How to Plan Your Conservation Legacy

Thank you for your interest in supporting the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT). Estate planning is a very important step and your decision to leave charitable bequests should be made carefully. A charitable bequest through your will or revocable trust today can help support RiGHT tomorrow. Whether you are a concerned farmer or rancher or just dedicated to conserving land in the San Luis Valley, RiGHT hopes that you will keep us in mind while planning for your estate.

The San Luis Valley is known for its outstanding agricultural production, beautiful views, its wildlife and the water resources that support all of that. From our farming and ranching economy, our recreational resources along the river, and the beauty of the Sandhill Cranes, our heritage and way of life all ties back to the land. When the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) started in 1999, we made a promise to protect the special places in the Valley…forever, for the next generation and generations to come. We are the only local land trust in the Valley that serves the whole Valley. So please join our Headwaters Legacy Circle to make a lasting gift today so we can protect these lands, into the future.      

Reasons to include a charitable bequest and benefits to you:

·       It is not payable until death, so it does not affect your assets or cash flow during your life time;

·       it is revocable, meaning you can change the provisions in your will or trust at any time;

·       it is private since your will or trust is not made public until your death;

·       it is fully deductible for federal estate tax purposes, and there is no limit on the deduction your estate can claim. In addition, the gift is usually exempt from state inheritance taxes.  This may provide estate tax savings or avoid tax burdens for your heirs; and,

·       you leave a lasting legacy for the San Luis Valley and become a member of RiGHT’s Headwaters Legacy Circle 

Types of Assets 

You may also choose to name RiGHT as the beneficiary of a variety of assets, including:

·       insurance policies;

·       retirement funds (IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s;

·       pension or profit-sharing plans); and,

·        financial accounts (bank accounts, CDs, savings bonds, brokerage accounts, stock portfolios).

Because many of these assets may be subject to income and estate taxes when left to heirs, leaving them to RiGHT can be a low-cost, simple and tax- efficient way to support Conserving Our Land, Water and Way of Life in Colorado’s San Luis Valley.

Types of Bequests

If you choose to include RiGHT in your will or trust, there are several ways to control how your estate is distributed:

·       Specific Bequest: A description of what you want to leave to RiGHT, whether that is a specific dollar amount or a particular asset. Beware of disposing of the asset prior to your death, which will result in an unfulfilled bequest.

·       Residuary Bequest: Leaving all or a percentage of what’s left in your estate after specific bequests, debts, expenses and taxes have been paid.

·       Codicil or Amendment: A codicil is prepared by your attorney to modify, explain, change or otherwise qualify terms in your will. If you have a revocable living trust, your attorney can prepare an amendment for you that will serve the same function.

Types of Beneficiary Designations

·       Primary Beneficiary: You may name the RiGHT as the primary beneficiary of a percentage or specific amount of your plan or policy.

·       Contingent/Secondary Beneficiary: You may name RiGHT as a contingent beneficiary of all or a portion of your plan or policy. For example, you may name family members or friends as the primary beneficiaries, and then name RiGHT to receive assets if the named individuals do not survive you.


Sample Bequest Language

Specific Bequest – Unrestricted Use

I give, devise and bequeath to the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust ("RiGHT"), a nonprofit corporation under Colorado law with its principal business address of P.O. Box 444, Del Norte, CO81132, Tax Identification Number 84-1495770, [the sum of (_______________ AND XX/100 DOLLARS $_______________)] to be used to further RiGHT's charitable mission as RiGHT's Board of Directors in its sole discretion may deem appropriate.

Sample Real Property Bequest Language

I give, devise and bequeath to the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust, (“RiGHT”) a nonprofit corporation under Colorado law with its principal business address of P.O. Box 444, Del Norte, CO81132, Tax Identification Number 84-1495770, the real property located in _________ County, [State], which consists of approximately _____ acres and is more particularly described on Exhibit __ attached hereto together with all water rights and mineral rights appurtenant thereto, also known as [insert physical address] (the "Property"), subject to any reservations, easements, rights of way of record, including without limitation any conservation easements encumbering the Property during my lifetime.

