San Luis Valley Conservation and Connection Initiative

The San Luis Valley Conservation and Connection Initiative is a partnership of Western Rivers Conservancy (WRC), Colorado Open Lands (COL) and the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT), with support from the LOR Foundation over four years (2016-2019). This unique partnership among the four organizations and community groups will preserve working agricultural lands, open space, and water resources, support riparian restoration efforts, and create new outdoor recreation opportunities which are all vital to the long-term health of the region.

WRC, COL and RiGHT (the Lead Partners) are administering the Initiative, a re-granting program to increase the capacity of organizations throughout the Valley, where land conservation, water rights and a heritage of acequia agriculture go hand in hand.

In 2019, the final year of the SLVCCI, the Initiative will provide grants for up to $75,000 for capacity building and project development and implementation to qualifying entities and projects to achieve public benefits for conservation, recreation and natural resources in the San Luis Valley.

Program Goal

The goal of the Initiative is to increase the capacity of and collaboration between community organizations in order to achieve land and water conservation, acequia protection, restoration and outdoor recreation initiatives in the San Luis Valley, including along the Rio Grande and its tributaries and other key river and stream systems. The Initiative will provide grants for capacity building and project development and implementation to qualifying entities and projects to achieve stacked public benefits for conservation, recreation and natural resources in the San Luis Valley. Partnerships between organizations and collaborative projects are welcome and encouraged where appropriate.

Funding Priorities

The program is focused on supporting community-based efforts for land and water conservation and restoration along with associated programs that enhance natural resources, wildlife habitat, recreation, agricultural and water sustainability, and environmental education through capacity, infrastructure, and programs for community benefit.  

This includes the following areas of interest and priority.

Conservation of key agricultural lands, associated water rights and wildlife habitat in riparian areas, especially the Rio Grande, Conejos and Culebra River corridors.

Re-grantee recipients may use funds for critical seed funding or transaction costs for land conservation in the San Luis Valley. Grant funds may be attributed to capital costs or project development expenses.  Sample projects in this category could include: 

  • acquiring land (fee title) for habitat conservation, recreational access and/or enhancement or other complementary objectives; or
  • securing conservation easements to preserve working agricultural lands, protect habitat or related objectives.

The importance of acequia systems and their sustainability.

This category spans various activities to assist the people of Costilla and Conejos County in sustaining their acequia systems. For example:

  • supporting the community’s ability to advocate effectively and to increase the potential of the annual Congreso as a platform for community empowerment;
  • strengthening traditional governance systems;
  • supporting youth education and involvement in understanding and celebrating their unique cultural heritage; or
  • assisting the next generation of acequia irrigators.

Conservation and restoration of watershed ecological function and sensitive sites, such as wetlands, infiltration / groundwater recharge zones, forested lands, upland rangelands, and headwaters that are also a priority for watershed health. 

Prospective projects in this area could include: 

  • restoring or enhancing habitat for key species (including at risk species such as lynx, Rio Grande cutthroat trout, Rio Grande chub and sucker, Boreal toad, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Yellow Billed Cuckoo, etc.) along the upper Rio Grande, Conejos and other streams, and improving or maintaining recreational access;
  • addressing historic mining impacts, restoring and sustaining the health of waterways, and enhancing water quality; or
  • working to improve the health of ranch and farm lands on the Valley floor and increasing the water holding capacity of soils, including education, incentives, monitoring and marketing that catalyze these sustainable practices.

Enhanced outdoor recreation opportunities for communities, including, where appropriate, public access and connectivity to accessible public lands.

Efforts of interest in this area could include: 

  • securing right-of-way easements to create connections between communities, parks, schools, public buildings, and public lands and recreation areas;
  • supporting community-based youth engagement programs and environmental education programs, especially those that complement or seek matching funds for Great Outdoors Colorado’s “Protect, Connect and Inspire” effort; or
  • developing and enhancing multi-modal trails, outdoor recreation facilities, and associated opportunities for economic development and youth involvement.

Capacity building grants to enhance or amplify the above objectives through supporting adequate existing and/or new staffing for organizations, and enhancing collaboration, communications, media and work with local, state and federal government agencies to promote land use and management plans that meet those objectives. 

A few examples of this include:

  • providing support for training of staff and/or board members on fundraising, nonprofit management, communications and community engagement and/or related topics;
  • supplying funding for new part-time or full-time staff to create additional capacity to achieve complementary objectives; or
  • furnishing resources for capacity building efforts which advance broader objectives that last beyond the four-year period of the Initiative, such as exploration of the feasibility of new public finance opportunity(s) to advance land use planning, conservation, recreational developments, community access or other objectives.
  • Because of the great collaboration that has occurred between SLVCCI Grantees over the past 3 years, the SLVCF partners would like to give grantees an opportunity to explore building on these partnerships for the future. To do this, year 4 applicants will be eligible to submit a second grant application for the purpose of developing long-lasting, more formal collaborations. These grants would fund multiple organizations and may include scopes of work like sharing services and/or resources, developing combined funding opportunities or perhaps collaborative messaging. Please contact either Allen or Judy for more information.


