The mission of the Western Slope Conservation Center is to build an active and aware community to protect and enhance the lands, air, water, and wildlife of the Lower Gunnison Watershed.



Learn more and get involved by taking action with us.

The Western Slope Conservation Center is always working to ensure the health and preservation of the Western Slope of Colorado by working with our local, state, and federal governments, businesses, conservationists and stakeholders.


Working with the Community to protect our land for generations to come.

At WSCC, we work to ensure continued conservation efforts by working alongside community members and creating educational opportunities within local schools.


The Conservation Center has been working since 1977, check out what we've done.

The Conservation Center maintains an interactive map that includes a wealth of watershed information that you can explore. Our map layers include oil & gas leases and wells, irrigation ditches, restoration sites, soil data, USFS recreation routes, and more.




We formed in 1977 to disseminate information about regional energy development and its impacts on the region’s natural resources. Today, our mission is to build an active and aware community to protect and enhance the lands, air, water and wildlife of the Lower Gunnison Watershed.

As a result of our work, in 35 years the communities of the Lower Gunnison Watershed will be characterized by intact and functioning ecosystems, clean and abundant water resources, well-managed lands with the highest level of protection they deserve, and informed and an engaged citizenry that understand the connection between the vitality of its ecological and social communities.



Once an in-stream gravel mine, we have worked hard and received several grants to restore riparian habitat and make the Park a family-friendly recreation area.


The Conservation Center is dedicated to keeping a watchful eye on the quality of our water quality. Our volunteers monitor every month and collect samples from an established network of stream stations.


The data illustrated in our interactive maps tell the true story of conservation in Delta County. Layers represent oil & gas development, roadless areas, irrigation ditches and more.


Air & Water Quality
Public Lands
River Park

Leah’s 40th-birthday Run to celebrate WSCC’s 40th

April 14, 2017
From Leah: “My 40th birthday is coming up in about 6 weeks, and I see it as an opportunity to shamelessly exploit my age to raise money for an organization I really value here in the North Fork Valley. On May 20, I plan to run as far as I can, farther than I ever have run. I’m not sure how far this will be, but hopefully 20-30 miles. I am looking for people who will be willing to pledge per mile or any amount, and have those contributions go to the Western Slope Conservation Center, a local non-profit (so your donations are tax deductible) which also turned 40 this year. For folks who’d rather not donate, please think about running or biking some of the distance with me (so it can be a party! with music! and fun!), or think about how you can make an impact in your own communities.” If you are interested in participating, you can contact pledge using this pledge form, and Leah and the Conservation Center will keep you posted on the event itself as well as how many miles Leah run in total! As it so happens, Western Slope Conservation Center is turning 40 this year also! Thanks, Leah, for helping us celebrate in such a fun way. And thanks to everyone who donates in honor of Leah!  
Events News Public Lands

CO DNR Researcher Presents on Mule Deer + Energy Development

April 10, 2017
Title: “Mule deer population dynamics in the Piceance Basin: responses to recent energy development activities and historic changes in deer demographic parameters.” 7:00 pm Tuesday, April 11th Paonia Public Library Background: This project was initiated in 2008 to address mule deer/energy development interactions and to identify improved approaches for development planning and evaluate habitat treatments as a mitigation option to benefit mule deer exposed to energy development activity. As is typically the case with long-term research projects, we learned several other aspects about mule deer population dynamics that were not the primary focus of the initial research effort.  The Piceance Basin supports the largest migratory mule deer population in Colorado and has been the focus of past research efforts during the 1980s and early 1990s.  Comparing data collected since 2008 to similar data collected during the 1980s-early 1990s provided interesting comparisons to better understand how mule deer population dynamics in this area have changed over the past few decades.  This information highlighted the decline in deer numbers occurring during the early 1990s, which has remained at similar levels since, and a shift from a primarily habitat/forage limited system during the 1980s to improved forage conditions that are not currently limiting this population.  The interesting question is why haven’t deer numbers increased given that this population is no longer limited by forage conditions?  I will address changes mule deer demographic parameters since the 1980s and address potential factors currently influencing this population. Biography for Chuck Anderson: Chuck Anderson received his B.S. in Wildlife Biology from Colorado State University in 1990 and his M.S. and Ph.D. in Zoology and Physiology from the University of Wyoming in 1994 and 2003, respectively. During his Master’s work, he developed and evaluated helicopter sightability models to estimate moose and elk population size and composition. Chuck’s dissertation research involved a number of projects addressing cougar management, predation and population genetics. Chuck was a Large Carnivore Biologist for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department from 1994 to 1997 and from 2004 to 2006, where he directed research evaluating grizzly bear-cattle interactions and application of DNA-based mark-recapture methods for estimating black and grizzly bear populations. Additionally, he analyzed annual harvest data and prepared annual management recommendations for cougar and black bear populations. During 2003 and 2004, Chuck was a Research Biologist with Arizona Game and Fish Department, where he investigated pronghorn migration patterns and a disease outbreak in desert bighorn sheep. Since December 2006, he has worked in the Mammals Research Section for the Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW). In this capacity, he has focused on ungulate research and is investigating landscape scale mule deer/energy development interactions to develop mitigation approaches that benefit mule deer populations in areas experiencing extensive energy development. In addition, Chuck has been serving as Mammals Research Leader for CPW since April, 2013.
News Public Lands

