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.

CURRENT CAMPAIGNS

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.

CONSERVATION PROJECTS

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.

INTERACTIVE MAP

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.

STAY UP TO DATE ON THE AWESOME WORK WE’RE DOING… JOIN OUR LIST!

PROGRAM AREAS

WHO WE ARE

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.

OUR PROJECTS

PAONIA RIVER PARK

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

WATER QUALITY

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.

LOCAL MAPPING

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.

LATEST NEWS

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16th Annual Float & Fest is Back!

April 7, 2016
Register online today- Click here! Although last year’s float trip was cancelled due to the weather, the Western Slope Conservation Center is excited to announce that our float trip is back! This year will mark our 16th year and we are anticipating an exciting event. Our float trip provides a unique opportunity for residents and visitors of the North Fork to make a splash in our local rivers and it is one of the most popular events in Delta County.  Each year, we work hard to recruit boat captains and conservation experts to take floaters down the river on an educational and fun-filled adventure. This event helps to raise funds for the Conservation Center’s continuing efforts to protect our watershed. This year’s float is on June 4th. Dress to impress this year, the theme is ‘Hawaiian’! Boaters will enter the water at our very own Paonia River Park and will journey down the North Fork of the Gunnison River to the Delta County Fairgrounds in Hotchkiss. During the float, information about the Paonia River Park and the history of this particular section of the Gunnison River will be highlighted. Enjoy lunch and a festival afterwards with vendors and fun activities for all ages. This festival is free to everyone, even those who were not able to float! Tickets for the float include shuttle and lunch. Prices are $25 for adults and $20 for children (8-12 years old). This year we are pleased to announce that we are offering 20 youth scholarships for youth ages 8-17 to float for free thanks to a grant from ‘Ride the Rockies’. *NOTE: a parent/guardian must float with them for safety reasons.* This will be on a first-come-first-serve basis, so please contact the Western Slope Conservation Center if you are interested. Details about lunch options will be available soon! The Conservation Center has been managing river restoration projects for over two decades. Past float trips emphasized restoration projects at Midway, Hotchkiss, and the Curry Conservation Easement (2011), the Hartland Diversion Dam (2012), and the Relief Ditch Diversion Dam (2013). If you are interested in sponsoring this year’s event, please let us know. Our past sponsorship ranges from local businesses to national non-profits; if you value conservation and outdoor recreation, then why not? Sponsorship Levels Class V Waterfall Sponsor- $500: 4 complimentary float tickets- – includes float, lunch, and shuttle (value $100), your name and EXTRA-LARGE, FEATURED logo on event posters, banner, our website and emails, and in press releases.  Class III Rapid Sponsor – $250:  2 complimentary float tickets – includes float, lunch, and shuttle (value $50), your name and LARGE logo on event posters, banner, our website and emails, and in press releases. Class I Riffle Sponsor – $100:  1 complimentary float ticket – includes float, lunch, and shuttle (value $25), your name and small logo on event posters, banner, our website and emails, and in press releases.   We are currently looking for experienced boat captains and rafts, so please contact us if you are interested. For more information about sponsoring, scholarships, the float, or to register*

Gunnison Public Lands Initiative Protects the Lower Gunnison Watershed

April 6, 2016
The Gunnison Public Lands Initiative (GPLI) is a coalition of community organizations that are committed to the incredible landscapes, recreation opportunities, and healthy habitats and wildlife of Gunnison County. As the GPLI advocates for congressional protection of our public lands, we support their efforts. GPLI has been careful, methodical, and inclusive in putting together their proposal. They have chosen areas that have strong community consensus behind them and will prove most beneficial to our communities in their natural state. The lands that they have proposed for protection include some of our most important places in the North Fork Valley. Mt. Lamborn is a central feature in our viewshed and the Muddy drainage and Pilot Knob is the source of our agricultural water. The Western Slope Conservation Center has been committed to the protection of public lands in the Lower Gunnison Watershed for 39 years. We work diligently to ensure that the communities of the Lower Gunnison Watershed have intact and functioning ecosystems, clean and abundant water, and well-managed lands with the highest level of protection they deserve. Because of this commitment and the thoughtful work of GPLI, the Conservation Center submitted a letter to Senator Bennet supporting GPLI and congressional protection of some of our most treasured places.

