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Happy June everyone. Sure is starting to feel like summer!

Thanks to everyone who showed up to support us at our 20th annual RiverFest and Fundraising Float over the weekend. If you weren’t able to join us, we hope to see you out on the land this summer, perhaps on a Mike’s Hike?

Since our last newsletter both students and Colorado lawmakers have been dismissed for the summer. See below for our Public Lands Director Ben Katz’s summary of what happened with conservation legislation this year. And check out the news from our Watershed Director, Jake Hartter, about trying to solve a mystery in Somerset and an assessment of the flows so far this year.

For the love of the land,

Tanya Henderson
Executive Director

Donate to support our work

Thank you to all who came out to celebrate RiverFest with us at Paonia River Park. We are so proud of the transformations all along the North Fork of the Gunnison over the 20 years that we have been hosting RiverFest. We’ve worked long and hard to make the river a safe place to recreate while maintaining important riparian habitat. We can’t continue to do the work without the support from all of you. To be able to gather together and celebrate the river and this community again after a two year COVID hiatus was really wonderful.

We estimate about 300 people were able to make it out and listen to some music, have a few beers, support local vendors, and have many meaningful conversations with each other and the community groups who showed up.

We are so thankful for all the businesses that sponsored the event and businesses and individuals who donated a fantastic array of items to our Silent Auction. Thanks to everyone who participated and congratulations to all the highest bidders! 

And as always, we couldn’t have done it without all of those incredible volunteers who helped with set up, tear down and everything in between. Whether they were raising a circus tent, selling/pouring beer, directing traffic, staffing the silent auction or helping in one of the many other roles, all selflessly contributed to the amazing TEAM effort that made 2022 Riverfest such a success.

And last but certainly not least, we were supported in our fundraising float by amazing guides volunteering their time and abilities to give a couple dozen folks the opportunity to float from Paonia to Hotchkiss. We are deeply grateful for Western Slope SUP for making it possible.

Thank you all for such a great weekend!

Buy a raffle ticket and support conservation!
WSCC is excited for our annual Hyside Mini-Max Raft Raffle! We are selling you a chance to win a 10.5 Hyside Mini Max, Cataract Oars, and Custom Welfelt Frame package (worth almost $5,000) for only $20 per ticket or $100 for 6 tickets. The winner will be announced August 9th. Visit our website to buy online:
Buy Your Raft Ticket(s) Now!
Join local community groups Western Slope Conservation Center, Colorado Farm and Food Alliance, and Citizens for a Healthy Community to discuss recent oil and gas happenings in and around the North Fork Valley and western slope of Colorado. RSVP using this link.
Mike's Hikes come in many flavors and sizes. And sometimes they aren't really a hike at all! In May, Cedar Keshet tutored folks in the art of sketching nature at the River Park, and John Zachman revealed signs of our ancestors - both ancients and not so ancient - while hiking on McDonald Mesa. And then there is always the wildcard factor. You never know who else will join the hike and share their own special insights and knowledge. Our community is full of fascinating folks!

We have two hikes coming up in June:

June 19: Mount "Glamborn" Pride Hike

It’s pride month! Celebrate pride this year by joining WSCC staff on a “glamborn” hike up Mt. Lamborn on Sunday, June 19th. Bring with you whatever feels most comfortable, including a wig, fancy clothes, or just yourself! We will be heading up the Bell Creek Trail and making our way to the top of the mountain before heading home. Use this link for more information and to sign up.

June 25: Paonia Springs Hike with Russ Zick

Join us for an educational outing to observe some of the springs that feed Paonia's drinking water system and talk about the city's water system, source water protection, and other conservation topics. Use this link for more information and to sign up.



North Fork Mancos Master Development Plan Update

Recently, our friends at Citizens for a Healthy Community, High Country Conservation Advocates, Wilderness Workshop, Center for Biological Diversity, Western Environmental Law Center, and WildEarth Guardians won a lawsuit which vacated the North Fork Mancos Master Development Plan, which would have approved 35 new fracking wells in the North Fork Valley. This is big for the North Fork! And while litigation can provide victories like this, it can only happen after the community has raised its voice and tried to be heard at every step of the process providing input and getting decision makers to listen (or not - that’s when we turn to litigation). 

Lizzy Potter, an attorney with Advocates for the West, provided the keynote address to WSCC’s annual meeting earlier this year and spoke very succinctly about this. She talked in very specific terms about how public support and public pressure can influence – and change – public lands management, and why litigation alone cannot win the battles. A video recording of her presentation is available at this link:

Ms. Potter is currently representing WSCC (and Wilderness Workshop and The Wilderness Society) in our suit against the BLM Uncompahgre Field Office’s Resource Management Plan.

Dark Skies in Colorado

Earlier this month, Governor Polis signed House Bill 22-1382 – Support Dark-sky Designation and Promotion in Colorado – which provides funding for the IDA Colorado Chapter to increase our ability to assist International Dark Sky Places in their certification efforts. The bill also allocates funds for new dark sky places to join in tourism promotion projects. WSCC has been working with partners at the Bureau of Land Management and Colorado Canyons Association to get Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area certified as a Dark Sky Park. We will be sending volunteers out at the end of June to collect dark sky readings in spots throughout the Conservation Area. If this sounds interesting to you, please send a note to Ben Katz, Public Lands Program Director at

State Legislative Update

WSCC staff and volunteers have been hard at work advocating for the North Fork in statewide legislative bills. We have been tracking a few over the course of the session and have some updates for our members as the session has come to a close. 

This bill creates six statewide toxics monitors and allows CDPHE to monitor for more air toxics than the EPA currently regulates, but only includes five toxics next year and every five years the air quality control commission can consider adding more.

