How will you celebrate Earth Day?  Photo: Jeremy Wallace

Gunnison County is home to the West Elk coal mine. Owned by St. Louis-based Arch Coal Co., the West Elk mine produced 4.16 million tons of coal in 2016 from public lands in Gunnison County. And now it wants to expand to mine more coal, build more roads, and drill more methane drainage wells across the Gunnison National Forest.  

The Trump administration is poised to initiate a comment period on its plan to approve West Elk’s coal lease expansion and exploration proposal within the Sunset Roadless Area.

What’s at stake?

The Future of the Sunset Roadless Area  – The leasewould give the West Elk mine the right to mine within 1,700 acres of the Sunset Roadless Area, a rolling landscape of aspen and spruce-fir forests, beaver bonds, and lynx habitat that is adjacent to the West Elk Wilderness.

More Dirty Coal Mining in Gunnison County – The lease would give the mine access to 19 million tons of coal, extending the life of the West Elk mine by three to four years. The company already has about a 10-year supply of coal under lease, and this expansion would curtail efforts to transition away from dirty fossil fuels and to renewable energy.

Massive Industrial Methane Pollution – The West Elk mine is the single largest source of industrial methane pollution in the state. Methane is a greenhouse gas with 35-80 times the heat-trapping power of carbon dioxide.
Left Photo: An aerial view of the West Elk Coal Mine on a recent flyover with Ecoflight.  Photo: Brett Henderson

The Forest Service plans to issue a Draft EIS approving the lease any day now. The agency will likely give the public 45 days to comment on the plan. We will need your help to oppose the plan with letters to members of Congress, calls to local elected officials, and comments to the Forest Service. Together, we can shine a spotlight on this terrible plan and on Trump’s dirty energy, anti-public lands agenda.

We’ll update our website as soon as the public process begins. In the meantime, feel free to contact HCCA’s Public Lands Director, Matt Reed, with any questions about this issue. 

Join Us For These Earth Day Inspired Events

Join us for these Earth Day inspired events where you’ll have the opportunity to discuss more about this anticipated coal expansion proposal with HCCA staff and sign on your opposition.


Thursday, April 20, 2017: “Before The Flood” film showing
Crested Butte Center for the Arts
Doors at 6:30 p.m., Film at 7:00 p.m.


In celebration of Earth Day, HCCA has partnered with the Crested Butte Film Festival to present Before the Flood, as part of the CBFF monthly film series. Follow actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio as he journeys across the globe in search of the truth about climate change. Award-winning filmmaker Fisher Stevens bears witness to the drastic effects of climate change as DiCaprio meets with scientists and world leaders to uncover a deeper understanding as well as concrete solutions to the most pressing environmental challenge of our time.


Saturday, April 22, 2017: Denver March for Science
Denver’s Civic Center Park
10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

HCCA’s Public Lands Director, Matt Reed, will be at the official Denver March for Science. He’ll have our petition opposing the proposed West Elk Coal Mine expansion and will be available to discuss the proposal.

From the official March for Science webpage: Science benefits and impacts every aspect of humanity including healthcare, technology and the environment. The public depends on peer-reviewed studies to help shape policy for the betterment of future generations. We welcome individuals from all walks of life to join those who embrace science, dedicate their professions to research and value the processes that inform evidence-based inquiry. The March for Science champions publicly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity. We unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good and for policymakers to enact evidence-based policies in the public interest. 


Crested Butte local, Adge Marz Lindsey, is organizing a satellite Crested Butte March to complement the official People’s Climate March in DC. HCCA representatives will be attending with our petition opposing the proposed West Elk Coal Mine expansion and will be available to discuss the proposal.

From the official People’s Climate March webpage: Join the Peoples Climate Movement this April 29th  across the country to stand up for our communities and climate. Our fights are tied together, and we will only succeed together. That’s why, from now through the first 100 days and beyond, we are taking action and standing up for everything and everyone we love — and we are calling on everyone to join us on April 29th; for a march to bring our demands to the streets of Crested Butte, CO. We will march for our families. We will march for our air, our water, and our land. We will march for clean energy jobs and climate justice. We will march for our communities and the people we love.