Conservation Center Supports DMEA

April 5, 2016
The Western Slope Conservation Center has worked to protect and conserve the natural resources of the Lower Gunnison Watershed for the past 39 years. Just as we have supported the responsible development of local coal, we also support the responsible development of renewable energies. Renewable energy generation is a wise use of our natural resources, and it also has the potential to create local jobs and generate millions of dollars in economic development. Delta Montrose Electrical Association (DMEA), the local electrical cooperative power supplier in Delta and Montrose Counties, has worked diligently to support the development of renewable energy generation from solar and hydro-resources. However, their efforts have been opposed by a petition filed by the Tri-State Generation & Transmission that essentially penalizes utilities like DMEA when they buy energy from local renewable projects. On March 8th, the Conservation Center submitted a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) voicing our support of DMEA, renewable energy generation, and economic development in DMEA’s area.  

Conservation Center awarded over $137,000 for the Paonia River Park

March 21, 2016
The Western Slope Conservation Center is proud to announce that it has received over $137,000 from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission to complete the trail system at the Paonia River Park. The Paonia River Park is the only developed public access point along the North Fork of the Gunnison River. The Conservation Center and other community partners have worked hard to make it a safe and enjoyable place for everyone to visit by developing a river overlook and picnic area, building a short trail, and installing a boat ramp. To date, the Paonia River Park represents an investment of thousands of volunteer hours and over $850,000 from grants and private donations. The Conservation Center is proud of the broad community support that the Paonia River Park enjoys. The work that has been accomplished to date would not have been possible without support from the Town of Paonia, which owns part of the River Park property, United Companies, which donated the initial property parcel, and countless other community organizations and volunteers who have been key to the Paonia River Park’s success. Alex Johnson, Executive Director of the Conservation Center, is thrilled to share the news with the local community. “This is the culmination of over a decade of community effort to transform an in-stream gravel mine into a fantastic public river park,” said Johnson. The award of the 2016 Trails Project grant, coupled with the current steel ramp and educational signage projects that are underway, will help the Conservation Center develop the Paonia River Park into a greater recreational and educational resource for Delta County. Other funders that have made the Paonia River Park’s development possible include: Fishing is Fun in Colorado, Gates Family Foundation, Great Outdoors Colorado, Golder Associates, Hotchkiss-Crawford Historic Society, North Fork Historic Society, North Fork Valley Heart and Soul, Paonia Historic Preservation Society, th#e Robert Hayutin Memorial Fund, Town of Paonia,  and United Companies.

