The Crestone Eagle • November, 2021

What has the SLV Ecosytem Council been doing to protect your public lands in 2021? —Lots!

by Zaylah Pearson Good

For over two decades, the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council (SLVEC) has loyally advocated for the protection of roughly 3.1 million acres of public lands and natural resources that span the San Luis Valley and close surrounds. SLVEC is pleased to share some of the many projects that have carried our mission for environmental protection into the 2021 year. Note that the below campaigns are further grounded in our unwavering dedication to enriching the San Luis Valley through intact, well-connected landscapes that will sustain local ecosystems for future generations to enjoy. 

Preserving highly productive fen wetlands, vital wildlife corridors for species such as the endangered Canadian lynx, and pristine wilderness, SLVEC stands committed to protect the Wolf Creek Pass area.

Protecting the rich culture & ecology of the Rio Grande

Along its near 1,900-mile path, invaluable cultural artifacts and ecological hotspots line the Rio Grande. In southern Colorado, this river supports several endangered bird species, countless wildlife species, native plants, and sensitive archeology that reflects 8,000 years of human history. In recognition of this precious resource, SLVEC is taking bold steps towards informing policies that would grant long-term protection to the Rio Grande corridor in Colorado’s Conejos and Costilla counties. This year we collaborated with a number of expert scientists, the Conservation Lands Foundation, and public land agencies to collect critical baseline inventory data, develop informative maps, research and publish reports, and convey the ecological and cultural value of this region to the public. We are continuing to refine these necessary components, develop an economic report, and apply for funding that will push this project forward as a thriving campaign. The desired outcome from our efforts will ideally encourage the designation of this essential stretch of the Rio Grande as a National Conservation Area. 

Wildlife corridors in Saguache County

Environmental groups across the nation are uniting to address the outrageous loss of nature in the U.S. by pledging to support actions that protect 30% of our waters and lands by 2030. One way SLVEC is aiding this initiative, known as the 30X30 Movement, is by encouraging increased designation of wildlife corridors in Saguache County. As proposed by County Commissioner Tom McCracken, we recently sent out an action alert asking our members to submit comments regarding the County’s resolution to support migration corridors and wildlife habitat in Saguache County. We were pleased to receive ample encouragement from many residents of Saguache County, showing that citizens understand the value of these corridors: improved motor vehicle safety, healthier wildlife populations, habitats, and migration behaviors, and more dynamic recreational opportunities. SLVEC plans to continue supporting efforts, such as this resolution, on the state and federal levels, that assist in creating more connected and safe passages for our state’s wildlife. 

SLVEC is taking bold steps towards informing policies that would grant long-term protection to the Rio Grande Corridor in Colorado’s Conejos and Costilla counties.

Pushing for Wilderness Designation in the Sangres

The SLVEC board is disappointed in the final Rio Grande National Forest’s fifteen-year revision plan Record of Decision (ROD). SLVEC submitted 22 recommendations for wilderness/special use/or research designations, most of which were dismissed. The Forest Service did recommended 47,000 acres of additional Wilderness, almost entirely in the Sangres in their ROD. SLVEC will be pursuing Wilderness designation through Congress and have already been told that Senator Bennet’s office is willing to support our efforts. In the meantime, the rest of the forest revision plan ignores opportunities for protection of critical habitat and species, especially within the San Juan Mountains, so our board is preparing  to challenge the rest of the plan in court. If we move forward, we will be represented by the Western Environmental Law Center. Stay tuned for future updates. 

Updates on the Wolf Creek Pass case

Preserving highly productive fen wetlands, vital wildlife corridors for species such as the endangered Canadian lynx, and pristine wilderness, SLVEC stands committed to protect the Wolf Creek Pass area. Since developers began to threaten this critical region with plans to build a massive “village” on top of the pass, SLVEC and allies have countered with a series of lawsuits.  The near 30-year challenge continues today. SLVEC and Friends of Wolf Creek are anxiously awaiting the latest court decision on whether developers will be granted access to US Forest Service lands, which would allow the project to continue. For a more complete background and update on the current case, please visit slvec.org. 

Protecting our water

SLVEC has deep allegiances to keeping every drop of our groundwater in the San Luis Valley. Unfortunately, the current threat of a massive trans-basin water diversion by Front Range investors Renewable Water Resources (RWR) is still present. By attending meetings, posting articles and updates on our website, and staying connected with other important allies, the SLVEC team will continue to closely monitor this concerning project that would have detrimental impacts on ecosystems throughout the SLV. Visit our blog page at slvec.org or protectsanluisvalleywater.com to learn more. 

Social media

Our supporters may have noticed that SLVEC has made many advancements in our virtual outreach world in the past year and a half. Monthly newsletters are thoughtfully crafted to keep readers up to date with our latest projects, local and regional environmental concerns/topics, and involve the public in our work. Developing Instagram and Facebook accounts have also supported our mission and spread awareness to new audiences. Subscribe to our newsletter at zaylah@slvec.org. Follow us @slv_ec or search FB for San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council. 

Support SLVEC

If you are interested in showing your appreciation or support for our projects, please consider following our social channels, making a donation, or reaching out to us with volunteer interests: info@slvec.org. For a full catalog of past newsletters and blogs, visit the “News and Press” page at slvec.org.