas.”
The Gunnison Public Lands Initiative (GPLI—originally a collaborative of mountain biking and conservation interests), along with Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, and Trout Unlimited submitted proposals for potential public lands protections to Senator Bennet’s office in 2014. The Gunnison County Sno Trackers and the Gunnison O.H.V. Alliance of Trailriders (GOATs) submitted feedback on the GPLI proposal.
The Gunnison Board of County Commissioners, along with Senator Michael Bennet’s Office, recognized the value in encouraging the community to work together to create a single proposal that would be representative of the entire community’s vision for the future of the County’s public lands. To expand the community conversation, the Working Group formed and was tasked with creating a single, consensus proposal that combined and found compromise between the three original proposals, previously submitted comments, and new information the Working Group gathered.
After meeting for seventeen consecutive months, the Working Group has crafted a unified consensus based proposal. The Working Group, now called the Gunnison Public Lands Initiative, presented that initial proposal to the communities of Gunnison County for discussion and vetting in June of 2017.