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

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,

A Land Ethic for the 21st Century: 2017 WSCC Annual Meeting Speech

February 16, 2017
The 2017 WSCC Annual Meeting included a powerful talk by Dr. John Hausdoerffer, Professor of Environmental Sustainability & Philosophy at Western State Colorado University. Dr. Hausdoerffer spoke on how we as a community draw inspiration from the land with an interactive talk titled “A Land Ethic for the 21st Century.” It was a special opportunity to take a few minutes to think careful about why we will continue to work to protect our incredible home here on the Western Slope.

40 Years of Conservation: WSCC annual meeting a big success

February 16, 2017
Over 100 attend Western Slope Conservation Center’s 4oth Anniversary Annual Meeting on Sunday, February 12th 2017 A packed house of Conservation Center members, staff, and board brought their chili, thoughtful questions, and checkbooks to celebrate a remarkable year of conservation on the Western Slope and to prepare for another big year ahead. The agenda included a powerful talk by Dr. John Hausdoerffer, Professor of Environmental Sustainability & Philosophy at Western State Colorado University. Dr. Hausdoerffer spoke about how we as a community draw inspiration from the land with an interactive talk titled “A Land Ethic for the 21st Century.” It was a special opportunity to take a few minutes to think careful about why we will continue to work to protect our incredible home here on the Western Slope. You can listen to the talk here. WSCC Finances and Fundraising The event included a report on WSCC’s 2017 Budget with very positive trends, including a 40% projected increase in operational income, due to successful of grant income and a banner year for fundraising and donations – nearly $40,000 in total donations. Over the course of the Annual Meeting evening, we raised over $800. WSCC’s 2017 fundraising goal is $46,000, which includes our Trailblazers program, our flagship events including River Fest, and sales of our new schwag, including t-shirts and stickers. We are also thrilled to announce that we now boast 500 active members (who have donated in the last year), up 100 from two years ago! The more members, the greater our voice in advocating for our home. “40-in-40” – During the Annual Meeting we announced a 2017 goal of recruiting 40 new monthly donors in our 40th year, and we’re pleased to announce that 7 new donors signed up just at the Annual Meeting! That means we have 33 more to meet our goal. Go to our membership page to sign up today, or email 40th Anniversary Photo Mosaic! We also unveiled an incredible commemorative image that features photos from hundreds of the people and places that have made the Western Slope Conservation Center what it is over the last 40 years. The base image was created by Celia Roberts, and a large format print was donated to WSCC thanks to an anonymous donor. Check out our incredible image and look for yourself in there.   2016 Western Slope Conservation Center Accomplishments Successfully completed 1st year of 3-year strategic plan with three goal areas of Public Lands, Watersheds, and Education Completed our 40th year of conservation in the North Fork Valley and Western Slope Public Land Advocacy Made our local voices heard during the draft BLM Uncompahgre Field Office Resource Management Plan (UFO RMP) comment period, with over 1000 unique and substantive comment letters requesting the inclusion of the North Fork Alternative and other significant conservation protections in UFO RMP, engaging local groups, organizations, and agencies Organized over 400 people to attend WSCC-sponsored, BLM, and municipal meetings about the fate of our local public lands Submitted over 220

Water Quality in the North Fork is Looking Good!

