San Isabel Blog

Two years ago we had a vision of sharing the wide open spaces and fabulous views of the Southern Colorado mountains in a special event that would showcase the importance of protecting land for future generations. This event, the Hardscrabble Mountain Trail Run, was born from this idea. It proved to be an immediate hit with runners and walkers of all ages and abilities. Now in its third year, it is one of the premiere sporting events in Colorado.

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In December 2014, the Colorado Supreme Court announced its opinion on the change of water use case involving the H20 Ranch.[ii]  The H2O Ranch was historically one of the most productive hay ranches in the Wet Mountain Valley with excellent water rights. In 2007, the city of Fountain and Widefield Water and Sanitation District (“Widefield”) purchased the H20 Ranch with the intent to dry-up the H2O Ranch and change the water rights to municipal use (“buy and dry”). A change of use case was filed in Water Court Division 2, and has been in litigation ever since.

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Posted in Water & Weather

San Isabel Land Protection Trust was awarded an $8,000 grant by the Colorado Garden Foundation to further beautify and enhance The Bluff Park, located at the west end of Main Street in Westcliffe. Plans for the money will include the planting of perennial, drought-tolerant flower and shrub gardens to complete the landscaping at the Park.

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It seems to me extraordinary luck that my daughters’ early years are taking place here in an aspen grove on a protected ranch in the Wet Mountain Valley.

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Ben Lenth

Posted in News

This season we at San Isabel Land Protection Trust give thanks,
and offer gratitude for the many gifts we have.

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Earlier this year, San Isabel received ownership of The Bluff Park through a generous donation by Dick and Audrey Stermer.  The Bluff is a scenic and popular park located a block from Westcliffe's downtown commercial district, providing an unobstructed window onto the Wet Mountain Valley from town. 

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Nestled between the 14,000 foot peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the west and the rugged Wet Mountains to the east, the HG Vickerman Ranch is a productive agricultural operation dating back nearly a century.

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On Saturday, September 27, Wet Mountain Valley residents and other guests attended the 18th Annual Art for the Sangres event at A Painted View Ranch in Westcliffe. The annual gala is San Isabel Land Protection Trust’s largest fundraiser of the year. Organizers of the event report that the show exceeded all expectations and sold over $131,000 in artwork.  Last year’s event grossed $114,000. An estimated 200 guests attended the Saturday paid reception.

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San Isabel Land Protection Trust honored longtime supporter and Westcliffe resident Dianne Whalen with the 2nd Annual Alice Proctor Outstanding Volunteer Award during its annual Beer and Brats appreciation barbecue at Texas Creek Ranch on Sunday.

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“We’re all connected together. If one sells their water, it affects us all.”

--Frank Mc Murray, Chaffee County Rancher

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 “It is important that people understand the importance of agricultural water. It is the basis for a sustainable food supply, provides for wildlife habitat, and helps create the scenic vistas we enjoy. Agricultural water is a part of our heritage, as well as our culture today. It is at the core of our environmental goals and economy and we need to use all of the various tools available to keep water in agriculture while at the same time allowing owners of water rights to realize its monetary value.” ~ Keith Hood



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San Isabel Land Protection Trust is thrilled to share the news that it has received ownership of the Bluff Park parcels at the end of Main Street. These two parcels, totaling 5.3 acres, comprise most of the lawn area for the park, the site of this week’s High Mountain Hay Fever Bluegrass festival. The property was donated to the Land Trust by Richard and Audrey Stermer, whose vision for The Bluff has culminated in last year’s expansion and renovation, and now in transfer of the property to San Isabel.

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Agriculture, water, and wide open spaces define Colorado. They are the reasons I moved here from Northern California nearly 8 years ago. Where I live in Western Fremont County as well as where I work in Custer County, active ranching and large, undeveloped landscapes still exist. Water still runs with the land and multi-generational families continue to steward the ranches and farms that provide us food, habitat for wildlife, clean water and air and scenic beauty that we all enjoy.

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We mourn the passing of our dear friend, Paul Snyder, on January 12, 2014. Paul was a long time supporter of land conservation and a tremendous friend to San Isabel Land Protection Trust.  He was passionate about conservation, about people, and about the land, and his distinguished career left the world a better place in more ways than any of us know. We echo the words of one of our own founders, Bill Jack "I've seldom met anyone who had the combination of great intelligence, grace, warmth, and general wisdom as (Paul) did."

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Contributing over $9 billion to the state economy, Colorado’s agriculture industry provides a safe, abundant food supply while generating economic activity that is critical to this state’s vitality. 

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With a growing percentage of this nation’s population (especially younger generations) migrating to more urbanized places, rural communities are increasingly becoming novelties for weekend getaways. Economic, social, and lifestyle choices tend to draw young people to already burgeoning urban epicenters, often promising a new life brimming with opportunities. This urban allure, real or not, leaves a void in the succession pattern of the nation’s farms and ranches, and furthers the disconnect between people and the land. With the average age of an American farmer and rancher at 58, the urban-rural shift has significant and real effects on the places and populations that lie in the wake. Water, food, and other life-giving resources are and will always be the products of our rural places and people.

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To our chagrin, the drought continues in many areas of Colorado. This is very bad news. Drought affects us all, but most impacted are agricultural producers, our farmers and ranchers who depend on rain and snow for their livelihoods, home, and culture. Let us not forget: these folks grow the food we eat.

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“At some point [cities are] going to have to quit expanding — or quit expanding their use of water,”  Rancher and longtime San Isabel Land Protection Trust Board Member Keith Hood replies when asked about the future of water in the West. He adds, "[Cities] are going to start cutting into food production because non-irrigated agriculture isn’t going to supply adequate food.” Hood, who has spent his entire life ranching in the Wet Mountain Valley, is skeptical about the future of ranching in Colorado as growing cities in the Front Range continue to require the transfer and use of agricultural water from the rural ranching communities.

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