Restricted versus Unrestricted Gifts

At RiGHT all unrestricted charitable gifts are used at the discretion of RiGHT’s Board of Directors to strategically support top conservation priorities. If you have a more specific purpose in mind, please contact us at (719) 657-0800.  If you make a restricted gift and if at any time in the judgement of the Board of Directors of RiGHT it is impractical or impossible to carry out this purpose, then the Board of Directors may use this bequest for other purposes that will be determined by the Board to be consistent with your interests and intentions.

 Let Us Know Your Plans

If you have already included RiGHT in your estate plans, please let us know by contacting us at (719) 657-0800.  We would like to thank you and acknowledge you for your generous commitment.


We look forward to sitting down with you and discussing your many options with estate planning. As beneficiary of any gift we would like to meet with you to document your future wishes for the gift, to discuss any requests you may have related to privacy and your giving, and to appropriately thank you for your generous support.  Your support will help us preserve our land and water for future generations to enjoy. 

If you would like to set up a meeting or if you have any questions please contact Nancy Butler, Executive Director at 719-657-0800 or

Thank You - The Headwaters Legacy Circle

 The Headwaters Legacy Circle is our way to say thank you. It acknowledges your planned gift and commitment to RiGHT.

Thank you again for your interest in RiGHT!


Caveat, the staff at the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust are not financial advisors or accountants.  We highly encourage you to meet with your advisors including attorneys, financial planners, and accountants.

RiGHT Partners to Re-grant $500,000 to Local Organizations

The San Luis Valley Conservation Fund, a partnership between Colorado Open Lands, Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust, Western Rivers Conservancy and the LOR Foundation, announced its second round of grant awards for organizations working in Colorado’s San Luis Valley.

A total of $511,000 was awarded by the SLVCF to bolster conservation efforts within the valley and to help preserve the region’s rich cultural heritage while enhancing livability for local communities.

Seventeen organizations received grants that ranged from $10,000 to $50,000.

The SLVCF was established in 2015 through a grant from the LOR Foundation, the group’s collaborative funding partner. Part of that grant established the San Luis Valley Conservation and Connection Initiative, a $2-million re-granting program to increase the capacity of organizations throughout the valley, where land conservation, water rights and a heritage of acequia agriculture are intimately linked.

A central focus for the partner organizations is the Rio Grande, which provides crucial habitat for wildlife, including pronghorn, elk, bighorn sheep, over 200 bird species and 95% of the Rocky Mountains’ greater sandhill crane population. The river and its tributaries sustain the working ranches and farms that form the base of the region’s agricultural economy, and they provide essential recreation opportunities for communities throughout the valley.

COL, RiGHT and WRC are working to preserve the valley’s rich heritage, balancing agricultural needs with conservation and recreation along and around the Rio Grande.


San Luis Valley Conservation and Connection Initiative Grants

In this second round, the SLVCF awarded grants to the following.


Alpine Achievers Initiative, Backyard to Backcountry Program (B2B) $30,000           

B2B Programs are designed to provide age appropriate programming that progress in complexity as youth move through grades K to 12.  AAI is reaching out to all SLV schools to offer B2B programs and is working with other SLV organizations to enhance their existing environmental education programs.  B2B programs are offered during the school day, after school, on weekends, alternative breaks and the summer.


Colorado Cattlemen's Agricultural Land Trust, Conservation Easement on a Conejos River ranch - $40,000

This overall project will conserve over 500 acres of productive agricultural land, including river frontage on the Conejos River and 200 acres of riparian and wetland habitat.  The conservation easement will help a ranching family ensure that their historic family lands in Conejos County remain unchanged for generations come.


Colorado Rio Grande Restoration Foundation, Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project- 2017 Project Development - $32,500                                                               

The RGHRP has assembled partners to plan a diverse range of projects to improve the health of the Rio Grande. Projects include habitat restoration, streambank stabilization, irrigation infrastructure improvements, recreation access, watershed health, and outreach and education. Requested funds will support staff resources required to develop and fund the implementation of these valuable projects.