February 2, 2017
In 2016, the Western Slope Conservation Center completed our analysis of water quality in the North Fork watershed using data gathered by our River Watch volunteers every month for the past 15 years, and it’s looking good! Because of our volunteers, we’ve gathered one of the most robust water quality baselines in the state, something we’re pretty proud of. We gather information on nutrients, metals like lead, arsenic, and selenium; macro invertebrates; field parameters like temperature, dissolved oxygen, and pH; and more! These parameters aren’t used for regulatory or compliance purposes—they just help us understand the general water quality in our watershed. We’ve learned that our water quality is pretty good, and we’re happy to report that over the past 15 years, not much has changed. This means that for all of the changes that our communities have weathered haven’t impacted the baseline water conditions—we humans haven’t harmed nor helped water quality conditions overall. While water quality has remained relatively constant over the past 15 years, it does change each year with the seasons. During the spring, when snowmelt is running off, water quality is better than in the summer when we’re putting that water to good use and the amount of water in the river is lower. The geology and natural soils of the watershed provide the North Fork with the capacity to buffer against changes in pH and the toxic effects of metals. Generally, our nutrient concentrations are well below state and/or federal standards. Additionally, metals are not a significant concern. With the exception of selenium, metals have seldom exceeded applicable water quality standards. Our watershed enjoys a healthy and thriving macroinvertebrate community—there are lots of bugs that are sensitive to pollution, meaning that when they are present, pollutants aren’t! Because of these findings, we’ve decided to gather baseline samples just four times per year—in March, June, September, and October—corresponding to key flow times. These samples will add to the statewide database that River Watch maintains and uses to help inform decision making related to water quality. This way, we’ll still be able to ensure that our water quality remains constant while freeing up time and resources to do more targeted sampling when it is necessary. We’re also working towards developing a groundwater sampling program to extend our success monitoring surface water to regional wells and springs. With all of this science-based monitoring, we can ensure that we note any changes in water quality that might threaten our health and way of life. We’re excited about these changes! Water is life here in Western Colorado. We’ve been lucky for the past decades to have good water quality, and we plan to keep it that way with the help of volunteers like you. Want to learn more about specific water quality parameters? Our report and the data that informs it is online for you to explore. You’ll be able to learn more about the North Fork Watershed, water quality standards, field data, nutrients and other inorganics data, metals, bacteria,
News Watershed

WSCC hiring for Watershed Coordinator position

January 27, 2017
Position Announcement: Watershed Coordinator Location: Western Slope Conservation Center To Apply: Please submit a cover letter, resume, and three reference contacts to Application deadline: Posted until position filled Position Summary: The Watershed Coordinator is a full-time exempt staff position with the Western Slope Conservation Center, a small grassroots organization that has been carrying out watershed stewardship, public lands advocacy, and education for the last 40 years. Coordinator will work under the direct supervision of the Executive Director. Coordinator will be responsible for coordinating various watershed projects and programs including ongoing assessments, monitoring, restoration, and recreation development associated with the North Fork of the Gunnison River, the Lower Gunnison River, and their tributaries. Coordinator will also support continued grant development, communications, and outreach associated with WSCC watershed programming. The Watershed Coordinator 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. The position will include occasional traveling within the region. The Conservation Center offices are located in the idyllic agricultural mountain town of Paonia at the base of the West Elk Mountains. The North Fork Valley is a rare gem of high quality rural living with unparalleled access to public lands and outdoor recreation including backcountry skiing, rafting, 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 Program Coordination: Collaborate with Executive Director, WSCC contractors, and partners to develop and implement watershed assessments, plans, and projects. Develop creative and strategic approaches for stakeholder outreach and partnerships Complete ongoing assessment activities Lead implementation of existing watershed assessments, plans, and projects Coordinate with staff and contractors on WSCC-led projects, including restoration, access, and signage projects within the watershed Program Development: Collaborate with Executive Director, WSCC contractors, and partners to develop and strengthen WSCC partnerships with various watershed stakeholders Coordinate participation and engagement in the Colorado Water Conservation Board Gunnison Basin Roundtable and implementation of statewide initiatives Support WSCC watershed committee, including attending watershed committee meetings, providing staff assistance as necessary, and supporting watershed committee events and outreach Grant Management and Development: Lead coordination of ongoing grant reporting; identify and coordinate acquisition of additional grant funding for future WSCC watershed programs Communication & Outreach: Promote and publicize all WSCC watershed projects and programs using traditional and social media outlets; organize educational watershed events as appropriate; support WSCC staff and board in organizing other educational events as needed Volunteer Management: In coordination with volunteers, develop training protocol and resources for new and returning River Watch volunteers; recruit additional volunteers Desired Qualities Collaborative, outgoing, personable, and enthusiastic Excellent writing, speaking and interpersonal skills Excellent organizational and office skills Proven experience with grant writing, management, and reporting Ability to work independently and self-directed as part of a high-functioning team Flexibility Strong commitment to watershed conservation and stewardship — with previous coordination experience in the Gunnison Basin preferred Compensation and benefits: This is a full-time exempt position requiring

