Colorado historian, Dr. Duane Vandenbusche, is the keynote speaker at CVEPA's annual meeting. Photo by Larry Meredith.

By Suzy Meredith-Orr

“Water, Lifeblood of the West” is the topic for the 49th annual meeting of the Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association (CVEPA). The meeting is set for Sunday afternoon, Aug. 29, in Redstone. CVEPA is the only group devoted solely to the environmental defense of the Crystal Valley and has been the environmental watchdog for the Crystal Valley since 1972.

CVEPA is proud to host the dynamic Colorado historian Dr. Duane Vandenbusche as its keynote speaker. Area history buffs are no doubt acquainted with Dr. Vandenbusche’s ability to entertain while enlightening his audience. He is Professor of History at Western Colorado University, and has a teaching career that goes back to 1962. His work focuses on water, public lands and the environment and he served as Colorado State Historian for the 2020/2021 term.

Dr. Vandenbusche has published 11 books including: “Marble, Colorado: City of Stone” (with Rex Myers), “The Gunnison Country,” “Around Monarch Pass,” “Lake City,” “The Black Canyon of the Gunnison” (with Grant Houston), “Western State College: Mountain Mecca,” “Crested Butte,” “Early Days in the Gunnison Country,” “Around the Gunnison Country” and “Lake City Branch of the Denver Rio Grande Railroad” (with Walt Borneman). His history of Colorado’s Western Slope, “A Land Alone,” has been a standard text on the region since its publication in 1981.

Dr. Vandenbusche’s talk will focus on the complexities of water in the west. Western Slope residents know the timeliness of this topic as a 20-year drought has brought into focus the conflict between Western Slope water and the Eastern Slope’s voracious water appetite.

Anyone is welcome to attend who loves the Crystal Valley and would like to learn more about CVEPA’s efforts to protect it.

During its 49-year history, CVEPA has made concerted, grass-roots efforts to limit harmful development, defend access to public lands, restore damaged habitats and promote the sound management of resources to benefit wildlife.

The organization formed when a group of concerned residents, women and men of Marble and Redstone, successfully defeated the development of the proposed ski resort in Marble. The Marble Ski Area would have resulted in extensive development and the destruction of natural resources. The ski area and associated development had received preliminary support from Gunnison County and the United States Forest Service. Marble Ski planned to develop a town the size of Grand Junction in the Marble Valley. Exposing unstable geology, limited water resources and fraudulent business practices was a long battle for the fledgling environmental organization.

That success empowered the group and they went on to fight other environmental battles including a major effort to oppose the West Divide Project, whose main feature was the 301-foot-tall Placita Dam on the Crystal River that would divert Crystal River water out of the watershed to develop oil shale. Those long-held water rights were eventually abandoned and CVEPA continued forward, pushing for legislation to secure minimum stream flows, calling attention to the pollution of Coal Creek and the Crystal River that resulted from Mid-Continent Resources’ coal mining activities in Coal Basin and working with state and federal agencies and others to complete substantial reclamation efforts after the mine’s closure in 1991.

The work continues. CVEPA collaborates with a broad array of partners in environmental defense, conservation, recreation, local industry and with local, state and federal agencies and elected officials at all levels.

Currently, CVEPA is seeking productive and substantial compensatory mitigation from Colorado Stone Quarries, the quarry above Marble, to address unpermitted work in Yule Creek, and is involved with the effort to determine what enhanced protections are needed to mitigate negative impacts from a dramatic increase in off-road vehicle use in the Upper Crystal Valley, particularly the Lead King Loop.

CVEPA has also been instrumental in assisting Aspen Valley Land Trust in the transfer of a large piece of private wetland area adjacent to Marble into conservation. Among other projects, CVEPA is involved in the renewed effort to obtain “Wild and Scenic” status for the Crystal River and the organization continues to work with CDOT and the Forest Service to find areas to dispose of landslide debris while trying to maintain the values of the West Elk Scenic Byway and protect natural resources.

The annual meeting on Sunday, Aug. 29, starts at 3:30 p.m. at Propaganda Pie on Redstone Boulevard. A brief meeting will be followed by pizza at 4 p.m. Then, Dr. Vandenbusche is scheduled to speak at 5 p.m. RSVP by emailing:

CVEPA has much to work for and much to defend. Learn more at