Western Slope Conservation Center Strategic Plan

February 3, 2016
Introduction The Western Slope Conservation Center 2016 Strategic Plan is the product of a multi-year process of stakeholder gatherings, board sessions, and committee meetings. It defines who we are, what we do, and why we do it. It prioritizes three program goal areas: Public Lands, Watershed Stewardship, and Education. outlines an ambitious set of goals and objectives to be achieved over the next three years. You can download the executive summary: WSCC Strategic Plan – 2016 Executive Summary. Mission 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. Vision 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 an informed and engaged citizenry that understands the connection between the vitality of its ecological and social communities. Values • Transparent, responsible, and ethical in our actions. We strive for integrity in all of our efforts. We are accountable to our mission, membership, donors, partners, and the public. • Guided by science. We will use reliable, relevant, and the best-available scientific research to guide our decisions whenever possible. • Respect for the environment and diverse communities. We strive to include the active involvement of the people and partners who are linked to the ecosystems we endeavor to protect. We consider the needs and values of our community. We build relationships based on trust and mutual benefit. • We seek tangible and enduring results. We use informed debate and creative problem solving to develop locally appropriate solutions to complex conservation problems. Program Goal Areas In 2014 the Board of Directors affirmed our commitment to the following goal areas: • Watershed Stewardship • Public Land Advocacy • Education and Engagement Program Priorities & Goal Areas Watershed Stewardship • River Watch – Monthly/Ongoing • Watershed Group Expansion – BOR Grant June 2016 • Irrigation and Efficiency • Restoration • Public Access of River Corridors Public Lands Protection and Advocacy • BLM, USFS, and other agency/org Partnerships – Ongoing • Mineral Lease Exchange and Withdrawal – 2015/2016 • NEPA Oversight – Ongoing/Episodic • Restoration, including Healthy Forests Work & SBEADMR • Access (includes coal mine-related access issues) • Identify and support coalition for long-term protection strategies for public lands Education & Engagement • See full calendar of events – Ongoing • Youth river outreach (Ride the Rockies) – Early 2016 • Adult Education with special focus on Water & Fire Protection for Landowners • Youth Education with priority on water • Mapping Paonia River Park • Phase I completion – 2016 • Phase II development and hand off – 2016/2017 Development • Major Donor Program Launch 2016 Email or call us with questions about the strategic plan and for ways to get involved! director@theconservationcenter.org 970-527-5307

Supporting Responsible Development on the Western Slope

January 19, 2016
The Western Slope Conservation Center has a long legacy of working towards responsible conservation solutions with unlikely partners. With the help of Arch Coal Company, we developed the Conservation Assistance Program (CAP) which we used to permanently protect over 10,000 acres of land in conservation easements from 2006-2014. We have advocated for methane capture, and we have supported the creation of a methane capture facility which provides energy to Aspen Ski Company. As we have worked towards responsible conservation, we have been able to support responsible local coal mining. Read this comment letter to learn more about our latest action to support local solutions as we support the reinstatement of the North Fork Coal Mining Area Exemption to the Colorado Roadless Rule while advocating for methane capture, national climate change policy, and reclamation and restoration commitments. From the letter: “After full review of the SDEIS, the Conservation Center supports Alternative B (proposed action) which would reinstate the North Fork Coal Mining Area exception. We appreciate the US Forest Service’s (USFS) thorough analysis of environmental consequences, including projected greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, associated with future mining in the North Fork Coal Mining Area exception. The Conservation Center strongly encourages the USFS to do everything within its power to develop a comprehensive national climate change policy for analyzing the impacts of all current and future fossil fuel extraction proposals under USFS purview. The Conservation Center also supports additional administrative rulemaking that requires and incentivizes capture of all recoverable methane produced from future coal mining in the US.” “Colorado would currently have 70,000 fewer acres of roadless area if the North Fork Coal Mine Area exception had not been included in the final Colorado Roadless Rule. In 2006, the Colorado Roadless Areas Review Task Force issued draft recommendations to remove protection from all 70,000 acres of North Fork roadless areas to facilitate coal mining. WSERC, now the Conservation Center, and local coal mines worked together to develop a plan that was eventually incorporated into the Colorado Roadless Rule, a rule supported by both the mines and conservationists. This plan retained roadless protection for all 70,000 acres, with a temporary exception for mineable areas adjacent to the three coal mines in the valley. The exception required all surface impacts from mining activity to be reclaimed to wilderness quality after mining activities were complete. It also required the USFS to manage those reclaimed and restored lands as roadless.” Read more here!

