GUNNISON, Colorado —May 24, 2019—The National Forest Foundation recently convened the Gunnison County Stewardship Fund Project Selection Committee, which included sixteen representatives from the Gunnison County Sustainable Tourism and Outdoors Recreation Committee, the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, and businesses and entities contributing financially to the Fund. The Committee is planning to meet twice per year, and expects to select projects for funding on an annual basis. The Gunnison County Sustainable Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Committee and NFF signed an MOU in 2018 to formally establish the committee.
Just over $59,000 in funding was allocated to three projects, which were brought forth as priorities by the Gunnison District of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre & Gunnison National Forest. Projects Include:
- Crested Butte Conservation Corps, focusing on trail construction, outreach, maintenance and clean-up throughout the Gunnison Valley. The CBCC will work in conjunction with the Gunnison Ranger District to identify areas of high impact and use that require maintenance and impact mitigation, along with providing a physical presence during high use times of the season to provide education and outreach.
- Gunnison Basin Wet Meadow and Riparian Habitat Restoration Project, focusing on volunteer-led work events to build and rebuild riparian rock structures. The overall objectives of the meadow restoration work are to improve habitat for Gunnison sage-grouse, Neotropical migratory birds, increase forage production for big game and livestock, and enhance the resiliency of wet meadow and riparian systems to drought.
- Cottonwood Pass Day Use Area Vault Toilet & Picnic Tables. Support will help to install a vault toilet at the day use area on Cottonwood Pass on the Taylor Park side of the divide, providing a better visitor experience. The pass will soon be paved from Buena Vista, CO to Taylor Park Reservoir and does not have a toilet.
Local businesses and entities, including Gunnison County, the Gunnison County Metropolitan Recreation District, Eleven, Crested Butte Mountain Resort/Vail Resorts, Three Rivers Resort, Mt. Emmons Mining Company and others have contributed funding to the Gunnison County Stewardship Fund. The National Forest Foundation, who is adding matching funds on partial donations, is managing the Fund. This will be done in close coordination with the Gunnison Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service, the Gunnison County Sustainable Tourism & Outdoor Recreation Committee, and the local contributors. The Fund will support stewardship of National Forests and other public and conserved lands through annual grants to local nonprofit organizations and contracts to local businesses for on-the-ground recreation and forest health projects.
The first projects to be implemented via the Stewardship Fund were in 2018: Gunnison County, the Gunnison County Metropolitan Recreation Board, the Town of Crested Butte, and the National Forest Foundation generously provided pilot funding for the West Maroon Pass Trailhead Improvement Project. The project was partially implemented in the fall of 2018 with the installation of a new toilet at the West Maroon Trailhead. Project implementation will continue in 2019 with additional improvements to the Trailhead and parking area.
Gunnison County Commissioner John Messner noted of the effort, “It's been incredible to work with the diverse stakeholders from around the county, STOR and NFF in a collaborative fashion to both develop this funding mechanism as well as to determine how the funding developed can best improve situations on the ground. I look forward to continuing to evolve this partnership into something that can be modeled throughout the country.”
Travis Tucker of the Eleven Experience / Irwin Guides added, “I was really encouraged by the turn out at this meeting and the tangible projects that will be funded. Emily Olsen & Matt McCombs did a great job presenting the projects for consideration and the process felt fair. The Gunnison Stewardship Fund represents an incredible opportunity for our community to positively impact our public lands and I hope more businesses will consider joining.”
“This effort is just one more example of the type of success we can have working together,” said Matt McCombs, Gunnison District Ranger. “The Gunnison County Stewardship Fund is an excellent model for local governments and businesses, especially those with a close connection to public lands, which demonstrates how a pioneering community of stakeholders can step up and make immediate impacts on the things they care about most.”
Mark Voegeli of Crested Butte Mountain Resort captured the committee’s sentiments best. “It was a pleasure working with such a diverse group of stakeholders to come up with how this year’s funds would be distributed. I look forward to working with this group in the future to benefit Gunnison County and all it has to offer.”
"The Gunnison County Metropolitan Recreation District is pleased to support the Gunnison Stewardship Fund and looks forward to working with its partners to expand this innovative and burgeoning opportunity,” summed up Derrick Nehrenberg, Gunnison County Metropolitan Recreation District.
The partners look forward to expanding the Fund’s impact in future years. Local businesses and residents interested in getting involved or contributing to the Fund are encouraged to contact Emily Olsen, Colorado Program Manager for the National Forest Foundation at email@example.com.