2017 Annual Meeting: The Big Picture!

January 20, 2017
Western Slope Conservation Center to hold annual meeting in Hotchkiss As the world gets smaller, WSCC urges the Western Slope to think big Hotchkiss, CO – All community members are welcome to the Conservation Center’s annual meeting from 3-6 pm, at Memorial Hall in Hotchkiss on Sunday, February 12th.  Join us for the longstanding tradition of reviewing the previous year of local conservation efforts and looking forward an exciting 40th year ahead. In order to celebrate our 40th Anniversary in style, we’re going to be turning Celia Robert’s beautiful image above into a photo mosaic starring you! From now until Friday, February 3rd, we’re wanting your favorite photos of you, your friends, and your family enjoying the land and water you love. Upload your images to this Dropbox folder, or post them to Facebook or Twitter with the following hashtags: #thisiswhywelivehere #WSCC40 The annual meeting will also feature Dr. John Hausdoerffer, Professor of Environmental Sustainability & Philosophy and Director of the Master of Environmental Management Program at Western State Colorado University. Dr. Hausdoerffer will be speaking on how we draw inspiration from the land with a talk on “A Land Ethic for the 21st Century and the Importance of Place.” In 2017, the Conservation Center will be celebrating its 40th year of public lands advocacy, watershed stewardship, and adult and youth education here on the western slope. We are excited to share with you our many program goals and objectives for 2017. These include improving outdoor access for everyone, especially local youths; conservation advocacy for our public lands; volunteer water monitoring; community information meetings and updates; public-private partnership building; and of course fun community events like the River Float & Fest. The meeting will begin with our annual business, which will include renewing and signing up members, presenting the 2016 financial report and 2017 budget, and nominating and voting on new board members. Nominated board members up for approval include Zach Krapfl, Barry Pennell, and Jake Hartter. There are currently no bylaw changes to be approved in 2017. The afternoon will conclude with a chili potluck and social hour. If you are staying for the food and fun, please bring a food item to share. We’ll be hosting the usual chili potluck, so please complete this online form to let us know what you’ll be bringing. Event Information: 3:00-6:00 pm, Sunday, February 12th, 2017 Memorial Hall, 175 N. 1st Street, Hotchkiss Agenda 3:00-4:30  Annual Business Meeting 4:30-5:15  Program – Guest Speaker Dr. John Hausdoerffer, Western State Colorado University 5:15-6:00  Socializing and Chili Supper potluck featuring members’ great homemade meat and  vegetarian chili, salads, breads and desserts. Please call Alex Johnson at 527-5307, ext. 201, to RSVP and for more information about the meeting. Volunteers are needed for setup and clean-up.   40th Anniversary Annual Meeting Mark your calendars! The 2017 WSCC Annual Meeting will take place from 3-6pm Sunday, February 12th at Memorial Hall in Hotchkiss. It will be an afternoon of celebration with new and old friends and preparation for

Mountainfilm World Tour returns to the North Fork!

November 8, 2016
Mountainfilm on Tour to Arrive in Paonia at the Paradise Theatre on Nov. 11th Paonia/CO– Mountainfilm on Tour brings inspiration and education about important issues to audiences around the world. The tour will soon visit Paonia at the Paradise Theatre on November 11th with documentary films that will explore the themes connected to Telluride Mountainfilm’s mission to use the power of film, art and ideas to inspire audiences to create a better world. Started in 1979, Telluride Mountainfilm is one of America’s longest-running film festivals. Through the years, in and out of trends and fads, the festival has always been best described by one unchanging word: inspiring. In addition to screening leading independent documentary films from around the world, the festival includes a full-day symposium on a contemporary issue, art and photography exhibits, early morning coffee talks, outdoor programs, a book-signing party, an ice cream social, student programs and a closing picnic/awards ceremony. Presentations and panels are scheduled throughout the Memorial Day weekend event with a wide diversity of special guests, ranging from artists to adventurers and academics to activists. Mountainfilm on Tour shares a selection of the films from the annual festival with audiences around the globe and offers Mountainfilm for Students, a free educational outreach initiative for K-12 schools at tour locations. Year-round and worldwide, the tour reaches over 65,000 people on six continents. The show begins promptly at 7:30pm. A Mountainfilm presenter will introduce the films and engage the audience in discussion following the films. Tickets for Mountainfilm on Tour in Paonia are available online at or at Cirque Cyclery, Paradise Theatre, or the Western Slope Conservation Center office. Tickets will also be available the day of the event at Paradise Theatre. The cost for each show is $15 in advance and $20 at the door. See the complete playlist at Mountainfilm on Tour in Paonia is hosted by Western Slope Conservation Center partnering with Cirque Cyclery. The event is sponsored by Alpine Bank, Western CO Realty, High Country News, Delicious Orchards, and High Wire Hops. To learn more and join the conversation, visit
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