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Protecting a Valley and Saving a River by F. Darrell Munsell

Protecting a Valley and Saving a River by F. Darrell Munsell

Protecting a Valley and Saving a River

By F. Darrell Munsell


Protecting a Valley and Saving a River is a story of successful grass-roots environmental activism. The Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association (CVEPA) was founded in 1972 by a small group of Marble residents to oppose the development of a major winter sports area that would absorb their small community in the upper Crystal River Valley in the heart of the West Elk Mountains. Shortly thereafter, the organization with a broadened membership began more than a forty-year campaign against the construction of the West Divide Project, a massive Bureau of Reclamation project to build dams on the Crystal River and divert water from it to the West Divide and Mamm Creek drainages south of the towns of Silt and Rifle in western Colorado.


In the late 1980s, CVEPA challenged Mid-Continent Resources, a coal mining operation, to stop polluting the Crystal River, and during the 1990s worked with state and federal agencies to complete the Coal Basin Restoration Project after Mid-Continent declared bankruptcy and ceased operations. These were the major issues the non-profit environmental organization successfully confronted during its illustrious history. This study is significant for several reasons. CVEPA was the first and for a time only group to face the forces that threatened the ecological balance of the Crystal River Valley. It effectively used federal and state laws to press its case. From broadening the scope of environmental impact studies to defending the state’s minimum stream flow to demanding the enforcement of the Surface Mining and Control Act, the association brought environmentalism to the Crystal River Valley.


In writing this history, the author encapsulates the never before written histories of the Marble Ski Area, West Divide Project, and the restoration of the mine-scared Coal Basin west of the village of Redstone in a state and national perspective. With the challenges to the environment today, people need to be reminded of the battles of the past. Protecting a Valley and Saving a River describes how a small non-profit organization without a paid staff successfully confronted corporate interests, federal and state bureaucracies, and local governmental entities to achieve a remarkable environmental victory for a river and valley located in one of the most beautiful areas in Colorado.


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