Conejos Clean Water, Building Community: Developing Youth Engagement & Outdoor Recreation in the Conejos Land Grant Region - $30,000                                                

This project aims to further develop enhanced livability and health of communities, especially through outdoor recreation and environmental education opportunities for youth and families, additional preservation of the Conejos Land Grant Region’s rich cultural heritage, and conservation of land and water through sustainable natural resource management practices.


Conservation Legacy, San Luis Valley Youth Conservation Stewardship Program - $10,000

In 2017, the SCC – Los Valles Program will offer two four-week sessions of the Connection Corps, each session engaging six youth from Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Mineral, Rio Grande and/or Saguache counties. This is in addition already funded youth Corps programs. Each crew will work as a team with two adult crew leads to complete important local conservation projects on local lands. 


Costilla County, Costilla County Sangre de Cristo Greenbelt Trails - $37,150

The project will build the Overlook Trail in Rito Seco Park in the Sangre de Cristo Greenbelt area, utilizing local youth crews for construction. The Overlook Trail is a one-way .75 mile trail to a major vista with excellent views to the west. As part of the County’s trail and open space efforts, this will be the first new trail built in Costilla County in over 40 years.


Lower Willow Creek Restoration Company, Engaging Stewardship - $20,000

The Engaging Stewards project initiates the “Adopt an Oxbow” program on the recently restored floodplain site below the town of Creede to engage volunteers in a meaningful service learning experience and to assist in the recovery of the community gateway and reconnection to local waterways. The project will increase restoration success, improve recreation opportunities, and foster stewardship in the community of Creede.


Rio Grande Emergency Action Coordination Team, Bill Zeedyk Road and Stream Restoration Workshop #1 - $30,000                                                                             

SLV Partners will deliver a free workshop for 40 participants with renowned restoration expert, Bill Zeedyk.  Through hands-on restoration of a road and creek in the Rio Grande National Forest, the workshop will focus on training practitioners, agency personnel and professional restoration contractors. Zeedyck’s methods are easy to install, reduce long-term maintenance costs maintenance, and are designed make the most of available water resources. This project will directly improve public access, watershed health, and habitat while providing participants with knowledge and experience to implement additional restoration projects and can be expanded upon in future workshops and taught to others in the SLV.


Rio Grande Watershed Conservation and Education Initiative, Rio Grande Watershed Conservation & Education Initiative Building Core Programs - $15,000                                                                             

Core Programs are dedicated to providing quality K-12 curriculum on topics related to water and other natural resource conservation issues. Students and teachers will connect with professionals through a variety of programming that transitions from classroom activities to field based experiences, as well as through the annual conservation camp and Envirothon workshops.


San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition, Design Phase for the Rio Grande Farm Park - $40,000

This project convenes experts and community members to implement the design phase of RGFP’s Master Plan, including facilitation activities, more detailed designs of each RGFP element (children’s area, cultural spaces, etc.), and formal architectural plans to move RGFP toward final build out. This project is integral to the Rio Grande Corridor collaboration and will create community space for all.


San Luis Valley Trout Unlimited, Palisade Campground Boat Ramp Improvement Project - $25,000                                                                             

This project takes a shovel ready project complete with surveys, designs, and NEPA compliance to fruition. The public benefits from increased access for river based recreation is a boon for locals and visitors, and will result in economic benefits to the rural towns in close proximity. Sustainable, safe, environmentally sound infrastructure on our public lands serves both people and the resource.


San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District, Weminuche Creek Bridge Protection Project - $12,500

The Project will deliver the much needed replacement of the Weminuche Trail bridge, which provides the critical crossing for Weminuche Creek on one of the highest-used trails in the Rio Grande National Forest. The Project will benefit the local community of recreation enthusiasts, private businesses, and water managers that rely on access to the Weminuche Wilderness by way of the bridge.


Sangre de Cristo Acequia Association, Implementing the Future Sustainability and Traditional Governance of Acequia Culture (IFSTGAC) - $49,800                                                                             

This project will implementing the strategies developed during the Association’s strategic planning for 2017/2018. This includes hiring a qualified Executive Director, identifying members in Costilla and Conejos counties, developing training sessions for acequia producers. It will also allow for partnering to provide mini-grants to the underserved acequia population and to continue the Congreso de Acequias.


