Reasons for Protections
Gunnison County is growing and changing.
By the year 2050, the State Demographer predicts our population will have grown to over 21,000 - an almost 50% increase from the 2015 population. The State of Colorado’s population will increase even more greatly in the same time period, with estimates growing to 8.1 million.
This increase in population in Colorado will likely correspond with greater tourist visitation and greater variety of users coming to recreate in Gunnison County. While the Town of Crested Butte only has a year-round population of only 1,500, a popular trailhead outside of town receives approximately 50,000 visits between May 15th and September 15th. This can be an economic boost, but can have unintended consequences to the land. We are already starting this shift.
The GPLI is built on the core value that public land recreation, conservation, and ranching form the very fabric of the county’s culture, economy, and way of life.
The Gunnison Basin has been identified as one of the state’s largest and most important potential conservation areas, in part because it hosts the world's largest remaining habitat and population of Gunnison sage-grouse. We also have exceptional habitat for big game and some of the state’s most productive game units. The streams in Gunnison County are habitat for the globally rare Colorado River cutthroat trout. For these and many other species, it is important to protect habitat, especially in the face of a changing climate.
Ranching, an early industry of the Gunnison Valley, continues to play an important role in the local economy, culture, and landscape. With the industry’s close ties to public lands, there needs to be thoughtful consideration to ensure ranching remains viable and feasible. Extractive uses, including timber, natural gas, and coal exist on some lands within the County, and protecting sensitive lands from development helps to protect clean air, water, recreation, and other values.
Therefore, the timeliness of this initiative is significant. The GPLI’s goal is to protect the wildest land in the county as wilderness and preserve additional lands for other outstanding values through Congressional legislation.