Doing water rights right
The Southern San Luis Valley is located in south central Colorado. The history of the Native Americans, along with early Spanish and later Mexican settlers has endowed this landscape with a rich cultural heritage and a strong agricultural identity. The recently established Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area recognizes this area as the confluence of American Indian, Latino and Anglo cultures. The acequia irrigation system is the lifeblood of these agricultural communities and supports a rich riparian and wetland system. This area was recognized as a national priority for conservation by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Colorado Open Lands has taken a unique approach to protecting the historic land and water rights in this community by employing both traditional and nontraditional conservation tools. Colorado Open Lands has protected 109,185 acres in this landscape, but also has a partnership with the Sangre de Cristo Acequia Association to organize the Colorado Congreso de Acequias and facilitates a water rights legal assistance program with the University of Colorado Law School.