Working to Protect the Thompson Divide

January 15, 2016
On January 8th, 2016, the Western Slope Conservation Center added its voice to the groundswell of community support to cancel all or part of the 65 leases issued without appropriate NEPA analysis since 1993 on the White River National Forest (WRNF), an area that includes the Thompson Divide. In our comment letter, we expressed our support for Alternative 4, the BLM’s Proposed Action, which would cancel all of part of 25 existing leases in areas identified by the WRNF Draft Record of Decision on future oil and gas leasing and modify existing lease stipulations in areas identified as open to future oil and gas development. We also encouraged the BLM to take further steps to mitigate the environmental impacts that oil and gas development will have on water quality, air quality, riparian vegetation, sensitive plant species, and sensitive wildlife species for all leases that are not cancelled. The Western Slope Conservation Center supports collaborative land management decision making which incorporates public input at each stage of the management process and engages all relevant local, state, and federal agencies in landscape-level planning. These types of processes will produce the best outcome for local communities, public health, and the plants and wildlife that depend on our public lands. Read our letter here.

Baseline Water Quality Monitoring Report Available

December 16, 2015
The Western Slope Conservation Center, supported by the Colorado Water and Energy Research Center (CWERC) at the University of Colorado Boulder, collected local groundwater samples in September of 2014 and June of 2015 in order to provide a baseline of water quality conditions in the North Fork of the Gunnison River watershed. Future water quality conditions can be compared to this baseline if and when new oil and gas wells are drilled and developed within the watershed. The 2014 – 2015 Water Quality Monitoring Report: North Fork Gunnison River Basin Delta County, Colorado, authored by Jessica Lewand, Katya Hafich, and Mark Williams, analyzes the findings of the samples. The summary of the report’s findings are as follows: No BTEX compounds (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes) were detected above the laboratory method detection limit (MDL) throughout the entire study. Methane was detected in low concentrations in some samples, with many samples below the laboratory method detection limit. Methane was generally detected during the September sampling event when low flow conditions were present. Methane can naturally occur in groundwater and it is not hazardous to human health. Water throughout the watershed can be characterized as having high alkalinity. Groundwater and springs had significantly higher (p<0.05) alkalinity than surface water. High alkalinity is likely caused by high carbonate and bicarbonate concentrations due to presence of marine sediments such as the Mancos shale. The pH values range from neutral in groundwater and springs to slightly basic in surface waters. Surface water had significantly higher (p<0.05) pH than groundwater and springs. The results suggest that barium concentrations may typically be higher in the Muddy Creek area. There was a significantly higher (p<0.05) concentration of barium in groundwater of Muddy Creek compared to groundwater down valley. There was also a significantly higher (p<0.05) concentration of barium in surface water of Muddy Creek in the 2011 ERO study compared to the same site in this study No other significant differences were found when comparing groundwater or surface water sites in Muddy Creek to down gradient sites. No analyte concentrations exceeded the National Primary Drinking Water Standards (NPDWS). A few analyte concentrations exceeded the National Secondary Drinking Water Standards (NSDWS) set in place for contaminants that are not health threatening, but are set to maintain aesthetic considerations, such as taste, color, and odor. No significant seasonal differences (p>0.05) were found for any Analyte concentrations when separated by water source (groundwater, springs, and surface water). It is important to note that the sample size for this report is relatively small, and may not capture the full seasonal range, and/or fully characterize water quality throughout the watershed. Click here to learn more about other water quality monitoring that we do!  

WSCC Interactive Map Online

December 11, 2015
Use this interactive map to understand the local issues you are interested in–from irrigation to energy development. The data that is illustrated in these maps is accurate and reliable, and together they tell a story of conservation in Delta County. Some particularly interesting layers to explore include the COGCC Oil and Gas Wells, regional roadless areas and other Forest Service travel routes, and local irrigation ditches and diversions. You can also access information about stream flow, snowpack, and drought on our Resources Page. This interactive map was funded by the Bureau of Reclamation. Click here to view and download the .kml files associated with this map.

Involving Youth in Our Forests

September 10, 2015
The Conservation Center’s mission is supported by pillars of public lands and education and outreach. Together, these two pillars give us a platform to empower our community, regardless of age, to understand the lands around them. And while we love to connect adults to nature and educate them about the issues straining our landscapes, connecting children with the wonder around them is the most rewarding action of all. The Conservation Center is committed to providing environmental education opportunities for North Fork Valley students. From our annual Conservation Days Field Trip for nearly every Delta County Fourth Grader to kicking up macro-invertebrates at the Paonia River Park during our Inaugural BioBlitz to partnering with institutions such as the US Forest Service to engage students in the forests of their backyard, the moments of wonder and discovery fuel our work. We are excited for what the future holds. In the face of concerns about “nature deficit disorder,” the Conservation Center prides itself on connecting itself with other engaging organizations that get kids outside. One of our largest partners, the US Forest Service, is also the source of much of our excitement because of their institutional commitment to connecting children with nature. The Forest Service, like the Conservation Center, recognizes that “today’s youth will be tomorrow’s conservation stewards and leaders,” and they enumerate their dedication to shaping those future stewards in their report titled “USDA Forest Service Integrated Strategy for Youth: Implementing the Forest Service’s mission by developing the next generation of conservation stewards and leaders.” Read the first paragraph of the report below or click here to read the full report, published in May, 2015. “Today’s youth will be tomorrow’s conservation stewards and leaders. Our vision of our work with youth is a future where all America’s children, no matter where they live, have the opportunity to learn about—and love—our Nation’s forests and grasslands. A future where many partners join hands to ensure that youth have the opportunity to experience nature, to understand the natural world and its broader connections, and to gain the tools and experience needed to care for the land. A future where all Forest Service employees play a role in reaching youth and are supported by Forest Service leadership and resources. This future nurtures an environmentally literate society, a constituency that cares about the management of public lands and waters and engages in their future, and a skilled and committed Forest Service workforce that reflects the face of America. Our work today with engaging youth is critical to the health of our Nation’s forests and grasslands, the continued vibrancy and relevancy of the Forest Service, and ultimately, to the health of American society.” -USDA Forest Service Integrated Strategy for Youth: Implementing the Forest Service’s mission by developing the next generation of conservation stewards and leaders.  
Events

Join us as we look ahead!

August 27, 2015
The Western Slope Conservation Center has a legacy of protecting the places we love. From restoring, and monitoring the North Fork of the Gunnison River to empowering landowners to protect over 11,000 acres of land in permanent conservation easement to teaching nearly every Delta County 4th grader about the environment at our annual Conservation Days event at the Paonia River Park. But you already know that. As we celebrate our past, we now look to the future of conservation on the Western Slope, and we want to share that vision with you. [gravityform id=”15″ name=”Western Slope Conservation Trailblazer Launch”]

BioBlitz at the River Park August 7th & 8th

July 21, 2015
  Have a passion for the outdoors, species identification, or your local river? Perhaps all three? If you’re craving an outlet for any of these, then we have good news for you: on August 7th and 8th the Conservation Center is hosting a BioBlitz at the Paonia River Park! The goal of a BioBlitz is to discover, count, map, and learn about what’s in an area that is effected by and connected to residential life. By combining scientific knowledge with the power of local volunteers we hope to add to the park’s official species list, bring attention to thebiodiversity of the park, and provide a great learning experience for our community. We’ll start off with a KidzBlitz Friday afternoon: sign up children aged 7-12 to learn about river and water pollution, practice tree identification, and have fun! Join us Friday from 5:00 to 7:30 pm and Saturday 9:00 to 12:00am for identification free-for-all. On Saturday, from 5:30 to 8:30am, ornithologist Jason Beason will be leading bird identification. Everyone is welcome, so bring your friends and family—kids too! Take a look at the full schedule: Friday, August 7th noon-2:00pm: Kid’s Blitz 5:00-7:30pm: Name that Species! Saturday, August 8th 5:30-8:30am Birding with Jason Beason 8:30-9:00am: Coffee 9:00-noon: Species Discovery If you are an expert or amateur naturalist, birder, botanist, entomologist, or just about anything that ends with “ist,” the BioBlitz needs you! You can help us identify our finds and share your knowledge about your area of interest and expertise to make each session more rewarding for everyone! Contact amelia@theconservationcenter.org to register or with questions!
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