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.


A look at the Conservation Center's past, present, and future!

To close out our 40th year, we will be highlighting WSCC’s successes since 1977. Check back weekly for a decade by decade recap of our biggest achievements since 1977!


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

“Give Where You Live” with Gabrielle Louise benefiting WSCC!

December 6, 2017
Local recording artist Gabrielle Louise presents “Give Where You Live” Holiday Concert and CD Release live at the Paradise Theatre in Paonia! 50% of CD sales will be donated to local nonprofits, including the Western Slope Conservation Center! Join us on December 23 at 6:00pm for the nonprofit Meet & Greet, followed by the concert at 7:30pm. Tickets cost $20 in advance, $25 at the door, or $35 for VIP tickets. Celebrate Christmas Eve-Eve with great music supporting great causes! Tickets available here.

Top 13 Spookiest Western Slope Trails of Halloween

October 31, 2017
13. Dark Canyon. It’s a canyon. It’s dark. Boo.   12. Lost Lake. The Forest Service and some Western Slope Conservation Center volunteers rebuilt a bridge and did trail maintenance up there this summer, so you won’t get lost at Lost Lake.   11. Deadman’s Gulch. You’ll find this one out by Crested Butte. I don’t have a picture for this one, so send us one if you go . . . if you make it back alive . . .   10. Lightning Ridge. Lightning isn’t a laughing matter, so no jokes here. Just a link about lightning safety from the Forest Service.   9. Deadhorse Trail.  Stay on your hooves and watch out for the ghosts of horses who’ve fallen in the Black Canyon.   8. Devil’s Overlook. Last time I was there, I overheard a couple of German tourists yammering away in Deutsch, and then switch to English to say, “Scheisse, man! That is really steep.” Fear knows no language.   7. Goblin Valley. Maybe not on the Western Slope, but one of our volunteers sent us this picture. It looks like Mars and is named after those creepy Gringotts bankers from Harry Potter.   6. Needle Rock. This one made the list because it’s deceptively easy to get scraped up on this trail. After hiking this trail, our friend Mary reminded me of the #1 rule of adventuring: “Scars or it didn’t happen.”   5. Devil’s Thumb. Of all of the Devil’s body parts, the thumb is definitely the spookiest.   4. Ridge of Doom. Our local mountain biker friends don’t want Jumbo to get too crowded, so they give the trails ominous names like this.   3. Desolation Ridge. Seriously, how is Jumbo becoming such a popular bike destination with names like this?!   2. Terror Trail. This time of year, the biggest terror is trying to navigate through the cows on your way to the trailhead. Daisy the Cow don’t give no cow patties that you have 4WD. Moo.     1. Oh-Be-Joyful Pass. More like Oh-Be-Suspicious. Why was this given such a pleasant name? What are they trying to hide? Who is this joyful? I smell a conspiracy.

