The mission of the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council (SLVEC) is to protect and restore, through research, education, and advocacy, the biological diversity, ecosystems, and natural resources of the Upper Rio Grande bio-region, balancing ecological values with human needs.
San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council
Seventeen Years of Dedication to Public Lands Integrity
In 1998, SLVEC submitted a Citizen's Management Alternative (CMA). Approximately one-half of the 1.86 million acres of Rio Grande National Forest (RGNF) is now prescribed as either Back Country or Designated Wilderness.
1999, SLVEC organized, advocated and testified before Congress for the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Act of 2000 preserving the 100,000 acre former Baca Ranch, moving this pristine landscape into Public Land. The ranch is now part of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Baca National Wildlife Refuge, and a Baca Mountain Tract addition to National Forest.
2001-2004, SLVEC was appointed to the Great Sand Dunes NPS Management Plan Advisory Council by Interior Secretary Gayle Norton, pushing for recommendation of 50,000 acres of wilderness designation. Acquiring the mineral rights beneath the National Park will move this Wilderness recommendation forward.
2001-2003, SLVEC, in cooperation with Southern Rockies Conservation Alliance (SRCA) inventoried one-half million areas of Roadless Areas within Rio Grande National Forest (RGNF), using ground truthing forms for documentation and GIS/GPS points imbedded in photographs. Thousands of photos were taken linked to GPS.
2004-2005, SLVEC performs a BLM Rapid Assessment Inventory on ½ million acres of BLM roads for the SLV BLM Travel Management Plan and submitted a Citizens Management Alternative. A 51% road closure was recommended by BLM.
2005, SLVEC and Colorado Wild filed a lawsuit challenging the Rio Grande County Commissioners' decision on accepting the "Village at Wolf Creek" plat design, a proposed development of 2,122 units near the continental divide. District Judge Kuenhold agreed with the claim because there was no year round access to the land.
2006, SLVEC testified before Congress and the Rio Grande Natural Area Act was passed, designating 33 miles of Rio Grande Corridor, from the southern boundary of the Alamosa Wildlife Refuge to the New Mexico State line, extending protection for one-quarter mile from either bank of the river, under BLM jurisdiction.
2006, Judge Marcia Krieger agreed with an adjacent landowner and SLVEC lawsuit challenge of the Rio Ox-bow Land Exchange claiming that it was not in the public interest. This decision protected some of the few remaining public access points in the Upper Rio Grande. The case has also brought precedence regarding public/private land trades in Colorado to require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
2006-2015, Colorado Wild and SLVEC challenged the Forest Service EIS decision granting access to "Village at Wolf Creek". In 2008 Supreme Court Justice Kane agreed with these claims, including the Forest Service narrowing the scope of the EIS. A variation of "Village at Wolf Creek" that includes a new land exchange scenario has been approved bu the Forest Service. SLVEC and associate enviro groups have filed a law suit to contest the Forest Service's decision. An agreement has been reached so that there will be no development until the suit is settled.
2005-2012, Water Quality Awareness Project, recipient of EPA Environmental Justice Community Problem-Solving and (CPS) received EPA CARE 1 Grant. Fewer than ten grants were awarded throughout the USA. SLVEC was recipient of the EPA Environmental Stewardship Award (2007) for organizing free household well testing in small communities throughout the SLV. Over 800 household wells have received this free well testing. SLVEC conducted Environmental Health Risk assessments within 13 communities of the SLV. The CARE Project set priorities based on community input and determined next steps for impacting environmental health issues. We also sent out 500 free radon test kits for people to test for this harmful gas within homes and buildings.
2006-2015, Challenge of Oil and Gas development within the SLV Baca National Wildlife Refuge, SLVEC spearheaded a legal challenge of Oil and Gas Drilling on the Baca National Wildlife Refuge because the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Process was being avoided. This case was settled with US Fish and Wildlife Service that would reguire a full NEPA process for any further exploration. We continue in our efforts to have the mineral rights transferred to the refuge, which would permanently protect the area.
2007, San Luis Hills and Flat Top Mesa, BLM lands in the central SLV slated for minerals leasing -Parcels withdrawn due to SLVEC actions.
2008, Mineral leasing offered on the Rio Grande National Forest and BLM lands-144,000 acres deferred indefintely because of SLVEC-promoted citizen input.
2010, Co-sponsored a Solar Workshop with other groups at SLV Rural Electric Coop in Monte Vista, CO to bring small businesses and communities together to discuss a community-scale solar siting process.
2011- 2015, San Francisco Creek, near Del Norte, CO -Application to Drill (APD) filed with Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) for 5,000 ft exploratory O & G Well by Hughes Oil. BLM releases EA in January 2014 giving OK for drilling to proceed under specific guidelines. SLVEC filed an official legal complaint in an effort to make the drilling comply with findings from an independent study. The study recommends sealing the drill bore all the way through any water bearing formations, which could run the entire depth of the proposed well. SLVEC asserts the protection of our agricultuarally-based industry by keeping the acquifers contaminent free.
2011, With Conejos County Clean Water taking the lead, SLVEC reached a settlement agreement regarding the Department of Energy (DOE) proposal for a low level Transwaste facility in Antonito. This transwaste transfer point has been withdrawn. The material was to originate from Los Alamos, NM. A site specific (NEPA) public process will have to be conducted if DOE decides to reopen this proposal.
2007-2015, The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area (NHA), signed into law by President Obama in March 2009, establishes cultural, historical, and natural resource preservation and protection for the southern three counties within the San Luis Valley. The Great Sand Dunes Park and Preserve lands are included within the NHA. SLVEC has served for 6 years on the Board which has now finalyzed a Management Plan.
