rocky mountain biological laboratory


270 acres, gunnison county

This easement represents Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory’s (RMBL) 270-acre research site. RMBL is one of the largest, oldest, and most productive sites for field research on earth. It will now remain so as a protected living laboratory, centered in the Town of Gothic, just north of Crested Butte.

The conservation easement prevents subdivision and development outside of the research site and preserves the site for education and recreation into perpetuity. This ensures that the hundreds of scientists and students that RMBL hosts yearly have guaranteed access to conduct field research in a large, intact outdoor environment and that tens of thousands of visitors will have unique opportunities to explore environmental science in a beautiful and informal setting. RMBL’s non-consumptive water rights, which were among the first in the state of Colorado and helped establish the value of leaving water in streams to support wildlife and recreation, will be protected through the conservation easement.

RMBL has a deep history of scientific contributions with global implications. Research conducted onsite has produced over 1,900 published studies. Founded in 1928, 55 years after the first scientific exploration of the area was conducted under the auspices of the Hayden Survey, the organization promotes quality of life for humankind by accelerating discoveries about the ecosystems that replenish the world’s air, water, and food supply.

RMBL scientists have created one of the world’s largest collections of long-term research supporting national environmental policy, such as the National Clean Air Act, and provide insights into food security, water management, and human health. They have also helped establish non-consumptive water rights in Colorado. RMBL makes science accessible not only for researchers but student scientists from around the globe, some of whom have never spent any time outside of a city. Through its informal science education program, RMBL invites the public to participate in and learn from its research. By protecting the site under easement, these opportunities to use science to manage the world and to actively engage the public in research will endure.

According to RMBL Executive Director Dr. Ian Billick, “With this easement, and in collaboration with Colorado Open Lands, RMBL commits in perpetuity to the Power of Place, demonstrating how a sustained commitment by generations of scientists to understanding a single location can transform our understanding of the world.”

Colorado Open Lands has protected 62 separate properties for a total of more than 25,000 acres in Gunnison County alone. The Gunnison Valley Land Protection Fund provided a transaction costs grant to support this project.

Sidebar and below photo credit RMBL.

Rocky Mtn Bio Lab scaled