WSCC Opposes Bull Mountain Decision + Ways to Take Action

October 30, 2017
On October 4th, 2017, the BLM published its record of decision on the Bull Mountain Master Development Plan, approving the drilling of 146 natural gas wells and 4 wastewater injection wells in the Muddy Creek drainage above Paonia Reservoir. The Western Slope Conservation Center strongly opposes this decision due to the direct negative impacts that will occur to the air, water, wildlife, and local economies in the North Fork watershed. To read more on the specific impacts of concern, see below. The Western Slope Conservation Center stands with the coalition of conservation and citizens groups who submitted a formal complaint to the federal government this week. The Western Slope Conservation Center believes every community has the right to protect itself from negative impacts from oil and gas development. We hope local relief from Bull Mountain is found through the formal complaint process. In the meantime, we need your help in securing large landscape protections from future oil and gas development through the land planning processes currently underway in our region: Take action: The North Fork Alternative + BLM Resource Management Plan Please sign our petition today in support of the North Fork Citizen’s Alternative Plan, which was included in the Draft Resource Management Plan released last year. We will be submitting this petition to the BLM later this year, showing that our community still stands strong behind protections from oil and gas. The RMP will determine how the BLM manages all of its public lands and minerals in our region for 30 years! Stay tuned: Gunnison Public Lands Initiative We’re working with a wide variety of stakeholders “over the hill” in Crested Butte and Gunnison on a collaborative initiative with the goal of producing a bill that would include protections for areas across Gunnison County, which includes the upper North Fork watershed. Stay tuned for updates on forward progress with this initiative. Take action: GMUG Forest Plan Revision The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forest is currently undertaking its Forest Plan Revision Process, similar to the BLM’s RMP process, which will determine how the forests are managed for decades to come. The GMUG Draft Assessments will be published on November 6th, with a 30-day comment period. You will be able to submit comments by emailing: WSCC volunteers spent the fall “ground truthing” roadless areas, inventorying for wilderness character and other conservation resources to be protected. This revision process is especially important for the upper North Fork watershed including rare habitat and roadless areas threatened by oil and gas development. The Western Slope Conservation Center has been working with a coalition of partners to submit a conservation proposal in the current Assessment Phase. PLUS: Too Wild to Drill campaign There’s no denying that the Bull Mountain MDP threatens our homes, families, and livelihoods in the North Fork Valley. We’re glad that The Wilderness Society included the North Fork in their Too Wild To Drill campaign, identifying our region as one of the 15 areas in the country needing
Events News

Action Alert: Important Meeting for Proposed Development near Paonia

October 24, 2017
Paonia Holdings LLC has applied for a land use change for parcels owned by Bowie Resources at 41322 and 41402 Highway 133 in Paonia and an ancillary property at 16180 Stevens Gulch Road, Paonia CO. The proposed development is for commercial and light industrial uses on a site previously used for coal loading and mining support activities. The Highway 133 locations were previously used by Bowie Resources to load coal onto rail cars. Upon completion of mining activities, these lands were intended to be returned to their pre-mining use for agriculture. According to the application, Paonia Holdings’ new uses for these locations may include: “heavy equipment storage, repair and sales (maintenance and repair of mining, excavation, agricultural and other equipment, as well rentals and sales of equipment and parts); fabrication and machining services, welding services, storage of equipment and contractor supplies, engineering and construction consultant services, sales, repair and manufacturing of firearms and ammunition, and limited agricultural production from the orchard on site….The portions of the property package on Steven’s Gulch will be used for facilities supporting electrical transmission and distribution, communications lines, and water conveyance. Future use of the land off Stevens Gulch Road may include residential development and/or development of more storage yard space.” The Western Slope Conservation Center is opposed to this application as we do not believe the application, including amendments, meets Delta County’s performance standards for Compatibility with Adjacent Land Uses, Irrigation Water and Ditch Easements, and Water. Read our full statement below. UPDATE: DELTA COUNTY BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS UNANIMOUSLY DENIES LAND USE CHANGE APPLICATION  THANK THE DELTA COUNTY COMMISSIONERS AND PLANNING COMMISSION – SIGN HERE! On November 20, the BoCC heard arguments from proponents and opponents to the land use change. WSCC Executive Director Alex Johnson urged denial of the application based on incompatibility with adjacent land uses and inadequate mitigation to threats to water supply. On December 4, the Delta County Commissioners unanimously voted 3-0 to deny the application from Paonia Holdings.  The application is still under review by the Colorado Department of Reclamation and Mining Safety. We will update this page with any further developments. UPDATE: DELTA COUNTY PLANNING COMMISSION DENIES SD-17-003 APPLICATION By a vote of 6-1, the Delta County Planning Commission voted to deny the application from Paonia Holdings on the grounds that it did not meet the County standards for Compatibility with Adjacent Land Uses and failed to mitigate impacts to scenic viewsheds and byways. While this decision is an important first step towards holding Bowie Resources accountable for full site reclamation, the Delta County Commissioners make the final decision on the application. Be sure to submit comments to the BoCC by November 20 (instructions below). SUBMIT YOUR COMMENTS ON APPLICATION SD-17-003 TO THE DELTA COUNTY PLANNING DEPARTMENT: No later than November 20, 2017 Email to Fax to 874-2500 Mail to Delta County Courthouse, 501 Palmer St, Suite 115, Delta, CO 81416 For questions, call the Delta County Planning Department at 874-3226 Western Slope Conservation Center’s Statement on SD-17-003 October 25th, 2017

