Healthy lands keep water clean.

Land use is closely correlated with the water quality of our rivers and streams. Healthy, functioning ecosystems filter runoff, cleaning water resources. Protecting lands from mining, oil, gas, road building, and other development also protects watersheds from pollution and sedimentation caused by industrial activity.

Protected watersheds are more likely to function properly than watersheds without protection.

In 2011, the United States Forest Service classified all of the watersheds on Forest Service lands according to how they functioned. The Wilderness Society compared this watershed information with land use designations, finding that unprotected lands were most likely to have impaired watersheds. Read the 2012 study here.

  • Wilderness is protected from road-building, oil, gas, commercial timber projects, mining, motorized recreation, and mechanized recreation.

  • Inventoried Roadless Areas, an official administrative designation, protects lands from oil, gas, road-building, and commercial timber projects -- but not mining, motorized recreation, or mechanized recreation.

  • Forest Service lands without Wilderness and Inventoried Roadless Area protection are not protected from any of these activities.


Protecting public lands helps ensure clean drinking water.

Crested Butte's drinking water comes from Coal Creek. Part of the Coal Creek Watershed is included in the GPLI's Whetstone initial proposal area. Protecting this area from development will help ensure that Crested Butte has clean water for years to come.

Protecting public lands in Gunnison County is an important step in securing the future health of Coal Creek, as well as many other watersheds across the county. Congressional designation is the strongest form of protection for public lands and one of the best ways to protect Gunnison County’s clean water.
— Coal Creek Watershed Coalition

The Deer Creek Special Management Area would help protect the East River's Watershed. Photo Credit: John Fielder


Gunnison County is home to 244 family ranches. More than 190,00 acres, or about 42% of all the private land in Gunnison County, is in current ranching operation. Clean water is vital for healthy crops and animals and the future of Gunnison's County ranching - an industry which contributes $46 million to our local economy. The GPLI has focused on protecting lands near headwaters in order to ensure that our water remains clean for years to come. 

The headwaters for some ranches in Delta, Hinsdale, Chaffee, and Pitkin Counties originate in Gunnison County. The North Fork Valley, located in Delta County, is one of Colorado's largest producers of organic food and a primary supplier for local, organic produce in Crested Butte and Gunnison. The North Fork Valley relies on clean water that flows from the Raggeds and Beckwith mountains -- areas that the GPLI has proposed for protection.