SLV Development Resource Group (DRG), San Luis Valley Great Outdoors Capacity Building and Communications Hub - $50,000                                                                             

The SLVGO coordinator started in December of 2016 and has begun the process of assembling the Board of Directors and establishing a 501c3 organizational structure. This award will allow SLVGO to add capacity with a Vista Volunteer, increase their website's ability to disseminate information on trails and outdoor recreation and develop a business plan to help achieve long range capacity.

Town of Crestone, Eastern San Luis Valley Trail System - $24,050

The “School to School Trail”, Phase 2 of the ESLVTS, will establish an unbroken route connecting the Town of Crestone, Crestone Charter School, Baca Grande Subdivision, Colorado College Baca Campus, and Baca National Wildlife Refuge. It will be an inviting non-motorized corridor accessed by multiple trailheads, and will provide unique recreational, educational, and interpretive opportunities.


Trout Unlimited, Jim Creek Rio Grande Cutthroat Habitat Restoration Project - $40,000                          

The Jim Creek Restoration Project is a collaborative community based effort to use local materials to restore critical habitat to an imperiled population of the native Rio Grande Cutthroat. The project creates opportunities to educate people, and by restoring habitat and improving ecological function, the project ensures that people will be able enjoy the region’s native fish on their public lands.  


Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, Measuring Success in the San Luis Valley an Impact Framework - $25,000                                                                         

VOC will develop the framework and infrastructure for San Luis Valley Conservation and Connection Initiative (SLVCCI) grantees to evaluate and demonstrate their impact - individually and collectively. Impact Framework activities will include establishing collective goals, developing common metrics, and producing a toolkit and training for efficiently collecting and broadcasting program successes.


About the Lead Partners 

Colorado Open Lands is a statewide land trust, founded in 1981, whose work permanently protects Colorado's working farms, ranches, wildlife habitat, rivers, and irreplaceable scenic lands.  Colorado Open Lands has worked with private landowners to conserve 109,185 acres in the San Luis Valley, and is working in different ways with the Valley’s acequia communities to protect their water rights, including hosting the Colorado Congreso de Acequias and facilitating a water rights legal assistance program in partnership with the Sangre de Cristo Acequia Association and the University of Colorado Law School.  To learn more about Colorado Open Lands, visit

The Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust serves as the community’s land trust in the San Luis Valley of south central Colorado. Founded in 1999, RiGHT’s conservation work aims to sustain the vitality of our agricultural heritage and economy, our exceptional wildlife habitat, the scenic beauty all around us and our rural quality of life and to inspire a culture of conservation in our community. Partnering with private landowners, public agencies, and other conservation organizations to achieve meaningful conservation outcomes, to date our Rio Grande Initiative has protected over 25,000 acres of working lands and important habitat along the Rio Grande and its key tributaries. To learn more about RiGHT, visit

Western Rivers Conservancy is a nonprofit organization that protects outstanding river ecosystems in the western United States. WRC acquires lands along rivers to protect critical habitat and to create or improve public access for compatible use and enjoyment. By applying decades of experience in land acquisition, WRC is able to effectively secure the health of whole ecosystems. It has protected hundreds of miles of stream frontage on great rivers like the Yampa, Gunnison, Salmon, Hoh, Snake, Madison, Klamath and John Day. Founded in 1988, WRC is the nation’s only conservation program dedicated solely to the acquisition of riverlands. To learn more about WRC, visit

The LOR Foundation is dedicated to improving quality of life in the Intermountain West through locally-driven solutions. The Foundation partners with rural communities in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, and Wyoming. For more information, please visit

