Nature Conservancy starts operating in San Luis Valley

Brief by Marcia Darnell

Environment – May 1996 – Colorado Central Magazine

If they throw a reception, it’s official. Peter Coors, CEO of guess what company, was host to a buffet and speeches event in Alamosa on April 2 to announce the establishment of a Nature Conservancy program in the San Luis Valley.

Mark Burget, the Conservancy’s state director, said the agency plans to set up a local advisory board, complete with veto power, to ensure community support.

The Valley has tremendous diversity of opinion, he noted, until someone comes in and tells people what to do, then the Valley is unified.

Burget said the board “and the program” will be modeled on the Conservancy’s Yampa River Valley program. That advisory board comprises 15 people, from agriculture, mining, resorts, ranches, real estate, and the Department of Wildlife, Burget said. The idea on the Yampa is to work with private and public landowners to preserve the river area as a wildlife corridor.

Coors Brewing Company is putting up half the funding for the first three years of the program, which is still without an office or employee.

Coors, who arrived at the reception via Flight for Life (his plane broke down) said further funding of the program is not ruled out, but this thing has to have legs of its own after three years or it won’t work.

The Conservancy has already been active in the area with Mishak Lakes, a parcel in Saguache County which has grown lately with a 240-acre donation from June McClure, bringing the total area to 2,040 acres.

Allen Carpenter, the Conservancy’s Colorado land steward, says the area still lacks good public access, but they plan to fix that this summer. They’re also working on a field office with a director, who should be hired by late April.

–Marcia Darnell