While conservation has long been integral to our communities, recent years have brought efforts to increase protections for our lands and waterways and the livelihoods that depend on them. One such effort, the Gunnison Public Lands Initiative (GPLI), has been building consensus from diverse users on what shape those protections could take.
Colorado’s population is growing, and that places additional pressure on lands currently considered wild and remote but which aren’t offered official protective status. This concept has formed the basis of multi-year work by a coalition of groups in Gunnison County ranging from hunters and anglers to mountain bikers and ranchers.
A lot can happen in 54 years: phones transition from the size of a bread box to the size of a baby’s palm, life can be passed on to another human generation, eight Fido generations, four ungulate generations, and a blue spruce lives one-quarter of its life.
On August 1, 1876, Colorado was admitted as the 38th state in the nation. Many come flocking to Colorado each season to experience the grandeur of the state’s great outdoors. In Gunnison County we are surrounded by spectacular mountains, valleys, rivers and more; an impressive 80 percent of these lands are public.
There is a place, far up a mountain trail in the West Elk Wilderness that most people pass by without a thought. To reach it takes hours on foot or horseback. Most day’s start before dawn - hours of catching, saddling, and loading horses, just to get us to the trailhead.
As our cows work their way back down the East River Valley, I reflect back on the year in this diverse community with gratitude and look forward to the next with hope. Not long ago my family was wondering if we would be pushed out in the name of economic progress.
Delicious! A word often muttered between bites when having dinner at one of our friends’ houses. The meal often includes waterfowl, small game or big game, but of all of the meats that I have shared in, I think bighorn sheep has been my favorite, and I can see why the first
For months, the work- ing group of the Gunnison Public Lands Initiative (GPLI) has been guided by a simple idea — that any federal legis- lation proposing new public lands protections in Gunnison County is far more likely to make it through Congress if the plan enjoys broad public sup-
In February 2016, the Gunnison County Board of County Commissioners, in collaboration with the office of U.S. Senator Michael Ben- net, convened a community-based working group to explore the pos- sibilities of additional public lands protections for Gunnison County.
In the world of crafting policies to protect public land, legislators rarely bring ideas to local stakeholders — it’s usually the other way around. However, in 2016, the Gunnison Public Lands Initiative (GPLI) formed a working group
As the leading architect of the 1993 Colorado Wilderness Act and an advocate who worked for more than twelve years to get the legislation passed, I am excited to see a new group of public lands users begin to discuss further protections in Gunnison County.
Whether you came out on an adventure with us, signed a letter of support, or provided us with feedback, we want to thank you for helping us to gather the information and build the support we need to permanently protect the places we love.
We would like to thank Senator Cory Gardner for introducing the Outdoor REC (Recreation Economic Contributions) Act with Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire. Despite outdoor recreation driving a significant amount of business into our valley each year, statistics that quantify its overall economic impact are hard to find.
Among many things I am thankful for this year, I feel especially grateful for our public lands in Gunnison County. My life here, from my education to personal recreation to my work, revolves around the mountains and rivers and valleys that make this home.
We appreciate that GPLI is taking a creative and practical approach to identifying specific areas for SMAs and Wilderness. By using both SMA and Wilderness designations, GPLI’s proposal will protect important backcountry areas while allowing highly valued activities like hiking, hunting, fishing, livestock grazing, mountain biking, backcountry skiing and motorized touring to continue.
Mendicant Ridge has been proposed as part of the Gunnison Public Lands Initiative’s extension to the West Elk Wilderness. We’ve been hiking and hunting in the area for over a decade and wish to see this kind of backcountry experience available to all of us and our heirs, in perpetuity. GPLI’s proposal would ensure that the scenic, recreational and ecological integrity of this area remains intact.
In Gunnison County, several entities exist to help protect public lands from development for several reasons. Most reasons include managing development and/or recreation, or striking a balance between the two. Gunnison Public Lands Initiative (GPLI) is one of those entities, and although only three years old, it is bringing different organizations and stakeholders together at the same table to develop a creative land use plan that it hopes the entire community will support.
Other congressional bills that aim to protect wilderness areas currently exist, and smaller initiatives abound — some that even overlap with DeGette’s bill.
Gunnison Public Lands Initiative (GPLI) also has looked at areas adjacent to the West Elk and Powderhorn Wilderness areas and determined that they are worthy of preservation, yet their initiative is locally-driven and more comprehensive for Gunnison County.
“We have, I think, a much broader vision for what Gunnison County could look like for public land protection,” said GPLI coordinator Hilary Henry.
The One Valley Prosperity Project has asked Gunnison County residents to define what “prosperity” means to them. There are many pieces to prosperity for local businesses, but healthy public lands are critical in a County that is 83% BLM and Forest Service lands and heavily reliant on tourism and recreation.
GPLI’s proposal for the protection of public land will permanently protect some of our most important habitat, headwaters, and ecosystems in Gunnison County.In doing so, the areas protected will retain the quality of wild places where one can seek solitude, enjoy scenic views, and appreciate natural landscapes.
I’d like to take this opportunity to shed some additional light on the Gunnison Public Lands Initiative (GPLI) as I believe the overall concept greatly supports the primary reason many of us choose to live in Gunnison County — our backyard. The views we have from the top of our peaks, our rivers and streams full of trout, our expansive system of trails, and the nearly unlimited opportunities to get into the backcountry.
We are writing to voice our gratitude for the hard work of our Representative Scott Tipton and Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall in the passage of the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act this past December.
Maintaining the incredible fishing in Gunnison County means protecting our public lands as they are—wild and free from unnecessary development. That’s why I support the Gunnison Public Lands Initiative.
During the last couple decades there have been numerous proposals to protect public lands in Gunnison County. None were adopted or implemented. There is a new initiative, however, that is a forward-thinking, well-balanced legislative proposal that has garnered support from a variety of stakeholders.