2011, Developed the San Luis Valley Renewable Energy Master Plan to infuse support of community based siting of solar installations.
2008-2015, SLVEC works with the public and monitors activity on BLM Solar Energy Zones (SEZ's) on 22,000 acres of land within the San Luis Valley
2011, Organized public comments challenging the Air Force Low Altitude Tactical Navigation (LATN) Flyovers, bringing together organizations and sharing information from Colorado and New Mexico constituencies. The proposed project spans 62,000 sq. miles and impacts 38 counties in some of Colorado's most remote backcountry. This proposal has been "postponed" indefininetly due to public outcry.
2011, Hosted three public education forums with the Transmission Line Coalition (TLC) concerning the a proposed high capacity transmission line over La Veta Pass, including bringing the utilities (Tri-State and Xcel) together for public discussion. SLVEC-supported public scrutiny of this proposal has resulted in the "postponement" of this project. In 2012, Xcel abandoned its participation in the line making its liklihood of further pursuit doubtful.
2011-2013, Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE). SLVEC spearheaded a regional effort to identify environmental health hazzards and opportunities, funded by a grant from the EPA. The San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council, in partnership with the public health departments around the Valley, local businesses, and community members worked to assess the environmental health of this region through education and community involvement,. The CARE Project worked with all six counties in the San Luis Valley, which are Alamosa, Costilla, Conejos, Rio Grande, Mineral and Saguache County. Phase I of the CARE project was completed in 2012 with the critical task of identifying healthy environment priorities for SLV communities completed.
2013-2015, CARE- Indoor Air Quality is designed to build capacity (training and education) and provide service coordination to promote healthy indoor environments in primarily homes, schools and child care settings. We are educating school nurses and staff, home health care providers, health care professionals, student nurses and early childhood educators to, train, do outreach and/or demonstration projects that seek to reduce exposure of indoor air contaminants and asthma triggers (dust, mold, second hand smoke and smoke from wood burning stoves).
2014-2015, 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act SLVEC sponsored and participated in many events that commemorated the creation of the National Wilderness System in 1964. Included were booths, public outreach and celebrations in art, music and poetry. We collaborated with federal agencies that manage Wilderness such as the Fish and Wildlife Service, National Forests, Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service.
2015-2016, Solid Waste Management As a collaborative effort with Conejos County Clean Water (CCCWater.org), in 2015 we actively identified illegal dump sites in Conejos and Costilla Counties and helped to forge community momentum to clean up the sites as well as educated people on responsible waste disposal, including recycling. Currently, we are working towards the same goals in Alamosa and Saguache counties.
"I became acquainted with the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council in 2008 when we participated in a legal challenge regarding oil and gas exploratory drilling on the Baca National Wildlife Refuge. That exploratory drilling proposal was later withdrawn. In 2016 I joined the SLVEC Board because it supports my main interest; that of protecting the soil, water, and air of the planet." - May Engquist, SLVEC Board member, Saguache, CO
"SLVEC is a small-yet-mighty group with the will and dynamism of a fierce army. Its trademarks are unceasing enthusiasm and respectful interaction, clear knowledge of environmental issues, legal regulation and government procedure, and links to a wide network of experts in natural sciences and law. We commend the SLVEC team for their steady focus on leadership, factual information and dedication to community. They put their shoulders to the wheel of public education and awareness, offer effective actions, generate citizen involvement and voice, and continually, improve lives within Colorado's San Luis Valley and surrounding wild lands." - Nancy and Dave Neal, Del Norte, CO
"'Don't worry Dave, I promise you, the Village at Wolf Creek is never gonna happen...never,' a fellow SLVEC Board member whispered to me at end of a 3 hour board meeting. And he meant it; now more than 20 years since the environmental fight about Wolf Creek started, the Wolf Creek ecosystem, a 'crown jewel' of southern Colorado, has been protected and preserved. For now...the fight goes on.
"That 'never gonna happen' type of grit is still at core of the spirit and daily work of the now 20 year old organization. While always cooperating with other community groups, landowners and public land agencies whenever possible, the SLVEC has never hesitated to fight in court or in public hearings for public lands, wilderness and wildlife. That's why I'm a Board member of the San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council." - Dave Miller, Crestone, CO
"The San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council is more than just a Not-In-My-Backyard knee jerk environmental clique leap-frogging hot-spot issues. For almost 20 years, they have consistently monitored the breadth and depth of environmental protection and justice in the San Luis Valley with the indefatigable energy, vigilant defense of the public good, and prudent legal clout that transforms and elevates ongoing environmental health to the higher purposes of social justice. They are our environmental 'firewall.' I renew support of the SLVEC annually, just as I update the anti-viral software for my computer. - Wayne K. Sheldrake, "Author," Retired Professor, Adams State University, South Fork, CO
"In my direct experience the San Luis Valley EcoSystem Council is the most important single advocacy organization for the preservation of the beautiful and largely pristine environment of the San Luis Valley. From watershed preservation, protecting Wolf Creek pass from inappropriate over-development, working to protect wildlife refuges from gas and oil exploration, and countless other issues over the years, the SLVEC are tireless advocates for the environment and the common good. This valley is fortunate indeed to have such a not for profit advocacy organization in our greater community. Brilliant ecosystem blessings," - Matthew P. Crowley, Operations Manager, Shumei International
"I'm super grateful for the work you do in our valley." Chloe Everhart
"Congrats on the Wolf Creek Expansion battle. Chalk one up for the good guys!" John Koshak