The Grand Mesa, Uncompaghre, and Gunnison National Forest, commonly known as the “GMUG,” encompasses over 3.2 million acres of public land in Colorado and are a significant portion of the headwaters of the mighty Colorado River. The forest is home to beloved streams and tributaries such as Oh-Be-Joyful Creek, the San Miguel River, Escalante Creek, and the Taylor River, and towering waterfalls like Ingram Falls and Bridal Veil Falls, Colorado’s tallest, free-falling waterfall. The GMUG National Forest provides critical water supplies for downstream communities. Its natural water infrastructure - including high-altitude creeks, wetlands and riparian areas - help mitigate the impacts of wildfire and drought, improve habitat resiliency for wildlife, sequester carbon, and improve water quality, making it an important component of climate resilience for the whole Colorado River system.
Every 15-20 years, the US Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) revise their Forest Plans and Resource Management Plans, providing an exceptional opportunity to administratively protect our best remaining, free-flowing streams, and direct the management of our public lands and waters for the next two decades.
During these plan revisions, agency officials must inventory all streams that are eligible for designation under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act - that is, every stream that is 1) free-flowing, and 2) possesses at least one outstanding value such as scenery, fish or wildlife habitat, recreation, cultural or other similar values. The agency must then administratively protect each stream’s free-flowing character and outstanding values for the life of the plan, including at least 320 acres per mile of critically important riparian areas surrounding each stream. While these administrative protections are not as strong as a full designation under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, they help to keep the baseline of important, free-flowing streams that remain in the region from being harmed.
Plan revisions are also an opportunity to incorporate the best available science and management policies to ask agencies to better manage for resilience in the face of a changing climate by protecting and restoring our natural water infrastructure using nature-based solutions. These solutions include restoring beaver populations, floodplains, and high-altitude wetlands to increase water security and improve water quality in the ecosystem, while maintaining critical wildlife habitat, migration corridors, cultural sites, and recreational values.
How to Participate
The best way to participate in resource management plan revisions is to tell the agency what you value most on the National Forest or BLM-managed lands. It may seem easy to get overwhelmed by the minutiae of public lands law and policy but remember: It’s the agencies (and our) jobs to turn what you value into sound policy. All you really need to do is express what you want to see for your local forests and streams.
Take action to protect rivers, healthy watersheds, and clean water on the GMUG National Forest.
Thank you for helping us protect some of the most ecologically and culturally important public lands and waters in the Southwest!