Partnership Shines in San Luis Valley

San Luis Valley Wetlands Focus Area Committee receives 2017 Conservation Partnership Award

A shining example of collaborative conservation, the San Luis Valley of Colorado was the scenic backdrop for the Intermountain West Joint Venture (IWJV) Management Board meeting, awards, and field tour from September 18-21, 2017. Federal and state agencies joined with local officials and businesses, private landowners, and non-governmental organizations to showcase how public-private partnerships are successfully sustaining agricultural lands, wildlife habitat for sensitive species, hunting opportunities, public access, and the local economy by strategically managing the scarce surface and groundwater supplies in this valley. As part of its meeting, the IWJV recognized the long-standing collaborative effort that has been instrumental in advancing strategic, landscape-scale habitat conservation in this important region by presenting the 2017 Conservation Partnership Award to the San Luis Valley Wetlands Focus Area Committee.

When Carey Aloia accepted the award on behalf of the partnership, she expressed how collaboration among the partners helped to accomplish more than any one of them could have accomplished alone, and their success were really a reflection of the strength of the partnership.  Acknowledging they still have work ahead of them, she ended by saying, “We just keep trying to bring more partners in.”

Established in 1997, under the auspices of the Colorado Division of Wildlife (now Colorado Parks and Wildlife), the San Luis Valley Wetlands Focus Area Committee functions as a network of partners with a common interest in wetlands and water conservation. The Committee’s meetings allow for important information exchange through both structured and unstructured dialogue about projects, fundraising efforts, issues, and concerns. In addition to bringing key speakers to the meeting from partner entities, participants report to one another on current issues such as planning efforts, biological findings and trends, water and/or drought conditions, state and federal policy decisions in progress, land acquisitions, research findings, funding opportunities, and any other relevant information to the group. The Committee also serves as a forum for partners to collaborate on identifying projects, planning, raising funds, managing and identifying matches and new funding sources. Due to the size of the San Luis Valley and the diversity and number of conservation non-profits, the Committee plays a key role in helping to coordinate efforts and avoid duplication.

The Committee successfully engages a myriad of federal, state and local land, water and wildlife agencies, non-profit conservation organizations, related businesses, and interested landowners. In its 20 years of existence, the Committee has partnered on many projects, including actively helping to implement wetland conservation and restoration partnerships, nine successful grant applications for conservation on private lands and restoration on federal, state, and private lands, conserved more than 25,000 acres of land and water along the Rio Grande and its tributaries, provided input to water planning efforts, and participated in numerous IWJV and other research projects related to wetlands, birds and related subjects.

The Committee has established itself as a voice for wetlands in the San Luis Valley's water community and evolving efforts to work toward water sustainability. Each of its efforts has been substantial, but cumulatively represents an ongoing involvement in all aspects of water issues. It remains committed to seeking funding and implementing proactive projects to protect wetlands and their water supply while also restoring and managing the valley’s precious wetland habitats. This committee exemplifies the mission of the IWJV by bringing together a broad array of partners to work toward balanced and durable conservation in the intermountain West.

All photos by IWJV Staff

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