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 ca