Let ranches equal water

  Dear HCN,


I want to offer what I hope people will perceive to be a constructive alternative to the controversial Animas-La Plata dam project. The solution is simple: Purchase ranches in southwest Colorado and give them to the two Ute tribes and their members (HCN, 11/11/96).


Most ranches come with significant, high-priority water rights. The goal should be to acquire ranches with water rights equal in volume to the rights conferred to the tribes under existing law. Most of the rights would be somewhat junior to the Utes' 1854 rights, but would be senior to almost all other users of the rivers. Legal action could change those rights to 1854.


Because the rights would be purchased in the open market system, the prior appropriation system would remain intact. This could reduce some of the resentment which existing water users feel about federal reserved water rights. Colorado is noted for its relatively free, open market for water rights, and this program would take advantage of that situation.


The current estimated cost of the project is around $800 million. For $100 million-$200 million, a large amount of ranchland could be purchased, and many of these lands would be more green than the deserts now owned by the Ute tribes - lands more like the Ute territory prior to the invasion of white people. This also could put the Utes directly into the agriculture business, which was the original goal of the reservations.


An incidental benefit from this move would be to preserve ranching and open spaces in La Plata and Montezuma counties. Most ranches there are now threatened by the housing subdivision alternative. With a couple hundred million dollars at hand, a lot of debt-free, prosperous ranching could be created that also pays property taxes.


Of course, the Utes themselves might later go into the housing subdivision business. That would be their privilege, just as it is now the ranchers'. Some folks may see a significant drawback to this idea: the prospect of a large amount of land changing from white ownership to Native American. But so what?





Gary Sprung


Crested Butte, Colorado


High Country News Classifieds
  • ADOBE HOME
    Passive solar adobe home in high desert of central New Mexico. Located on a 10,000 acre cattle ranch.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Western Slope Conservation Center Paonia, CO WSCC seeks a dynamic leader who is mission-driven, hardworking and a creative problem-solver. Position Summary: The Executive Director leads...
  • ARIZONA STATE DIRECTOR
    A LITTLE ABOUT US Founded in 1951, the Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all...
  • CONSERVATION MANAGEMENT/HOSPITALITY SERVICES
    Seasoned ranch manager of award-winning conservation ranch seeking position as nature reserve/resort or ranch manager. Visit philipmoonwalker.com for resume and certifications. Contact: [email protected]
  • PART-TIME OREGON GRANT WRITER
    Help advance rights for people, communities, and nature - Part-time grant writer. The Oregon Community Rights Network (ORCRN) has been active over the last six...
  • UTAH PUBLIC LANDS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Job Title: Utah Public Lands Program Director Location: Southern Utah Position: Full Time (40 hours per week) Supervisor: Conservation Director About us: The Grand Canyon...
  • FSBO PROPERTY-SOUTHEAST ARIZONA
    Located in an area steeped in history, this gentleman's ranch sits at the entrance to the renowned Cave Creek Canyon. Enjoy picturesque views of the...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition, based in Ely, Nevada is looking for a new executive director to replace the long-time executive director who is retiring at...
  • LAND CONSERVATION PROJECT MANAGER
    JOIN OUR TEAM! The New Mexico Land Conservancy in Santa Fe is seeking a Land Conservation Project Manager who will work to protect land and...
  • HOME NEAR CAPITOL REEF NP
    Comfortable home at foot of Boulder Mountain, on one fenced acre. Amazing views!
  • STEVE HARRIS, EXPERIENCED PUBLIC LANDS/ENVIRONMENTAL ATTORNEY
    Comment Letters - Admin Appeals - Federal & State Litigation - FOIA -
  • LISA MACKEY PHOTOGRAPHY
    Fine Art Gicle Printing. Photo papers, fine art papers, canvas. Widths up to 44". Art printing by an artist.
  • LOG HOME IN THE GILA WILDERNESS
    Beautiful hand built log home in the heart of the Gila Wilderness on five acres. Please email for PDF of pictures and a full description.
  • NEW MEXICO PROPERTY - SILVER CITY
    20 acres, $80,000. Owner financing, well, driveway, fencing possible, very private, sensible covenants, broker owned. Contact - 575-534-7955 or [email protected]
  • SECLUDED COLORADO HIDEAWAY
    This passive solar home sits on 2 lots and offers an abundance of privacy and views while being only 15 minutes to downtown Buena Vista....
  • CARETAKER
    2.0 acre homestead needing year-round caretaker in NE Oregon. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • SEEKING PROPERTY FOR BISON HERD
    Seeking additional properties for a herd of 1,000 AUM minimum. Interested in partnering with landowners looking to engage in commercial and/or conservation bison ranching. Location...
  • COPPER STAIN: ASARCO'S LEGACY IN EL PASO
    Tales from scores of ex-employees unearth the human costs of an economy that runs on copper.
  • EXPERT LAND STEWART
    Available for site conservator, property manager. View resume at http://skills.ojadigital.net.
  • CONSERVATIONIST? IRRIGABLE LAND?
    Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.