The Working Group Process
The Gunnison Working Group for Public Lands met seventeen times between February 2016 and June 2017 to craft a proposal, based on consensus, for key public lands in Gunnison County. That group, now called the Gunnison Public Lands Initiative, has crafted a proposal that is the culmination of conversations that have been occurring in the county over the past five years.
With the help of a professional facilitator, the group reached consensus on an initial recommendation by using a process with three phases and continues to meet regularly.
This process ensured that the initial proposal:
- Does not close any roads or trails that are currently open, existing trail uses would remain essentially the same.
- Allows future trail projects to be considered for construction through agency review from the BLM and Forest Service.
- Does not affect popular over the snow riding areas.
- Protects quiet use in areas with high ecological value.
- Ensures that current ranching operations and water use can continue.
- Protects critical habitat for species such as mule deer and elk, while providing flexibility for habitat restoration projects for species such as bighorn sheep and Gunnison sage-grouse.
The proposal is meant to give the Gunnison County community a solid and carefully vetted outline of what public lands legislation could include in Gunnison County. However, the coalition recognizes that community involvement is essential.
The coalition completed their initial recommendations and presented them to the community for review June of 2017. The group began engaging the community in a robust conversation about the proposal and what it would mean for the future of public lands. The coalition believes that the following steps should be taken before any legislation is drafted:.
- The Gunnison County community and state and federal land management agencies have an opportunity to review and comment on the initial proposal.
- Communities who are users and stakeholders of these public lands are consulted as decisions are made for areas in the initial proposal defined as ‘Considered for SMA and/or Wilderness, To Be Vetted With Regional Communities’.
- Boundaries of initial proposal areas are fine-tuned to ensure that they are compatible with the topography, existing water structures, fences, and the needs of local grazers.