2017 RiGHT Internship Position Open!

Position Description:  The Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) is pleased to announce an opening for a Summer 2017 “Cathy McNeil Conservation Intern.”. The successful applicant will work with RiGHT staff on outreach, events and conservation easement monitoring during our busy summer season. This is a 30 hour per week position and is based at RiGHT’s office in Del Norte, Colorado.
Through this opportunity, the Conservation Intern would gain increased familiarity with the work of land trusts and conservation easements as a tool for protecting land and water resources. They would also gain increased knowledge of event planning and its role in support for nonprofits, and increased knowledge of the non-profit sector in general. 
RiGHT’s mission is, “Conserving Our Land, Water and Way of Life in Colorado's San Luis Valley.” We protect and support working ranches and farms, water resources, wildlife habitat and scenic landscapes and inspire a culture of conservation in the San Luis Valley. Cathy McNeil was one of our organization’s founders and served as Board President for many years. Cathy was deeply committed to conservation and education, and this Conservation Intern position is offered in her honor. 
Service Dates: We are seeking someone who can work 8 to 10 consecutive weeks between June 1st and September 30th, 2017. Dates are flexible.
Benefits:  $3,000 stipend;  Professional development and hands-on experience with conservation projects; and,  Opportunity to spend time monitoring beautiful conserved private ranches throughout the San Luis Valley. 
Minimum Qualifications:  Must be a US Citizen, National, or Lawful Permanent Resident;  Must be at least 18 years old at the time of application and have a valid driver’s license;  Have some computer skills, be comfortable in the outdoors, and be able to work independently at times; and,  Must have sincere dedication to and an interest in environmental stewardship and community service.
How to Apply:  Please submit a cover letter, resume and three references to: Allen Law,  Only electronic submissions will be accepted.
Application Deadline:  May 7, 2017. 

Click here for a PDF of this job description.

How YOU Can Help - Cathy McNeil Stewardship Fund

Established in 2014, the Cathy McNeil Stewardship Fund helps pay for a summer Cathy McNeil Conservation Intern every year, as well as helping fund our Stewardship Director position. We have worked with three hard working and driven students since then who have each contributed significantly to RiGHT’s capacity to continue to conserve the San Luis Valley’s unique landscape of working lands. We look forward to welcoming another intern for the upcoming busy summer season.

Acquiring new conservation easements is exciting and fulfilling. And the on-going stewardship of completed projects is a vital part of our work. And we believe that RiGHT founder Cathy McNeil would have been honored to know that a fund was started for this purpose and to know how much benefit it provides the organization.

There are few things that leave such a lasting effect as conservation work and Cathy truly left an enormous legacy by founding and supporting this land trust. RiGHT has been serving the entire San Luis Valley for 17 years now and for a small organization, we have been doing big things.

To further Cathy’s legacy and to continue to build your own, we need your help to fund our internship and stewardship programs. Please join us in honoring her legacy by making a contribution to the Cathy McNeil Stewardship Fund by clicking on this link. Thank you!

Dugan Ranch - Conserved!

In 1999 the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) was founded as the community‘s land trust, dedicated to serving the entire San Luis Valley. In 2007, RiGHT launched the Rio Grande Initiative, the landscape scale effort with many partners to protect land and water along the Rio Grande and its tributaries. One of the first ranches they protected under the Initiative is owned by Bob and Carol Lee Dugan on the river on Swede Lane, just west of Monte Vista. Now, nearly ten years later, RiGHT is proud to announce that the Dugans have protected yet another nearby ranch with a conservation easement.

This 316-acre ranch, which combines parcels previously known as the James Ranch and the Stephens Ranch, is just south of the river between Monte Vista and Del Norte. Between the two ranches, the Dugans have now protected a total of 670 acres with conservation easements. In doing so, they have also protected the water that goes with those ranches, the wildlife habitat, the beautiful views, and the important agricultural productivity. Clearly, this represents a strong commitment to conservation by Bob and Carol Lee Dugan and they continue to recommend conservation to others, saying, “We suggest that other land owners consider preserving their ranches for the future generations of this state.”

“We are immensely grateful to the Dugan family for their dedication to their properties along the Rio Grande,” said Nancy Butler, RiGHT’s Executive Director. “Their land ethic has helped RiGHT and our partners protect more than 26,000 acres along the Rio Grande and its tributaries. That legacy will continue far into the future and that land, water and wildlife habitat will remain intact for all to enjoy.” 

