Top stories of 2018 in SLV: #4--Victorious year for local land rights

SAN LUIS — The long-running saga of Cielo Vista Ranch, “La Sierra” or “the Taylor Ranch” in Costilla County began the year with the ranch’s new owner Texas billionaire William Bruce Harrison trying to restrict access to heirs of the San Luis Valley’s original settlers whose rights had been upheld in 2002 when a high court decision allowed access under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

About 5,000 people have rights to limited grazing, firewood gathering and timber harvesting on the ranch.

Harrison, who bought the 83,000-acre ranch last year, appealed the 2002 decision.

The year ended with the ranch owner ordering his attorneys to stop any further legal appeals and making offers to work with local residents.

In the meantime, attorneys for the new owner and land grant heirs argued their cases in the Colorado Court of Appeals. More than 150 individuals and youth attended a hearing on September 5 in Denver. The Colorado appellate court on November 15 ruled in favor of the heirs/access holders.

In December Harrison ordered his attorneys to stop any further legal appeals. He 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.