Nonprofit organizations, counties, municipalities, conservation districts, water districts, schools and universities are eligible to apply for re-grants from the Initiative.  

Grants to nonprofit organizations can only be made to those certified as tax exempt under Sections 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and that are classified as "not a private foundation" under Sections 509(a)(2) and 509(a)(3). Nonprofit organizations that have completed and filed Form 1023 but not yet received an IRS determination letter are not eligible to apply. Exceptions may be made if the organization has a fiscal sponsorship arrangement with a 501(c)(3) organization and can provide all required documentation through the fiscal sponsor (see grant application for specific requirements for this purpose).  The Initiative does not make grants to individuals. 

Grant funding must be used solely for charitable and educational activities consistent with the Lead Partners’ tax-exempt status and the Initiative’s goals described above. Funds may not be used to support political advocacy, political or any paid fundraising, lobbying, litigation, terrorist activities or Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations, or any other activities that would endanger the nonprofit status of the LOR Foundation or the Lead Partners.

Grants are available for projects and programs that are located entirely within the geographic range of the Rio Grande Basin and that serve the communities of the San Luis Valley.

Application Process

Application Format and Online Proposal Site:  All applications must be submitted online. The application will be available starting on January 7, 2019. Hard-copy applications will not be considered for funding. To start the 2019 application:

  1. Go to:
    • If you are an existing user or your organization has an existing user, please enter your credentials and log in. If you forgot your password, please use the "Forgot your Password" link to the left to reset your password. If you think that you or someone at your organization has already registered in the system, please do not create a new account. Contact Anne Tattam, at or 503-241-0151 to receive your username and password.
    • If you are positive that you and your organization are new users, click “Create New Account” to register in the online system.  Watch for a registration notification email from the San Luis Valley Conservation and Connection Initiative (please ensure that it does not go to your spam folder / add this e-mail address to your contact list).
  2. Once you land on the home page for the Re-Granting Program, click “Apply” in the navigation bar at the top, then click the blue “Apply” box at the upper right hand corner of the “2019 San Luis Valley Conservation and Connection Initiative” page to start your application.
  3. Once a 2019 application has been started, it may be saved and returned to at a later time for completion and submission.
  4. You may review, edit, print and save an electronic copy of your application in advance of submission.  Be sure to click “Submit” by the application deadline of February 15, 2019. Note that once you have submitted your application, you may no longer edit it.

2019 Proposal Deadline:  February 15, 2019. (The grant deadline for collaborative grants only has been extended to February 25, 2019. This extension only applies to second, collaborative grant applications for the purpose of developing long-lasting, more formal collaborations. This extension does NOT apply to regular applications, they are still due on February 15, 2019.)

Year Four Awards:  Award announcements are expected to be made in mid-April 2019. Once grant agreements are completed with recipients, the funds will be distributed in spring 2019.

Funding Available:  The re-granting program is the fourth and final year of a four year period. In the Initiative’s fourth year, up to $500,000 in total funding is available. The program plans to support eligible community organizations with awards up to $75,000 for a one-year grant period. 

Matching Funds:  Matching funds, including cash received, cash pledged, and in-kind contributions, are strongly encouraged, but not required. Please identify the supporter(s) and amount(s) in the Project Budget. Please indicate if the funds are already secured or committed to the project. If not secured, be sure to indicate the status (e.g., pending another grant application in progress, pending a fundraising campaign). For in-kind contributions, please specify dollar value and date(s) received for: volunteer time, office space, equipment use or other items. 

Communications Planning: SLVCCI hosted a Communications Workshop series in 2018. The goal of the workshops was to help grantees ensure their organizational sustainability by developing and implementing a robust communications plan. 

Note that the materials from all of the workshops are available online here.

Grantmaking Committee:  One representative from each of the following organizations will comprise the Grantmaking Committee: Colorado Open Lands, LOR Foundation, Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust and Western Rivers Conservancy. The committee will make award decisions in mid-April 2019. Please do not contact members of the Grantmaking Committee following submission of your application. If further information is needed, a member of the committee will contact the applicant.  

Application Evaluation Criteria: Competitive proposals will include the following information:

  • Project Needs
  • Activities and Methodology
  • Project Budget, including matching funds and in-kind match (including optional letters of support)
  • Proposed Partnerships
  • Short- and Long-Term Outcomes

Proposals will be reviewed and prioritized by the Grantmaking Committee, and awards made based upon available funding.

Grant Agreements and Fund Disbursement

Awards will be announced in mid-April 2019. Recipients will be required to sign a grant agreement with Western Rivers Conservancy, the manager of the San Luis Valley Conservation and Connection Initiative. WRC plans to disburse funds after receipt of a counter-signed grant agreement.

