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. It seems that the Gunnison Valley has been discovered, and for the very reasons that most of us were drawn here or were compelled to remain here, will continue to be impacted as we see more visitors and residents in the decades to come.
Unless we start considering how to holistically manage these changes, we are destined to become just another tourist destination, in no way unique from those that surround us. Thankfully, it seems the dialog within the Valley has shifted towards a more collaborative and forward-thinking approach. I’m grateful that the conversation has matured to become multifaceted and that there are community forums for discussion on what we want our future to look like.
One of those forums that has been in process for several years is the Gunnison Public Lands Initiative (GPLI): a coalition of ranching, water resource, conserva- tion, recreation and tourism, and hunting and angling interests. We have been thinking through the challenges we see surrounding increased use on our public lands and how to potentially use legislative designations to ensure that the natural resource is protected, while still maintaining a diversity of uses on these landscapes. Having proactive discussions such as these is critically important to our community fabric, as it brings conflict o the trail and into a productive setting.
While each user group has their own motivations, for the ranching community, the GPLI helps define the guardrails of use within our grazing allotments. It allows us to create long-term plans so that we may achieve our rangeland health and operational goals, which will be crucial to our sustainability in the Valley. Inherent in our local agricultural model is the integration of private and public lands, and the viability of public lands grazing has implications that are far reaching. Local ranching operations are essential to protecting intact landscapes from streambed to ridgeline. They continue a generational and uniquely local food production system, and provide the verdant viewsheds that are so widely appreciated.
I would encourage everyone to visit gunnisonpubliclands.org to review the initial proposal. We continue to shape the next draft with community feedback and look forward to working with Colorado’s members of Congress to protect our public lands and way of life. I want to thank all of the folks that put so much time and effort into this project. With honest conversations about our hopes and fears, we have built a level of trust that allowed us to have the hard discussions around something that ultimately unites and binds us, our shared love for public lands. We may experience them differently, but the health and vitality of our public lands is inextricably linked to the success and prosperity of our community. We can all be thankful to call this place home.
Bruce Allen, Allen Ranches