This bill creates a separate entity to manage $10 million a year in state funds for plugging, reclaiming and remediating orphaned wells, and allows the state to use those funds to qualify for an additional $25 million this year in federal funds.

This bill would require state agencies to collect industry-wide and random-sample data for the 2023 calendar year. Using this data, the State Auditor will compare enforcement actions and reporting information submitted to the different departments to more thoroughly evaluate our severance tax reporting system and make recommendations to the Colorado legislature.

This bill would have expanded opportunities for Colorado farmers and ranchers to pursue “agrivoltaics” — developments that combine solar energy generation and agricultural production — or participate in carbon-offset programs, and added additional statewide emissions reductions goals to our current statewide climate plan. A Republican filibuster prevented the bill from advancing. We hope to see this bill again next year.

This bill will create the Colorado Wildlife Safe Passages Fund to invest $5 million in measures to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and reconnect habitat fragmented by roads.

Gunnison Outdoor Resources Protection Act Discussion Draft Introduced

Earlier this month, Senator Bennet released the Gunnison Outdoor Resources Protection Act, a bill created by a working group in Gunnison County designed to create special management areas and designate Wilderness areas. With a large portion of the North Fork watershed residing in Gunnison County, this bill has the potential to protect large swaths of our upper watershed. Many of the North Fork areas remain “in discussion,” meaning Sen. Bennet is waiting to hear from you on whether or not they should be included in the final legislation. Stay tuned as WSCC will release more information and action alerts for ways you can participate in the bill.



During the summer of 2018, staff and volunteers of WSCC met with the managers of the water treatment plant for Somerset Domestic Water District (SDWD), where they learned that unusually high concentrations of bromide in the raw water supply were creating major problems in meeting state standards for Disinfection Byproducts (DBPs). The town of Somerset is the only community in the North Fork watershed that uses surface water from the North Fork river as its only source of water for domestic use. Bromide is a fairly rare, naturally occurring compound in the Earth’s crust. It typically occurs in evaporite deposits and on its own is not considered harmful to humans or wildlife. WSCC responded with multiple sampling events in an effort to determine the source.  

Now after the completion of a new Source Water Protection Plan, WSCC and SDWD are undertaking the “Upper North Fork Watershed Bromide Study'' with the goal of determining where, and how, bromide is entering the North Fork of the Gunnison River watershed and impacting SDWD’s water system. The robust study will include the following strategies; 1) analyze all pre-existing water quality data, COGCC data, and any other relevant metrics to identify any correlations, 2) develop and implement a year-long bromide sampling protocol for the source water protection area of Somerset and stay up to date on all relevant water quality impacts within the watershed, and 3) following the study, complete a detailed public report of all findings, educating the public on environmental health issues related to DBPs, and provide recommendations for bromide mitigation and future action steps.

WSCC is currently seeking additional funding to complete this water quality sampling program to improve water quality for the residents of Somerset. For more information, and to find out how you can help, contact  

Runoff Recap

Well, it ain't over yet!  However, we have likely seen the peak flow for 2022 on the North Fork of the Gunnison pass as water under the bridge. After a “slightly above average” year for snowpack in the North Fork basin, runoff this year has been full of ups and downs, literally. Toward the end of winter, the overall Gunnison Basin held the highest snowpack of the major basins of Colorado. However, as another unseasonably warm spring has settled in, the Gunnison Basin snowpack now sits at just 55% of average for this time of year. 

Peak flow on the North Fork occurred on May 16th at 2,400 cfs as measured at the USGS gauge in Somerset. That’s slightly below the 88 year average peak of 3,000 cfs at this location and 3 weeks earlier than the average peak runoff date of June 4th. A few cold spells and a couple nice spring storms put the brakes on what was a quickly dissipating snowpack in late May. That was a good thing, and helped extend the peak runoff season a bit longer.  

As an old timer once said, “It’s not how it comes down, but how it comes off.” That’s been the case this year and with a hot week ahead there is some promise of a bump in North Fork flows. A solid snowpack still exists in the Anthracite basin and should keep our river boatable for a few more weeks (we hope). Get it while you can. We are hovering right around the average flow for this time of year at 1,500 cfs. Any takers on whether or not there will be “snow in the book” (of Mt. Lamborn) come July 4th? If that’s the old school measure of a good water year, we are looking to come up short in that department. However, all things considered, the North Fork Basin didn't fare badly compared to some of our neighboring watersheds. We are thankful for every drop!  


Our River Park got a lot of love and attention from all who partook of Riverfest last weekend. We heard from many folks who are deeply appreciative of having such a great resource in our community. But it didn't get that way on its own! Many, many volunteers and organizations chipped in along the way. And we continue to need volunteer assistance to keep it in tip top shape. So, if you can, join us on Tuesday, June 21st for a couple hours of trail maintenance, gravel moving and weed control. Use this link to RSVP!

Sign up for the June 21st River Park Workday
We are always looking for more voices on WSCC's Volunteer Committees! Our committees are critical to the success of our programs, organization, community, and environment. We meet once a month - email for more information.


As mentioned above, we never could have revived Riverfest were it not for dozens of volunteers. Many, many thanks for the incredible outpouring of community spirit! This includes the small army of weed wackers and sign posters who turned out for our May River Park workday. Their efforts were carefully timed to ensure our Riverfest arena was ready for the festive gathering.

Thanks also to Cedar Keshet and John Zachman - our Mike’s Hikes leaders for the month of May. We are so grateful for the talented and knowledgeable folks in our community who volunteer their time to engage others in appreciation and understanding of our public lands and surroundings. 

Haven't joined us as a volunteer yet, but want to? Click the button below to sign up for future opportunities.

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Western Slope Conservation Center · 204 Poplar Ave. · PO Box 1612 · Paonia, CO 81428 · USA

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