GPLI: Our opportunity to speak up for the future of our public lands

From the Gunnison Country Times and Crested Butte News (September 19, 2014)

Dear Editor,

This spring, I was fortunate take over coordinating the Gunnison Public Lands Initiative from my predecessor, Laura Yale. GPLI is a coalition of groups in the Gunnison Valley working with Colorado Senator Michael Bennet to protect our public lands. I am honored to be a community resource for a project that has such an incredible potential to shape the future of Gunnison County.

Gunnison County boasts thousands of acres of public land, more than 80% of our county. So many of the reasons people love Gunnison County and choose to live here have to do with our undeveloped public lands – the unparalleled scenic beauty in nearly every direction you look; the clean water that flows from our mountaintops into our faucets; the acres and acres of forests that keep our air clean and our wildlife healthy; and the opportunity to hike, bike, dirt bike, ski, ride horses, snowmobile, hunt, and fish in our own backyard. In our tourism, recreation, and ranching-driven economy, public lands not only make people want to live here, but give them jobs to be able to do so.

In my past work in conservation, I have learned that the best projects –  the ones that are successful and are the most valuable to communities – are the ones that engage all stakeholders. GPLI is this type of project. From the beginning, it has been designed as a forum of discussion for groups to work together to find a common vision for the future of our public lands.

We are lucky to have a strong coalition including the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association, Gunnison Trails, High Country Conservation Advocates, the International Mountain Bike Association, The Wilderness Society, and individual hunters and anglers. GPLI has also gathered feedback from numerous other groups, including motorized users, agencies, elected officials, and business owners. Our goal is to safeguard our lands and waters while also protecting existing recreation and uses.

Senator Bennet’s staff has taken feedback from GPLI, motorized users, and other community groups. Currently, they are continuing to reach out to Gunnison County residents and working to write a draft bill that takes into account all of the comments and input they have received.

It’s not often that a senator approaches a community willing to help with a project like GPLI. We are so fortunate to have Michael Bennet assisting us with public lands protection in Gunnison County. This is an incredible opportunity to preserve our wild places – one that shouldn’t be missed. While some protections are in place on public lands, they are still open to mining, drilling, road building, logging, and the inevitable overuse that comes from combining a finite amount of land with increasing demand.

The Colorado State Demography Office projects that the population of Gunnison County will increase more than 40% by 2040, and extractive industries see potential for natural resource development in Gunnison County – oil and gas in the North Fork, coal on Kebler Pass, and hard-rock mining in the Gunnison Valley.

GPLI is our opportunity to speak up for the future of our public lands. Check out our website at to view a map of our proposal areas, sign a public letter of support, or provide feedback on our proposal. We need your help to protect the clean water, vibrant economy, healthy wildlife, and fabulous recreation that make Gunnison County such an amazing place to live. I hope you’ll get involved! If you have comments or questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at

Hilary Henry

Community Coordinator, Gunnison Public Lands Initiative