The conservation of the 2016 Dugan Ranch project was made possible through the generous support of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Gates Family Foundation, the Colorado Water Conservation Board (via funding supported by the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable) and the Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s San Luis Valley Habitat Partnership Program Committee. Invaluable support has also been provided by individual donors who ensure that RiGHT’s conservation work can continue.

As an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the NRCS’s mission is to help people help the land. Colorado’s NRCS State Conservationist Clint Evans stated that, “Protecting vital agricultural landscapes is a top priority for NRCS. Through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program – Agricultural Land Easement (ACEP-ALE), the natural resource benefits we all enjoy derived from prime agricultural lands can be preserved.” 

“This project is an important contribution to the corridor of conservation in this area of the river, with nearly 1,500 acres already conserved nearby,” said Butler. “RiGHT has conserved four other spectacular ranches in this area, providing excellent wildlife habitat and maintaining the beautiful scenery that we all love in the San Luis Valley. Carol Lee and Bob Dugan have demonstrated immense dedication to preserving these lands in perpetuity and we are grateful that RiGHT was able to help them achieve their dreams for these special places.”

Support RiGHT on Colorado Gives Day - December 6

To schedule your donation to RiGHT as part of Colorado Gives Day, visit our donation page!

Once a year, Coloradoans come together to support the cause that means the most to them! Colorado Gives Day is a statewide philanthropy movement in which all Coloradans are encouraged to support their favorite nonprofits online through and RiGHT is thrilled to participate again. This year, the event falls on December 6th.

Community First Foundation and FirstBank are partnering to present Colorado Gives Day. For the second time, Colorado Gives Day features a $1 Million Incentive Fund, one of the largest gives-day incentive funds in the country. This means every nonprofit receiving a donation on Colorado Gives Day receives a portion of the Incentive Fund. For example, if RiGHT were to receive 10% of the total donations made on Colorado Gives Day, we would receive 10% of the $1 Million Incentive Fund. This way, making a gift to RiGHT on Colorado Gives Day increases the value of every dollar you donate.

Colorado Gives Day is powered by, a year round website featuring nearly 1,500 nonprofits. encourages charitable giving by providing comprehensive, objective and up-to-date information about Colorado nonprofits. It is an easy way to support us online!

Last year, we raised $7,615 thanks to donations that started as small as $15. This year, our goal is to raise $8,000 and every donation counts. Watch for eNews updates about this online event and be sure to check our Facebook page for updates throughout the day on December 6th. Thank you for your generous contributions!

Rainbow Trout Ranch - Conserved!

Nearly 90 years ago, in 1927, the Rainbow Trout Ranch, then known as the Rainbow Trout Lodge, first opened its doors to guests. In 1927 the pop-up toaster was invented, work began on Mount Rushmore and Charles Lindberg flew the Spirit of St. Louis across the Atlantic Ocean for the first solo-transatlantic flight.  Even then, people were drawn to this beautiful tucked-away spot on the upper Conejos Canyon for its superb fishing, horseback riding, and to explore the nearby wilderness.  The Ranch has been an iconic guest ranch in southern Colorado and in the Conejos community ever since,  with generations andhundreds of guests visiting each year. The current owner/operators, the Van Berkum family bought the Ranch in 1993.  And really, not much has changed in the last 90 years. People still come from all over, even from abroad, to enjoy the exceptional fishing, horseback riding and great beauty.  

One thing that has changed in the Conejos Canyon is development.  Clusters of cabins on small lots can now be seen along much of the river corridor’s private lands.  And the 590-acre Rainbow Trout Ranch, being nearly surrounded by public lands of the Rio Grande National Forest and La Jara Reservoir State Land Trust land, is prime for such development. There’s nearly a mile of the Conejos River, with world-class trout fishing on the Ranch. Wildlife abound, including deer, elk, bear, and the occasional lynx. The views of the property itself, with its mature Douglas Fir forest and impressive rock outcrops, all of which can be seen from the Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic and Historic Byway (State Highway 17) are spectacular. With so many more people now than in 1927, there is a high demand for small lots on along such a beautiful river. The Van Berkums are frequently asked if they’d be willing to split off a small parcel for someone’s dream cabin. 