WSCC Joins Methane Working Group

October 5, 2017
In late September, the Western Slope Conservation Center joined over a dozen other local and regional stakeholders – including coal companies, energy coops, state and federal agencies, and conservation groups – to begin discussion of the impacts, challenges, and opportunities involved with methane coal mine methane capture and mitigation here in the North Fork Valley. The Methane Working Group is still in its initial stages including developing mission, vision, goals, and objectives for the the group. For decades, the Western Slope Conservation Center has worked to find creative and collaborative local solutions to mitigating and minimizing the environmental impacts of coal mining. Over the years, we have worked to safeguard our local surface and ground water quality, as well as minimize surface disturbance and encourage the highest standards of reclamation and restoration. Western Slope Conservation Center intends to continue building on these collaborative efforts in the past, while also working proactively to mitigate and reduce the climate impacts of methane venting that currently occurs with coal mining in the North Fork. Specifically, we have concerns about the significant quantities of methane that would be released from the expansion of the West Elk Mine south and east of Somerset. Please check back for more updates on the Methane Working Group over the coming months.

The North Fork is Too Wild To Drill

October 5, 2017
The North Fork Watershed is Too Wild To Drill! The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Bears Ears National Monument. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The Greater Grand Canyon Watershed. And, of course…..The North Fork of the Gunnison in Colorado. These are just a few of the incredible places that are highlighted in The Wilderness Society’s Too Wild To Drill campaign, a profile of wild places threatened by oil, gas, and mineral extraction on public lands. Those of us who call the North Fork Valley home know what makes this place unique: fertile soil, organic agriculture, high-country wildlands, desert rivers, and so much more. Earlier this decade, the people of the North Fork Valley rallied together to oppose the nearby BLM lease sale.  We then convinced the BLM to consider the North Fork Citizens’ Alternative in their Resource Management Plan. But the fight is far from over and our home continues to be threatened by oil and gas development. The BLM recently accepted SG Interests Bull Mountain Master Development plan to drill 146 natural gas wells in the headwaters of the North Fork of the Gunnison. Read the full report and sign The Wilderness Society’s petition to oppose oil and gas drilling in the North Fork Valley here. Then, sign our petition telling the BLM to adhere to the protections outlined in the North Fork Alternative in the BLM Resource Management Plan! Video credit: The Wilderness Society FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 19, 2017 Contacts: Alex Johnson, Western Slope Conservation Center, 970-527-5307 x 201, Jeff Schwartz, Delicious Orchards/Big B’s Juices & Hard Ciders, 970-201-7573 Jim Ramey, The Wilderness Society, 303-957-9183, North Fork of the Gunnison makes list of 15 wild areas at high risk of development for oil, gas and other resources  New report shines spotlight on important wild lands that must be protected Paonia, Colorado —A new report released today by The Wilderness Society raises the alarm about Colorado’s upper North Fork of the Gunnison Watershed , along with other wild lands across the U.S. threatened by extractive industries eager to exploit the resources on or underneath them, including oil, gas and coal. ‘Too Wild To Drill’ identifies 15 unique places found on public lands that are at high risk of drilling, mining and other development—and the damage and destruction that inevitably follow. These lands provide Americans with important benefits such as clean air and water, wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities, sacred sites, and jobs and other socioeconomic benefits. “This report is a wake-up call to people who love the wild backcountry and national forests around McClure Pass,” said Jeff Schwartz, owner of Delicious Orchards Farm Market and Big B’s Juices & Hard Ciders. “And to those of us who rely on the clean water that flows from these mountain watersheds. Oil and gas development will enrich private interests but take too much away from the North Fork Valley and its ecology, economy, health, and recreation. These public lands and our water sources must be protected.” Energy development damages landscapes, often permanently. Impacts resulting from infrastructure like well pads, oil rigs, roads,
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