Senator Bennet’s Conservation Leadership

April 10, 2017
Senator Bennet has been making news lately with several bills and actions. Read more below. Bennet Statement on President’s Anti-Climate Executive Order Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today released the following statement in response to President Trump’s Executive Order that attempts to reverse multiple major U.S. initiatives to combat climate change. “This anti-climate Executive Order is a direct assault on the health of our children and clean energy economy,” Bennet said. “President Trump’s decision to rewrite the Clean Power Plan could jeopardize thousands of new jobs and billions to our economy, and produce a confusing patchwork of state laws for American businesses. It also could prevent the EPA from regulating clean air and water, sacrificing a rigorous scientific process in the name of ideology. Instead of leading the fight against climate change and transition to clean energy, this Administration has abandoned it.”  “Despite this disturbing action, Colorado will continue to lead the nation by growing its clean energy economy and meeting its target under the Clean Power Plan,” Bennet continued.  “I’ll continue to work across the aisle to combat climate change for our businesses, our children’s health, and the future of our planet.” Read the full letter here. Bennet Announces Second Round of Colorado Farm Bill Listening Sessions Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today announced the next round of Farm Bill listening sessions with his staff, which will be held in April in the San Luis Valley, Western Colorado, and the Denver area. Bennet is partnering with local producers and agricultural organizations to hold more than two dozen staff-led listening sessions across the state in advance of his work on the next Farm Bill. Bennet will be in Hotchkiss on April 12th. 1:30 – 3pm Delicious Orchards 39126 Highway 133, Hotchkiss, CO 81419 RSVP HERE Bennet Introduces Bill to Permanently Authorize, Fully Fund Land and Water Conservation Fund Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet joined a bipartisan group of Senators to introduce legislation that permanently authorizes and fully funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which conserves and promotes access to America’s parks, rivers, forests, and public lands. “Access to Colorado’s open spaces is critical to our thriving outdoor recreation economy,” Bennet said. “The LWCF has supported hundreds of projects across Colorado, from protecting the Ophir Valley to expanding and improving the Animas River Trail to providing Denver kids with outdoor educational opportunities in their own neighborhoods. Its permanent reauthorization and full funding would ensure that these widely-supported projects continue in the future.” Read full bill here Bennet Reintroduces Thompson Divide Protection Bill Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today introduced the Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act of 2017 to protect more than 172,000 acres in the Thompson Divide and adjacent areas from the possibility of future leasing, while providing compensation for Thompson Divide leaseholders. “The bill reflects the voices of those who live, work, and recreate in the Thompson Divide area,”Bennet said. “We’ve taken great steps by working with these communities to reach a final resolution for long-term certainty and

6th Annual Conservation Days at the Paonia River Park

April 10, 2017
We are gearing up for the Western Slope Conservation Center’s 6th Annual Conservation Days. Conservation Days provides an opportunity for Delta County 4th graders to experience outdoor and conservation education at the Paonia River Park. WSCC ensures that the event comes at no cost to the schools or kids. Partners from the BLM, US Forest Service, Audubon Society, SEI, and more set up unique education stations through which kids rotate and learn about various aspects of conservation and outdoor safety. This year’s event is on Thursday, April 27th and Friday, April 28th. Our generous Conservation Days sponsors are: Kampe Foundation, DMEA, Alpine Bank, First Colorado National Bank, Paonia Realty, Double J Disposal, and Redwood Arms Motel.

