Ranch owner halts legal appeals

Cielo Vista Ranch/Courier file photo

SAN LUIS — Seeking to end decades of legal battles, William Harrison, the new owner of the 80,000-acre San Luis Valley Cielo Vista Ranch (“CVR”) has ordered his attorneys to stop any further legal appeals.

The long-standing legal issues have been tied to access to CVR by community residents who trace their ancestry to the property’s Spanish land grant roots. Those community members have rights to limited grazing, firewood gathering and timber harvesting on CVR. About 5,000 people have legal access to the ranch, although not all live in the area.

“My hope is to move away from litigation and into discussions on how we can live together with a common goal to preserve this precious land for generations to come.” said Harrison about the decision. “There are many topics on which we may not agree, but let’s begin to better define the legitimate use of the property so we can heal our rifts.”

Underscoring his commitment to find workable resolutions, Harrison also agreed to restore certain historic gates that provide access to adjoining landowners, and as a result, begin broad discussions with the surrounding community about land-use policies and defining legitimate use of the property.

Harrison said he was encouraged by November comments from Shirley Romero-Otero, president of the Land Rights Council, offering of an olive branch after the Court of Appeals decision that affirmed the access rights: “Hopefully we can shift gears now and start what I call the second chapter of this struggle,” she said.

Harrison said he agreed it was time to start a bigger, broader more positive conversation because it’s crucial for the community to agree on their common interest of preserving the land’s resources.

“We all share a common bond in the land and its resources, so I’m hopeful we can start working towards agreements to make our shared resource work for everyone. I look forward a new year and a new approach to some very old problems,” he said.

“This is a unique opportunity in time to move in a new direction.”