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.

WSCC Birthday & Reunion!

Join us for a fun evening of celebration and reunion

The Western Slope Conservation Center is celebrating its 40 year legacy with a party and reunion at Zephyros Farm on September 30th! Music, dinner, cake, drinks, storytelling, and more! RSVP today.


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

Every Kid in a Park 2017

September 6, 2017
The Forest Service Youth Engagement Program is celebrating National Public Lands Day on September 22nd! To help every 4th grader in the North Fork find their love for public lands, we’re taking them to Lost Lake.   The Paonia Ranger District will teach students about timber science and introduce them to the Rocky Mountain Pack String mules. WSCC is leading a naturalist hike and The Nature Connection will make seed bombs and build bluebird homes with the students. Got an eye for photography? Or a knack for wrangling elementary schoolers? We’re looking for volunteers to come along to Lost Lake! Help us keep the day running smoothly and enjoy a beautiful fall day in the high country. Let us know if you can come! We’ll meet at the Paonia Ranger District at 7:15am on 9/22 to carpool up to Lost Lake.  

Watershed Committee Tours Paonia Dam and Fire Mountain Canal

September 5, 2017
Last Wednesday, members of the Watershed Committee got the chance to visit the Paonia Reservoir Dam and portions of Fire Mountain Canal.  Steve Fletcher of Fire Mountain Canal and Mark Smith of the North Fork Water Conservancy District took the group on an extensive tour of  the dam infrastructure.  The group descended 200’ to see the internal gates and structure of the dam.  Steve explained the history of the Paonia Reservoir and the water it supplies to Roger’s Mesa and others throughout the North Fork Valley.  He also explained what needed to take place this fall to make repairs to the bulkhead within the reservoir intake.     The group then traveled down river to see the Fire Mountain Canal Diversion below Somerset. Steve explained the function of the diversion and also the improvements they have made to reduce the amount of debris that can get caught in the trash rack.  The group was able to see the bear creek gate that allows Fire Mountain Canal to make fine adjustments to the volume of water flowing through the canal.  The tour ended at Terror Creek where the canal makes an impressive dive under that creek, using a siphon to return the canal back above ground to the open ditch before continuing down to Roger’s Mesa .  Interested in how you can be a part of water quality monitoring that is going on this fall as part of the Paonia Reservoir draw down?  Contact

Stompin’ Grapes and Taking Names

August 16, 2017
Ah, the crisp fall air is rolling in. We can’t wait for the scent of mulled hot cider, watching the aspens change, and feeling grapes between our toes. Wait, what? Yep, the Mountain Harvest Festival is upon us, and it’s time to get those competitive–and grape–juices flowing at the Grape Stomp! It takes place from 12-2 on September 23rd at Paonia Town Park. This year’s theme is TV Cartoons and Lucy Look-a-Like. If you dress like Lucy, let’s hope you’ll be a little better at staying upright. So get scheming like Wile E. Coyote, and sign up a team of two, three, or four.   Team registration is $75, and the deadline is Sept. 18th. Proceeds from the event will be split between Western Slope Conservation Center, Solar Energy International, and Delta County Public Libraries. We are looking for volunteers to keep the event fun and rolling smoothly. Please sign up here if you can help set up and get everything looking snazzy; weigh the grapes and keep the peace with your objectivity; or time the stompers.  

The Earth Beneath Our Feet: ‘Dobies Edition!

August 16, 2017
BACK ONCE AGAIN BY POPULAR DEMAND…..Come join locally famous geologist and WSCC Board Member Dr. Dave Noe for a journey into Delta County’s celebrated and sometimes-berated ‘Dobie badlands! This guided hike will ascend Petrie Mesa to Devils Thumb, where we will enjoy an eagle’s-eye view of Delta and the Gunnison/Uncompahgre River valleys. Dr. Noe will regale us all with the geologic history of this fascinating area, including a tale about a monstrous volcanic explosion in Yellowstone and how it figures into the 640,000-year history of Petrie Mesa! Date: Saturday, August 26, 2017 Meet-up time: 9:00 am Meet at the eastern edge of the City Market parking lot, in Delta We will car pool to the trailhead at 9:15 am, using high clearance vehicles Hike duration: about 4 hours Limitations:  No children under 10 years of age In the event of rain and mud, hike is subject to postponement The hike is only a few miles round trip, but the route follows an unimproved path that is quite steep and arduous in places. What to bring: Hiking shoes, plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, a sun hat, sunglasses, camera A hiking pole is optional but strongly recommended

Spruce Beetle Kill and Aspen Decline Management Hike

August 15, 2017
The aspen and spruce mortality rate across Colorado has grown alarming in the past decade. In the 2016 Report on the Health of Colorado’s Forests, the Colorado Forest Service estimated that the state has 834 million standing dead trees–1 in 14 trees. A byproduct of droughts and extremely hot summers, sudden aspen decline (SAD) claimed 145,000 acres of aspen forest within the Grand Mesa, Gunnison, and Uncompahgre National Forests. The damage occurs rapidly. In aerial surveys in 2005 and 2006, mortality increased from less than 25,000 acres to greater than 138,000 acres across Southwest Colorado. The spruce beetle epidemic, meanwhile, is responsible for the death of an additional 140,000 acres of spruce-fir forest. A spruce beetle infestation takes two years to kill a tree. In the first year, the spruce beetle burrows into the tree, and it will look debarked. By the second year, the needles will have faded and turned orange or yellow, and then fall off. Once afflicted, the standing dead trees pose safety and health risks. They fuel wildfires, and falling trees may take down power lines or block roads. Forests provide a natural filtration system for water, and 80% of the state’s population depends on forested watersheds. These dual threats spurred the US Forest Service to form the Spruce Beetle Epidemic and Aspen Decline Management Response (SBEADMR) Project. Started in 2013, SBEADMR Project focuses on regenerating healthy spruce-fir and aspen stands. The Public Lands Partnership facilitates the SBEADMR Advisory Management Group. They are leading an educational and groundtruthing hike at Hubbard Park and Overland Reservoir on August 23rd. The hike is part of the post-treatment field review. Because SBEADMR is an 8-12 year adaptive management plan, these evaluations inform future management practices. Interested parties can sign up below, and meet at the Paonia Ranger District (403 Rio Grand Ave.) at 8:15 AM on August 23rd.  

Paonia Reservoir Construction Project – Fall 2017

August 11, 2017
Changes are coming to the Paonia Reservoir. The Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), Fire Mountain Canal Company, and North Fork Water Conservancy District (NFWCD) will host a meeting at Memorial Hall in Hotchkiss on August 15 at 7pm, to explain the work that needs to be accomplished at the Paonia Reservoir this fall. The meeting will also outline the drawdown schedule and procedures for the reservoir so that work can begin in mid-September. This drawdown is designed to drain all water from the reservoir, which will expose the outlet structure and thereby increase sediment flushed into the North Fork. Constructed in 1962, Paonia Reservoir supplies agricultural water to the North Fork Valley by capturing and storing spring runoff and snow melt. Paonia Dam releases stored water into the North Fork of the Gunnison River where 12 diversions transfer water through hundreds of miles of pipes and ditches to orchards, pastures, and organic farms across the valley. Unfortunately, the intake structure for the dam outlet has sustained significant damage over time and needs to be repaired to allow the dam to function properly. Additionally, the tributary to Paonia Reservoir (Muddy Creek) has deposited enough sediment over time to fill the reservoir to the top of the intake structure and render its additional water storage capacity to be null. In the fall of 2016, the BOR completed an Environmental Analysis on the Paonia Dam Intake Structure Repair. The report reviewed the many options, ecological impacts, and public comments surrounding the drawdown of the reservoir and the process of repairing the damaged bulkhead. The most critical concern to watershed health with this upcoming project is the potential impact to fauna and fisheries from the release of excessive sediment downstream into the North Fork of the Gunnison during the fall season when the river experiences it’s lowest flows. Significant amounts of sediment are expected to persist within muddy creek just below the dam to the confluence of Anthracite creek. Increased turbidity is likely to persist as far down as Hotchkiss through the construction window ending in November 2017. Sediment deposits will remain within the river channel until flows are high enough to move them downstream in the spring of 2018. Additional sediment amounts released are anticipated to be anywhere in the range of 45,100 CY to 137,105 CY to the North Fork of the Gunnison. This could have a potentially negative effect on fisheries especially in the potential event of insufficient snow totals resulting in low spring flows. The BOR plans to release sufficient flows to aid in flushing the deposited sediment during the spring runoff. WSCC will continue to conduct water quality monitoring throughout the construction window. We will also be conducting macroinvertebrate sampling at three sites near Paonia Reservoir in October. We have recently become the recipients of a very generous donation of water quality testing equipment which will allow us to increase our suite of sampling analytes and site mobility in the future. Please contact Jake Hartter, Watershed Coordinator to learn how

News Release: WSCC found to be at the “center” of Delta County partnerships

August 2, 2017
It’s obvious in rural regions like the Western Slope that non-profits, businesses, and governing bodies work together to get things done. The understanding of the network of partnerships, however, is often anecdotal.  In order to get a more accurate understanding of partnership networks here on the Western Slope, The University of Colorado – Boulder conducted research that included surveying over 40 entities who serve Delta County. The Western Slope Conservation Center is thrilled to see that the CU survey indicated that we were at the very center of the partnership network: on a scale of 0-100% on relative connectivity, we scored a 100%! On all four measures of centrality, WSCC was at the top. Our staff, board, and members should certainly view this news as recognition of the 40 years we’ve been prioritizing real-world partnerships and solutions for our public lands, watersheds, and education needs. You can download the full report here.