Thankfully for all of us, the Van Berkums instead chose to protect their property with a conservation easement with RiGHT. Your support made it possible to work on this project and bring it to completion this past October. With just a few privately owned parcels protected along the Conejos to date, the preservation of this historic and picturesque ranch is an important conservation accomplishment.

The Rainbow Trout Ranch was featured in our 2014 “Save the Ranch” campaign, and a total of 57 individual donors contributed to make this project a success. We would especially like to thank major donors to the effort including: the Van Berkum family, Duane and Susan Larson, Chris and Christy Hayes, The Michael and Andrea Banks Nature Fund, Barbara Relyea, Nancy Starling Ross and Wayne Ross, Tom and Pat Gilmore, Jim Gilmore, Forrest Ketchin, David Cohen, Diana and Tim Anderson and Bonnie Orkow and the many others for their generous contributions to this exceptional conservation effort.

In addition, conservation of Rainbow Trout Ranch was made possible through the generous support of Great Outdoors Colorado, the Gates Family Foundation, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area. 

“This project exemplifies the power of partnerships,” said Katherine Brown, RiGHT’s Development Coordinator. “The support of these funders, from state and federal programs and private foundations, along with contributions from so many individuals and the Van Berkum family all came together to make this possible. We hope that everyone who drives up Forest Service Road 250 to the Platoro Reservoir or who stops at the Highway 17 overlook to take in the majestic view of the Conejos Canyon will appreciate the spectacular landscape that will remain open and connected through this conservation project.”

As part of RiGHT’s Rio Grande Initiative to protect the land and water along the Rio Grande and Conejos Rivers, the Rainbow Trout Ranch is the first conservation easement on the upper reaches of the Conejos. Conservation of this historic guest ranch also protects the history of western recreation and the cultural importance of a natural playground that generations of guests have enjoyed and will continue to be a place for families to experience the beauty of nature far into the future.

While celebrating this accomplishment, RiGHT is looking forward to our next conservation projects. The 2016 “Save the Ranch” campaign is focusing on the La Garita Creek Ranch in Saguache County, where we held our 2016 Headwaters Hoedown in September.  Your support for all of our work is greatly appreciated!

“On behalf of Linda, David, Jane and myself, we would like to express our appreciation to RiGHT and to the many individuals who have helped us in our journey to preserve this beautiful stretch of the Conejos River. We are blessed to live in the spectacular Conejos Canyon and are honored to share the traditional western lifestyle with our guests, and to know that the natural and unspoiled beauty will be preserved for generations to come.”
        Doug Van Berkum

6th Annual Headwaters Hoedown

Join RiGHT for our 6th Annual Headwaters Hoedown on Sunday, September 18th from 12pm-4pm at a new location - La Garita Creek Ranch in Saguache County! The early bird ticket price is $30 and increases to $35 on September 12th, kids 16 and under get in free. Get your tickets by clicking here!



12pm: Gates open, Silent Auction begins

12:15: Archaeology tours depart

12:30-2:00: Lunch is served

1:00: Don Richmond & The Rifters start to play

2:00 Acknowledgements & Save the Ranch

3:00 Silent Auction closes

4:00 Event ends


Directions to La Garita Creek Ranch, Saguache County:

From Del Norte: Drive north on 112 for about 3 miles, then turn left at the signed road to La Garita. Continue driving north on this road for 7 miles and then turn left onto Saguache County Road E39. Drive west down E39 for a mile until turning right onto a drive with a large gate that says "Spirit of the American West."

From 285: Drive on 285 to the intersection with Saguache County Road G, with a sign pointing to La Garita. Turn onto Road G and drive west for about 8 miles, passing the small town of La Garita, until Road G comes to a "Y" intersection with the dirt road 38A. Turn left onto the dirt road and drive south for 3 miles to another fork intersection. At the fork turn right onto E39 and drive west for about a mile until turning right onto a driveway with a large gate that says "Spirit of the American West."




