Partners for an unspoiled place

  The Greater San Juan Partnership sells a combative bumpersticker - -Keep It Country!' - and a collaborative message: Newcomers and old-timers can work together to preserve the rural character of the southern Rockies. The fledgling partnership takes its inspiration from the San Juan Mountains watershed, which board member Todd Murchison calls the largest unspoiled place left in the West. However, he says, this 17-county area straddling northern New Mexico and southern Colorado may gain 20,000 residents in the next five years. In one of its first projects, the partnership surveyed 230 randomly selected residents, and 69 percent agreed that the land "is being diminished because of how it is being developed." Sixty-four percent said they would like to see the size and number of towns in the region stay the same or decrease. "(The survey) surprised us," says Murchison. "People I thought would be absolutely pro-growth weren't, like real estate developers." The partnership seeks more partners, including tribal and Hispanic groups. Otherwise, says Murchison, "It's pretty arrogant for mostly middle-class white people to say, "We want it preserved." " Write the Greater San Juan Partnership at P.O. Box 2494, Taos, NM 87571.