Founded in 1999 to help secure water for the future, the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and is the only local land trust that serves the entire San Luis Valley. As the community’s land trust, RiGHT is committed to working with private landowners, public agencies, and other conservation organizations to preserve the natural beauty and wildlife habitat of the area and to promote a sustainable agricultural way of life. Our goals are to protect and support working ranches and farms, water resources, wildlife habitat, scenic landscapes, and inspire a culture of conservation in the San Luis Valley.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Mike Spearman, President
Mike has lived in the La Garita area of the San Luis Valley for about 34 years and raised his two sons here. He has a degree in Animal Science from Colorado State University and has been a professional land and livestock manager since then, notably at the L Cross Ranch for 30 years. In 1996, a conservation easement was obtained on the L Cross by The Nature Conservancy. Mike retired in 2012.
During his time in Saguache County, he served the community in many different positions, such as; 11 years on the Saguache County Land Use Board, four years on the Center School Board, nine years on the Monte Vista Cooperative Board of Directors including two years as President, 10 years on the Center Conservation District Board of Directors including three years as President, represented the San Luis Valley for three years on the State Conservation Board, ten years and an original board member on the Habitat Partnership Program Board of the Division of Wildlife, 12 years on the SLV Cattlemen’s Association Board with one year as President, several years on the SLV Nature Conservancy Advisory Board, and eight years as a County Commissioner. Mike is also a certified lay speaker for the United Methodist Church.
Anne Pizel, Vice President
Cathy Morin, Treasurer
Cathy Morin is a board member of both the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) and the Rio Grande Restoration Foundation. Her passion to improve the health of our environment and our community is unmistakable. Cathy owns Valley Pheasants providing fresh eggs weekly and fresh turkeys for Thanksgiving to our community.
As a pastured poultry farmer, boater, and hunter, Cathy stays tied to the land and deeply believes that conserving our land and water preserves our culture, heritage, and economy. Cathy has volunteered for Valley non-profits for over seventeen years and brings 15 years of experience in program development, project management, and grant writing. She received Volunteer of the Year from the Boys & Girls club in 1999 and from SLV Mental Health Center in 2004. Cathy received her PhD in Nutrition from Colorado State University. She currently is a Co-Chair for SLV Rural Philanthropy Days, and a member of the Rural Philanthropy Days’ Funding & Government and Fundraising committees, to help Valley non-profits effectively link to Colorado Foundations.
Linda Schoonhoven, Secretary
Angie is the Heritage Program Manager for the Rio Grande National Forest. She has a BA in Anthropology with a minor in Southwest Studies from Colorado College, and a MA in Applied Archaeology from Northern Arizona University. Angie has worked as a massage therapist, a Forest Service archaeologist, and an adjunct instructor in Outdoor Education at the Colorado Mountain College. She has served on the Oak Creek Town Board and the Board of the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps. Angie comes to RiGHT from the Yampa Valley of NW Colorado where she founded a job-training and conservation education program tailored for indigenous youth from the Northern Ute Tribe. She joined the RiGHT Board in the hopes of meeting like-minded folks who care deeply about protecting the nexus between habitat and heritage.
Steve retired from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in July 2005. The last 16 years of his career were spent as district conservationist in Monte Vista serving Rio Grande, Mineral, and Hinsdale counties. He has worked extensively with all aspects of water, from snow sampling to irrigation system design with an emphasis on irrigation water management. He has training in Holistic Resource Management and has had significant involvement in range management, grazing systems, and spring developments. Steve is particularly interested in stream bank restoration and has been involved in approximately 100 projects for this purpose. Steve has been involved in several Wetland Reserve Program easements and one Grassland Reserve Program easement. He is a Co-chairman of the Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project (RGHRP) and President on the Colorado Rio Grande Restoration Foundation. They are working with a group to do a study on the Rio Grande from the Alamosa Refuge downstream and a second group studying the Rio Grande from South Fork to the headwaters. He played a key role in starting the Willow Creek Reclamation Committee. Steve currently is member of the Rio Grande Watershed Emergency Action Team (RWEACT). He is working with Trout Unlimited on a project to enhance conditions in for the Rio Grande Cutthroat. Steve has been involved with RiGHT since its inception.
Nancy Butler, Executive Director
Nancy has worked at RiGHT for 13 years, and as its Executive Director for nine of those years. During her tenure, through the Rio Grande Initiative she has helped more than triple the pace of conservation along the Rio Grande River and its tributaries in Colorado by completing such projects as the Cross Arrow Ranch and the 4UR Ranch. She directs all operations of the land trust, including conservation transactions, project development, fundraising, and office and board management. Nancy is a foster parent, has traveled extensively internationally, served in the Peace Corps, battled breast cancer on and off for 12 years and has an exceptional track record of meeting fellow Colorado conservationists on high mountain trails!
Rio de la Vista, Associate Director
Rio de la Vista serves RiGHT as a consultant through her company, Shining Mountain Land Services. In addition to assisting with programs, development and events, she is a coordinator for RiGHT's Rio Grande Initiative, a broad partnership of conservation organizations that has achieved over 25,000 conserved acres along the Rio Grande and Conejos River corridors since 2007. Rio was honored to receive the 2011 National Wetlands Award for Conservation and Restoration from the Environmental Law Institute, in recognition of her work in the San Luis Valley. She also serves as the Vice-Chair and Environmental Representative for the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable, as Vice Chair of the Rio Grande Natural Area Commission.
Over the past 30 plus years, Rio has worked with local, regional, and international nonprofit organizations, land management agencies, community groups, and landowners to achieve land, water and habitat conservation and restoration, agricultural viability, and community sustainability. Recently, she is also working with a network of scientists, land owners and managers to develop and implement methods for enhancing land health in ways that increase both water and carbon sequestration.
Rio earned her degree in Journalism and natural resource issues from the University of Colorado, Boulder. In addition to her expanding portfolio of photography, she is the author of many articles and co-author of the eco-novel “The Oglin: A Hero’s Journey Across Africa Towards the Tomorrows” with Dick Richardson of South Africa.
Allen Law, Stewardship Director
Allen is the "new guy" at RiGHT, having joined the team in the summer of 2015. During undergraduate at Allegheny College and law school at Ohio State, he worked in a variety of fields: promoting sustainable economic growth in small rustbelt towns, researching and editing the book "Dream of a Nation," providing legal advice to the Columbus Police Department, and prosecuting misdemeanors in Alaska. Allen does most of the land trust's field work, including monitoring our easements and visiting potential new projects. When he isn't working, Allen can usually be found outside climbing, hiking, fishing, skiing, or shooting photos.
Katherine Brown, Development & Office Coordinator