BLM Methane Rule at risk: tell Senator Gardner to vote in support of commonsense

March 17, 2017
The majority of people in the country support the BLM’s new methane rule, modeled after Colorado’s own rule, which seeks to significantly reduce the venting and loss of methane from oil and gas activities. Not only is methane a potent greenhouse gas, but it is a valuable resource being squandered. The House of Representatives have voted to roll back the methane rule, but the Senate has yet to vote on the bill during the closing 60-day window to do so. Senator Gardner is a swing vote, and his decision could determine the fate of the methane rule. SEND YOUR MESSAGE TO SENATOR GARDNER TODAY! Send a letter to Senator Gardner through Conservation Colorado’s action alert. You can also contact Senator Gardner directly online: DRAFT LETTER TO SEND TO SENATOR GARDNER Dear Senator Gardner: As a resident of Delta County, I am concerned about methane gas emissions from both active and  closed coal mines in Delta County. I was pleased that the BLM‘s Natural Gas Waste Rule passed earlier this year. I testified at the Coal Scoping Hearing last fall regarding my belief that the old and currently operating coal mines in the North Fork Valley should be used to harvest methane to re-purpose into renewable energy. The Oxbow mine, which is being used  to re-purpose methane gas to electricity for Aspen Ski Corp, is the perfect national demonstration site as the infrastructure for electrical energy conversion is in place. Local economic benefit may be realized if unemployed miners could be used to enlarge the project at Oxbow and potentially set up the Bowie mine site to do the same. As you know, capturing natural gas that is currently wasted on public lands makes economic and environmental sense. Methane traps more heat in the short-term than carbon dioxide, and toxic chemicals from the oil and gas industry can make smog worse, trigger asthma attacks, and cause heart problems and even premature death. We need strong protections in place to cut down on this harmful air pollution. In addition, enough natural gas was lost between 2009 and 2015 to serve more than 6 million households for a year. Since 2013, the amount of wasted gas meant that states, tribes, and taxpayers lost over $1.5 billion, money that could have gone to building roads and hiring teachers or firefighters. As your constituent, I ask that you please oppose any and all attempts to undermine or repeal the BLM‘s Natural Gas Waste Rule, especially through the Congressional Review Act. Colorado has demonstrated that methane rules like these can be successful for the industry and for our health. We need the country to follow our state’s lead. Please vote NO on any attempts to reverse this important rule.

North Fork Mancos Master Development Plan

March 17, 2017
35 new natural gas wells have been proposed for the upper North Fork of the Gunnison watershed, posing significant impacts to local drinking and irrigation water, viewsheds, and wildlife. Please submit scoping comments to the BLM indicating your concern before the deadline on March 22nd. The public will have the opportunity to provide additional response to the plan, but this is the best opportunity to make sure the BLM fully analyses the possible impacts of this development. Check out maps created by Rocky Mountain Wild to provide an overview of the proposal and possible impacts to wildlife and other resources. NFMMDP_Regional Overview NFMMDP_Game Animals NFMMDP_Development Context TO INCLUDE IN YOUR COMMENT: Request the BLM to consider impacts from all potential development associated with the plan, totaling up to 108 wells on 13 pads, rather than the first 35 wells on 5 pads Ask for an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which will provide more thorough analysis of possible impacts, rather than an Environmental Assessment (EA) Ask the BLM to consider cumulative impact from all current and projected oil and gas within the region, including the 146-well Bull Mountain project occurring in the immediate vicinity TO SUBMIT COMMENT: Email to: cc:   BLM provided this news release upon announcement of the proposal: NEWS RELEASE Contact: Shannon Borders, BLM Public Affairs Specialist, (970) 240-5399 Lee Ann Loupe, GMUG Public Affairs Specialist, (970) 874-6717 Jan. 18, 2017 BLM and Forest Service seek public comment on natural gas development proposal north of Paonia MONTROSE, Colo. – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests (GMUG) are seeking public comment on a natural gas development proposal about 12 miles north of Paonia, Colo. Gunnison Energy LLC’s North Fork Mancos Master Development Plan proposes drilling up to 35 horizontal wells from four new well pads and one existing well pad over the next three years. Three new well pads would be on National Forest System lands and one on private. The existing pad is on private land drilling into federal minerals. The project area is accessed via Gunnison County Road 265. The proposal includes upgrading up to 2.2 miles of roads and construction of up to 4.6 miles of new roads. Total initial surface disturbance associated with the project would be approximately 26 acres on Federal lands and 10 acres on private lands. Of these totals, about 17 acres of Federal lands and 3 acres of private lands would remain disturbed over the long-term. Gunnison Energy estimates the wells could produce 700 billion cubic feet of natural gas over 30 years. The GMUG and BLM are asking the public to identify comments, concerns and issues before they begin drafting the environmental assessment analyzing this proposal. “We require companies to provide a multi-year Master Development Plan proposal so that we can better analyze and mitigate potential impacts from oil and gas development,” said Joe Meyer, BLM Southwest District Manager. “Public involvement is an important part of our analysis of

North Fork River Spring Clean-up with Hotchkiss Fire Department

March 17, 2017
The Western Slope Conservation Center and the Hotchkiss Fire Department Swift Water Rescue Team worked together to remove hazards along the North Fork of the Gunnison to improve boater safety on Sunday March 12.   Wyatt Wilson and John Tujague of the Swift Water Rescue Team were present along with Jim Richardson and Jake Hartter of the Western Slope Conservation Center.  The two groups worked with local landowner permission to remove debris piles (snags) from the main river channel. Clearing debris and snags such as these allows boaters to navigate safely downstream without having to portage around obstacles, thereby reducing the risk of trespassing on private property.   Interested in helping out with future clean-ups? Contact WSCC’s Watershed Coordinator, Jake Hartter, by emailing him at or calling 970-527-5307×208. You can also learn more about our watershed programs by visiting our program page here.

