Rio de la Vista
Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust
Del Norte, Colorado

Ms. Rio de la Vista’s trustworthy reputation, enthusiasm, and vision brings private landowners, conservation organizations, and government agencies together through creative partnerships that have protected over 27,000 acres of wetlands, many on private lands, across the San Luis Valley (SLV) in Colorado. Ms. de la Vista’s brainchild, the Rio Grande Initiative (RGI), a project under the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust, protects more than 19,000 acres and 33 miles of the Rio Grande, including ranchland, wildlife habitat, and senior surface water rights. Ms. de la Vista wrote and received a groundbreaking grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board for $1.5 million to purchase conservation easements along the river, successfully showing that the value of senior surface water rights to the land also benefited the river, wetlands, and aquifer. Ms. de la Vista brought many landowners onboard and the RGI more than doubled the pace of conservation along the river, adding 13,000 acres from 2007–2010. Her efforts have achieved $25 million in funding, with $10 million being donated by private landowners, and partnerships with many conservation organizations. Ms. de la Vista also brought together numerous partners for the Rock Creek Heritage Project, which permanently protects 8,000 acres of private land, with nearly half of those lands buffering the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge.