Medano changes hands

VALLEY — The Nature Conservancy in Colorado and the Rio Grande Water Conservation District on Tuesday announced the transfer of a portion of the Medano Ranch.

This parcel, previously owned by the Conservancy, is 7,996 acres and is located west of the Closed Basin Canal in Alamosa County.

Special Improvement District No. 1 of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District purchased the parcel and will dedicate the property’s water rights to sustainable water management in the San Luis Valley. A conservation easement will remain on the property, ensuring the continued protection of the land and its conservation values.

“The Rio Grande Water Conservation District has a history of working closely with a variety of stakeholders in the San Luis Valley, both private and public, to advance the interests and goals of our constituents,” said Cleave Simpson, general manager of the district. “The working relationship with The Nature Conservancy and the transfer of these lands to the district is yet another example of the efforts and investments that Special Improvement District No. 1 has made toward aquifer recovery and sustainability. The progress is indicative of the expectations of the Valley water community and stakeholders to protect our valued water resources.”

The Nature Conservancy has been working in the San Luis Valley since the late 1980’s. The Conservancy will continue to own the Medano/Zapata Ranch and, in partnership with Ranchlands, LLC, manage ongoing agricultural operations, guest services and outreach and education programs.

“The Nature Conservancy greatly values its long-term engagement and partnerships in the San Luis Valley to conserve the Valley’s rich natural resources for nature and for people,” said The Nature Conservancy Colorado State Director Carlos Fernandez. “We believe that the transfer of these lands to the Rio Grande Water Conservation District will contribute to the recovery of the aquifer which is critical for a healthy environment and a sustainable agricultural economy.”

The Conservancy purchased the Medano/Zapata Ranch in 1999 to conserve its rich natural resources and ranching history. The ranch harbors an abundance of native and rare species, including the globally rare slender spiderflower and the plains pocket mouse. Wetlands on the ranch provide habitat for numerous waterfowl species, including white ibis and sandhill cranes. The ranch is also home to elk and one of the largest bison herds in the state.

Following the purchase of the Medano/Zapata Ranch, the Conservancy, at the request of community leaders, began negotiations in 2000 for the purchase of the Baca Ranch to eliminate the threat of water export from the San Luis Valley. In 2004, the Conservancy purchased that ranch and transferred it to federal land managers to create the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Baca National Wildlife Refuge, protecting its water for the benefit of people and nature in the San Luis Valley.

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. To date, the Conservancy in Colorado has helped protect one million acres and 1,000 river miles. Learn more about The Nature Conservancy at

The Rio Grande Water Conservation District is the agency responsible for conservation and improved total water management in the San Luis Valley with a goal of increased water use efficiency and good water conservation efforts. The district mission is “to enhance and protect the water rights of the citizens in the San Luis Valley who reside within the boundaries of the district.” More information can be found at