Colorado Environmental Film Festival

March 16, 2017
The Colorado Environmental Film Festival comes to Paonia! Come support the Western Slope Conservation Center while indulging in 2 hours of inspiring and beautiful films. Film topics range from climate change to the bee crisis to the Grand Canyon. Drink cider, eat popcorn, and watch films with your pals at WSCC. 6:30 pm on Friday, March 24th Paradise Theatre Paonia, Colorado $10 ticket at the door RSVP and learn more at the Facebook Event Page You can also learn more about the Colorado Environmental Film Festival in Golden at their website.

New Interpretive Signs at the Paonia River Park

March 16, 2017
  Western Slope Conservation Center installed nine new interpretive signs at the Paonia River Park. The signs are a colorful array of watercolor paintings, helpful graphics, and educational text. They serve as an interpretive guide for visitors who wander down the River Park trail. Each sign covers a different theme with topics like: Wildlife, Watershed, Industrial History, and Mayfly Life-cycles. Five signs are still in production and will be installed within the year. Come check out the newly improved River Park to learn about riparian habitats and the North Fork Valley! The signs are designed by Theresa Schism, fabricated by Interpretive Graphics, and installed by Alpine Fencing in Delta, Colorado.

WSCC Hiring for Associate Director

February 21, 2017
Position Title: Associate Director Position Summary: This is a full-time exempt staff position with the Western Slope Conservation Center, a fun and dynamic grassroots environmental organization that has been carrying out watershed stewardship, public lands advocacy, and education for the last 40 years in the North Fork of the Gunnison and Lower Gunnison watersheds. The Associate Director will coordinate and supervise programs, staff, and contractors under the direction of the Executive Director. Responsibilities will include the implementation and improvement of organizational systems for grant acquisition and management, volunteer management, and communications and marketing. The Associate Director will provide supervision and support for all other program and administrative staff and contractors. The Associate Director will work under the direct supervision of the ED and will collaborate with WSCC staff, board, and volunteers. Schedule will vary day-to-day and week-to-week, with a minimum of 40-hour weeks. Some nights and weekends will be required. The position will include traveling within the region, as well as opportunities for professional development and networking within professional conservation networks. The Conservation Center offices are located in the picturesque agricultural mountain town of Paonia in the North Fork of the Gunnison River Valley. The North Fork Valley is a rare gem of high quality rural living with unparalleled access to public lands and outdoor recreation including cross-country and backcountry skiing, rafting, gold-medal fishing, running, and biking. It also boasts the highest density of organic farms in the state of Colorado and the highest elevation viticultural area in the country. Position Responsibilities Organizational Leadership: (10%) Represent organization publicly at public events, conferences, and media engagements; Provide supplemental leadership support for board of directors management; Facilitate effective communication between all levels of organization, including members, staff, and board Administrative Management: (30%) Provide key leadership in assessing and improving organizational systems; Implement new organizational systems as necessary; Manage day-to-day administrative needs Implement new data management systems for collecting, managing, and reporting on donations and contacts (Salesforce CRM or equivalent) Coordinate with Executive Director and Accountant to carry out day-to-day management of donation collection and contacts Grant Management and Development: (30%) Improve organizational systems for grant identification, acquisition, and management in alignment with the organization’s mission and goals; Lead and direct grant writing needs and draft grant applications for both programmatic and organizational grant applications; Coordinate grant reporting systems, data tracking and documentation, as well as effective report completion Program Development: (15%) Collaborate with Executive Director, Watershed Coordinator, contractors, and committee chairs to support strategic program management and leadership of Public Lands, Watershed, and Education programming. Supervise coordination of monthly program committee meetings, committee leadership management, and committee communication systems As necessary, provide direct support and coordination for program committee meetings and events. Communication & Outreach: (10%) Develop and improve communication systems for the organization, including traditional and social media platforms; Supervise daily implementation of communication systems at all levels of the organization in alignment with Development Committee priorities; as necessary, provide direct support for communication content development including emails, website, social media,
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