Ask almost anyone in the San Luis Valley what their favorite season is, and there’s a good chance that the answer will be: “Fall!”  With the crisp nights, sparkling sunshine, and glorious colors of changing leaves, it is a special season. So here at RiGHT, we invite the whole community to enjoy a September, Sunday afternoon and the beauty of the land at our annual Headwaters Hoedown.  All are welcome to the conservation celebration of the year on September 18th from 1 to 4 pm, this year at the beautiful La Garita Creek Ranch, on the west side of the Valley, just south of Penitente Canyon and west of the La Garita Store.


We’re thrilled to be holding our event at yet another beautiful location, hosted by the ranch owners, the Caruthers Family, and manager, Mike Spearman (also our Board President). Locally known as the “Balloon Ranch”, thanks to its history of holding ballooning events, this will be an opportunity for our friends and supporters to enjoy the beauty of a private ranch.  Weather permitting, we’ll be enjoying the afternoon in a meadow tucked between the stream and the fascinating canyon walls, framing the view across the valley to Mount Blanca and the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. The ranch will be a lovely place to gather, to listen (or dance!) to the fabulous music of Don Richmond and the Rifters, and to enjoy a barbeque feast from Pepita Catering, with plenty of fine wine and beer. The ever-popular Silent Auction will offer fabulous items from local artists, businesses and adventurers, from fishing float trips to dinners and theater tickets to ski lift tickets -- and more.


A highlight of the afternoon is RiGHT’s 2015 “Save the Ranch” campaign, with this year’s featured property being the La Garita Creek Ranch itself. This is a chance for the community to invest directly in conservation, helping RiGHT to complete conservation of the spectacular scenery and important wildlife habitat along La Garita Creek. Read more about this on the adjacent page.


To also take advantage of the special location, we’ll offer guided archaeological tours to a few of the amazing sites right on the ranch.  As always, kids are most welcome and there will be fun activities for them, including games and a piñata.


“Here at RiGHT, we are very grateful to the landowners who choose to conserve their land with us and we are especially excited to be working towards the conservation of La Garita Creek Ranch,” said RiGHT’s Executive Director, Nancy Butler. We look forward to a worthy celebration of the conservation that has been accomplished with the help of so many. Along with our community, we think the Valley is a very special place - and we know that if we continue to work together, we can keep it that way!”

2016 Cathy McNeil Conservation Intern Position Available

Position Description: The Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust is pleased to announce an opening for a Summer 2016 "Cathy McNeil Conservation Intern." The successful applicant will work with RiGHT staff on outreach, events, and conservation easement monitoring during our busy summer season. This is a 40 hour per week position and is based at RiGHT's office in Del Norte, Colorado.

Through this opportunity, the Conservation Intern would gain increased familiarity with the work of land trusts and conservation easements as a tool for protecting land and water resources. They would also gain increased knowledge of event planning and its role in support of nonprofits and increased knowledge of the nonprofit sector in general.

RiGHT's mission is, "Conserving our land, water and way of life in Colorado's San Luis Valley." We protect and support working ranches and farms, water resources, wildlife habitat and scenic landscapes and inspire a culture of conservation in the San Luis Valley. Cathy McNeil was one of our organization's founders and served as Board President for many years. Cathy was deeply committed to conservation and education and this Conservation Intern position is offered in her honor.

Service Dates: We are seeking someone who can work over 8 to 10 consecutive weeks between June 1st and August 30th, 2016. Dates are flexible.



  • $2,000 stipend
  • Professional development and hands-on experience with conservation projects
  • Opportunity to spend time monitoring beautiful, conserved private ranches throughout the San Luis Valley

Minimum Qualifications

  • Must be a US Citizen, National, or Lawful Permanent Resident
  • Must be at least 18 years old at the time of application and have a valid driver's license
  • Have some computer skills, be comfortable in the outdoors, and be able to work independently at times
  • Must have sincere dedication to and an interest in environmental stewardship and community service

How to Apply: Please submit a cover letter, resume and three references to: Katherine Brown, Only electronic submissions will be accepted.

Application Deadline: March 20, 2016.