Salazar Rio Grande del Norte Center director honored by CU

Rio de la Vista will receive the Distinguished Service Award from the University of Colorado.

ALAMOSA  Rio de la Vista, director of the Salazar Rio Grande del Norte Center at Adams State University, will receive the Distinguished Service Award from the University of Colorado on Saturday, Jan. 16.

“I am truly grateful for this recognition from my alma mater and the Regents, and for the friends and colleagues who nominated me and those who wrote generous letters of support,” said de la Vista. “My hope is that it will highlight the work of the Salazar Rio Grande del Norte Center at Adams State University, along with the essential importance of the land and water conservation and education work that so many of us are doing. Our sights are set on a more resilient, healthy Colorado and the opportunity to engage new generations of conservation leaders to carry on this vital work.

“The chance to spend my life engaged in caring for the Rio Grande, the San Luis Valley, and the Colorado I love, and in the company of such creative, committed and inspiring colleagues as all of you, continues to uplift and carry me through the challenges of these uncertain times.”

De la Vista has worked in the fields of land and water conservation, environmental health and regenerative agriculture, in Colorado, across the West and internationally since earning her degree in Journalism at CU and her work with John Denver’s Windstar Foundation in the 1980’s. Her dedication to restorative land management and conservation brought her to the San Luis Valley in 1999 to serve with the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust. During this time and with wide ranging partners, she helped to conserve over 26,000 acres of working lands and wetlands along the Rio Grande and its tributaries in the San Luis Valley. In 2011, she was honored with the National Wetlands Award for Land Stewardship by the Environmental Law Institute in Washington D.C.

De la Vista came to Adams State in 2018 to serve as the first director of the Center, to “help grow the next generation of conservation leaders.” In this role, she is working to further the two key initiatives of the Salazar Rio Grande del Norte Center, addressing the Rio Grande Natural Area and expanding and enhancing water education on campus and with the community. In addition to hosting the annual Rio Grande State of the Basin Symposium on the Valley’s water issues, the Salazar Center is working with Adams State faculty to develop a new and innovative minor degree in water to start in Fall 2021.

CU will present the Distinguished Service Award during a virtual ceremony of its 2020 Commencement Regent Awards.

The award recognizes her “lifetime of education and problem solving” through which she “has become a trusted broker of agreements between ranchers, scientists, politicians and funders.” 

She is being honored for the “scope, scale and excellence of her visionary environmental work and leadership” throughout her career.


The Salazar Rio Grande del Norte Center was launched in 2018 thanks to a generous donation from the Salazar Family, in memory of their parents, Emma and Henry Salazar.

The vision of the center is to engage and advance the conservation, restoration and understanding of the land, water and historic and cultural attributes at the headwaters of the Rio Grande in the San Luis Valley. The Salazar Center works to promote and support innovative stewardship, strengthen connections between the region’s natural resources and its diverse cultures and heritage, and enhance related economic development for the community and career opportunities for students. A core strategy of the Salazar Center’s Rio Grande Natural Area Initiative and Water Education Initiative is to deepen the engagement between Adams State University’s faculty and students and the region’s active network of conservation organizations, agencies, districts and caring community members.


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