Three in Valley recognized by Keep It Colorado
THREE representatives from the San Luis Valley will receive awards for their outstanding contributions to land, water and wildlife conservation from Keep It Colorado:
- Advocacy Hero: Rio de la Vista, former director, Salazar Rio Grande Del Norte Center
A “conservation fixture” in the San Luis Valley and across Colorado, de la Vista is known for finding common ground among many different groups, connecting people and forming collaborations. After connecting landowners with national organizations to help them permanently conserve their land, she helped bring together local ranchers, biologists and water managers to create a local land trust for the San Luis Valley, the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust. The Rio Grande Initiative, for which de la Vista rallied several partners to conserve 25,000 acres along the Rio Grande, is among her advocacy accomplishments. De la Vista also was the founding director of the Salazar Rio Grande del Norte Center at Adams State University, where she continued her advocacy work for conservation, with a focus on educating the next generation about the importance of water and drought.
- Community Partner Hero: San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition
The coalition exemplifies what can happen when a group of passionate stakeholders come together in partnership to meet local community needs. With a mission to foster an equitable local food system that restores the health of the people, community, economy and ecosystem, the SLVLFC formed when dozens of people gathered out of a common desire to connect with the soil, the seeds and the stories of local growers. Today the coalition’s Rio Grande Farm Park is a place where people can practice growing food in living soil, learn about regenerative farming and the environment, and share resources – as well as walk along scenic trails, observe wildlife and purchase fresh vegetables. The park’s Farm-to-Pantry project brings fresh produce to local nonprofits serving community members in need. The coalition also provides bilingual farm business training and is working to engage the next generation of farmers.
- Legislative Champion: State Sen. Cleave Simpson
Sen. Simpson has quickly become a leading voice in conservation advocacy and a strong partner for the community. He advocated forward-thinking conservation policy that passed in 2022, protecting investments already made in permanent land conservation. As the general manager of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District and a farmer and rancher himself, Sen. Simpson’s passion for land and water conservation runs deep, and he is a respected advocate for conservation policy that supports rural communities.
The awards ceremony, to be held in Golden on Sept. 1, will be part of Keep It Colorado’s inaugural Fall Reception, which will celebrate nine Conservation Heroes and Conservation Champions, as well as several photographers whose work will be displayed in a gallery exhibit. Keep It Colorado is a nonprofit of conservation organizations focused on conservation, protection and stewardship of lands in the state.