Keeping Up with Our Public Lands – Summer & Fall 2017

August 2, 2017
If you are anything like me, you may be overwhelmed with the amount of planning processes, comment periods, and public open house meetings currently underway across the Western Slope. From the US Forest Service and BLM to Delta County to the City of Delta, Master Plans are apparently the hot new trend in 2017. Since these plans will likely effect our home for years to come, it is critical for our community to be involved, engaged, and provide robust, substantive input. While it sounds like a lot to keep track of, have no fear – WSCC is here to help. Here is your guide to what’s going on, what WSCC is working on, and how you can get involved! What’s Happening with Our Public Lands – Summer-Fall 2017 USFS GMUG PLAN REVISION – Forest Plans guide the management of our National Forests. They are usually updated every 15-20 years. The last completed Plan for GMUG was in 1983. So it’s time for an update! There are three phases to a Forest Plan: Assessment, Plan Development, and Monitoring. Where are we now? GMUG is currently in the Assessment phase – As described by the USFS, “During this phase the forest managers evaluate broad topics such as air, soil, and water resources; recreation opportunities; and historical resources and uses. We collaboratively will identify and evaluate existing economic, social, and ecological conditions of your forest.” In this phase the public has the opportunity to provide input on the state of our forest. How can I learn more? GMUG will host 8 public open house meetings in separate locations across the region. The first open house will take place in Delta on July 25 – join us as we learn more about the Plan Revision process and how you can stay involved! Check out this post on our website for more information. How can you get involved with WSCC? We are currently reviewing areas within GMUG to recommend for potential Wilderness or Special Management designation. If you love Wilderness, we need your help! Contact    GMUG OIL & GAS Amendment UPDATE In 1993, GMUG amended the Oil & Gas portion of the Forest Plan. Recently, GMUG has been instructed to update this document as well. While we have very limited details, the GMUG Oil & Gas amendment will be updated in a “separate, but concurrent” process to the GMUG Plan Revision. WSCC will be tracking this process very closely, and will provide more information as soon it becomes available.   GUNNISON PUBLIC LANDS INITIATIVE (GPLI) – GPLI was formed at the behest of Senator Bennet and Gunnison County Commissioners to form consensus on public lands issues. GPLI is a collaborative effort between public lands stakeholders – conservationists, hunters, anglers, water users, ranchers, mountain bikers, OHV users, etc. – to develop a unified, consensus proposal that will  provide long-lasting stability and protections to public lands in the Gunnison County landscape.GPLI released the initial proposal in June 2017 which contains suggestions for public lands

Rivers Report Card

August 2, 2017
Conservation Colorado released its first ever “rivers report card” this month, an assessment of the health of eight rivers across the state based on several factors including water quality, in-stream flows, and major dams.   The North Fork of the Gunnison is riding in the middle of the pack with a B-.  That sure won’t help our GPA, but will hopefully inspire us to buckle down for next semester!     Click here to read the full report!

Bell Creek Trail Day in the Books

July 20, 2017
Within the Gunnison National Forest, the Paonia Ranger District manages 227 miles of hiking and horseback trails across 478,000 acres. To paraphrase moms everywhere, those trails don’t just take care of themselves! To that end, the Paonia Ranger District is employing several trail crews this summer. The Conservation Legacy Environmental Steward interns began their season focusing on more readily accessible trails, such as Dark Canyon and the Raggeds Trail. Another group of five Delta County youth make up the Youth Conservation Corps. So far, they’ve cleared the Beckwith Trail, Three Lakes Loop, and the Dyke Trail. The trail crew and volunteers gearing up for a day on Lamborn’s Bell Creek Trail. In a partnership with the Western Slope Conservation Center, the Forest Service planned two summer trail work days. On Friday morning, thirteen volunteers picked up pulaskis and tagged along for the first one. With a big rain the night before, the crews tested the truck’s 4WD capabilities driving everyone to the Bell Creek Trailhead. Close to the base, the trail crew and volunteers installed twenty check dams  and water bars. These check dams divert water from the trail, minimizing erosion. Higher up, another crew closed an unsustainable user-created shortcut and improved the switchbacks. After an afternoon of hard work, they had widened the treading by 18 inches and removed tripping hazards. Three volunteers climbed further and removed overgrown brush and fallen debris from the trail. Jake doesn’t like to brag, but he knows a thing or two about trail maintenance.  The Youth Conservation Corps first reported that their river trip with their crew leader was their favorite day of the summer. After prompting, they revised that opinion and said the volunteer trail day was their real favorite day of the summer. ********************************************************************************************** Missed the fun the first time?  Come out to Lost Lake on Saturday, August 5th! Meet at 8 AM at the Paonia Ranger District at 403 Rio Grande Ave in Paonia. RSVP here or email Please bring: – lunch – water – work clothes (long-sleeved shirt & pants) – boots – work gloves – sun protection Individual volunteer opportunities with the US Forest Service are available. Contact to learn more!
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