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
Since 1995, Linda has been the co-owner and co-manager of Two Creek Ranches, a working ranch with a cow-calf operation, south of Monte Vista. Two Creek Ranches is under conservation easement held by American Farmland Trust. Linda practices Holistic Management on her 1,900 acre ranch and was nominated for 2003 Conservationist of the Year by the Rio Grande Conservation District and is the 2005 Lessee of the Year for Stewardship of State Trust Lands for the state of Colorado. Linda has instructed for Colorado College in Environmental Science on Sustainable Agriculture from Theory to Practice. Linda grew up on a ranch in Evergreen, Colorado, graduated with a Bachelors of Arts degree in Humanities from Colorado College, worked for United Airlines for 34 years as a flight attendant and now ranches full time. Linda’s terms end in January of 2012.
Since the age of seven, Doug started to study and collect insects in my home town of Elizabeth, Colorado. This helped nurture his deep connection between the land that provides food for the insects and for the people of his hometown . At home, his family grew a garden and raised chickens, sheep, and cattle, providing him with an education in the biotic and abiotic interrelationships we all share.
While growing up along the front range of Colorado, Doug saw the nearby town of Parker grow from 300 people in 1980 to 45,000 in 2010, resulting in the loss of agricultural land, prairie and highly productive riparian systems. He saw flood prone areas develop into large scale subdivisions and malls. These experiences led him to the RiGHT Board and his commitmentto be part of the growing conservation movement of agriculture lands and open landscapes.
My name is Peter Clark and I was born In Gilroy, California, quite awhile ago! Both sides of my family were pioneers in that area. My fathers family were English and Irish (Clark and Casey), my paternal grandfather being an early day physician in that town. My mothers family were mostly Hispanic going back to the land grant days prior to statehood. My sister and I were the last direct descendants to be raised on part of the original grant. It was called Rancho San Ysidro.
The ranch was sold off by the time I entered high school so I chose to pursue a career in natural resources. I graduated with a BS degree in range management from Humboldt State University in 1974 and went to work as a range conservationist for the Soil Conservation Service in Arizona. After about three years I took a range job with the US Forest Service in New Mexico. Except for a couple of years when I worked on a large ranch in Arizona, I remained with that agency my entire career. I worked in many places and at every level of the Agency's hierarchy, mostly in range and wildlife management. My final assignments, however, were as an administrator serving as Forest Supervisor first for the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest and Pawnee National Grassland in Fort Collins and finally for the Rio Grande National Forest in Monte Vista. I retired from the agency in 2007. After retirement I did some consulting for a private firm and later assisted the Natural Resources Conservation Service as a range specialist in the San Luis Valley, a job I did for five years.
Planning ahead, my wife Leah and I purchased property shortly after we moved here in 2000. My objective has always been to recapture something of the life I grew up with before our ranch was sold. Slowly we are getting there, although retirement remains elusive. We now have both registered and commercial Sim-Angus cattle, registered Navajo-Churro sheep and raise commercial hay. Our property is conserved with a conservation easement held by RiGHT in hopes that our son Wyatt will always have something to come back to. I serve on the board in hopes that our work will not only preserve the landscape and lifestyle we love but also help families preserve their heritage.
Guy has lived in western and southwestern Colorado for the last 30 years. During his 36 year career as a wildland firefighter with the US Forest Service, US Park Service, and Bureau of Land Management he served as a Helitack Foreman, Fire Management Officer, Aviation Manager, and Safety Manager. Guy also served on Incident Management Teams for 15 years as an Aviation Operations Director.
Guy studied Forestry and Outdoor Recreation at Oregon State University and has worked as a river guide, ski patroller, and Outdoor Skills Instructor. He also volunteered for many years as a Rescue Member for Corvallis Mountain Rescue in Corvallis, Oregon.
Guy was co-owner of a ski shop in Pagosa Springs and served on the Town of Pagosa Springs Planning Commission for 3 years.
Guy retired in 2015 to Del Norte to enjoy the good fishing, boating, open spaces and community we share here in the Valley.
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 of 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
has worked at RiGHT for 15 years, and as its Executive Director for 12 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 more than 14 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 is Associate Director of RiGHT and Coordinator for RIGHT’s Rio Grande Initiative, the broad partnership of conservation organizations that has achieved over $43 million in conservation, including over 26,000 conserved acres along the Rio Grande and Conejos River corridors since 2007. She serves as the Environmental Representative for the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable, on the San Luis Valley Wetlands Focus Area Committee, and has been involved in numerous planning and conservation initiatives in the region. 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
Through her career, 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. She earned her degree in Journalism from the University of Colorado, Boulder and 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