Grant Reporting

Grant recipients will submit interim and final reports (narrative and financial) to the Grantmaking Committee via the online application and reporting site. For Year-Four grants, the interim report will be due on October 31, 2019. The final report for Year-Four grants will be due on June 1, 2020.

Program Evaluation and Communications

The success of the re-granting program will be measured by: 

  • the number and quality of applications, awards and completed projects achieved;
  • the number and quality of new collaborations and partnerships that arise from the re-granting program;
  • the acres of land and associated water rights that are conserved and recreational enhancements achieved; and
  • the quality, reach and strength of community support that help these conservation efforts succeed and position COL, RiGHT, WRC and community partners for future successes.

COL and RiGHT will work on the community level to enhance the process, collaborations, and communications aspects of the overall Initiative. This will include talking and/or meeting with community stakeholders to:

  • provide potential applicants with grant information, guidance and support;
  • listen and learn about emerging needs and opportunities that can inform grantmaking priorities for future funding;
  • provide for enhanced communications and outreach about the projects and successes within the program and between the stakeholders;
  • engage the partners to identify and encourage collaborative projects; and
  • build upon and further develop the community’s “culture of conservation.”
  • encourage attendance at the organizational Communications Workshop Series

Frequently Asked Questions

Will you be convening a training for my organization to learn more about the program?

Yes, there is a re-granting program workshop scheduled for January 17, 2019 from 10 am to 3 pm. Registration begins at 9:30 am and attendees are encouraged to arrive early. A local foods lunch will be served. The workshop will be held at Rio Grande Water Conservation District building at 8805 Independence Way, on the south side of Alamosa. More information on the workshop will be widely distributed throughout the San Luis Valley. To preregister for the workshop, please contact Judy Lopez at the SLV COL office, at 719-580-5300 or or Allen Law at the RiGHT office at 719-657-0800 or The presentation will also be made available as a PowerPoint after the workshop, for people who are unable to attend in person.    

Following the workshop and in advance of the full proposal deadline, prospective applicants may discuss their projects and/or submit an optional pre-proposal (a simple form / typed document to be e-mailed) to receive initial feedback on their proposal concept. The optional pre-proposals will be vetted by COL and/or RiGHT.

Will there be opportunities for ongoing communications (beyond the application and reports)?

The SLVCCI team worked to support grantees through our 2018-19 workshop series. The final workshop was held in early February 2019. Available here on the website is the comprehensive communications tool kit developed for grantees in the 2017-18 grant year, as well as materials from the 2018-19 workshop series.

How will progress be measured? 

Success will be measured based upon tangible progress made toward the objectives established in the applicant’s proposal. The Grantmaking Committee will apply both quantitative and qualitative measures of success in determining how the grant recipient has achieved its own targets and/or advanced the collective program goals and funding priorities. 

When do grant terms run from?

Grant terms for Year-Four grants will run from May 2019 to April 2020.

Can the grant period be modified/extended to take the in-stream work window or field work season into account?

The Year-Four grant period was changed to better accommodate the instream and field work window. However, in very special circumstances the Initiative may modify the grant period to better match a project’s timeline. Approval from the grant committee is necessary to modify a grant period, and applicants seeking to modify the grant period must contact Allen or Judy first to discuss their prospective changes.

If I have a fiscal sponsor, how do I register for the application?

When you “create a new account” on the online application site, enter your fiscal sponsor’s info on the organization page, and then your contact information with your email/login on the next page, then your fiscal sponsor’s Executive Officer information, then complete the registration. In the application itself, you’ll need to upload your fiscal sponsorship agreement including fiscal sponsor's 501(c)3 determination letter. (See the grant application for specific requirements for this purpose.)

2019 awards have been made

For list of projects and amounts funded in 2019, please click here.

For list of projects and amounts funded in 2018, please click here.

For list of projects and amounts funded in 2017, please click here.

For an overview of the Initiative and a step-by-step registration and application guide, please click HERE.

Please click here for materials from the SLVCCI Sustainability, Growth, and Collaboration Workshops

Please click here for materials from the SLVCCI Communications Workshop Series  

Please Note: The SLVCCI offered a series of communication workshops (October 2017 to May 2018) to help San Luis Valley partners strengthen their communication programs. Produced and delivered by Highland Communication Works in partnership with Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, the workshops focus on strategy, messaging and storytelling, with goals to help partners create or enhance their communication initiatives, boost their individual and collective impacts, and create sustainability for their organizations. Workshop presentation materials, tools and templates are available for download from the link above for the benefit of San Luis Valley partners. Any further distribution or sharing of these materials should give credit to San Luis Valley Conservation & Connection Initiative, Highland Communication Works and Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado.


For more information or questions about the SLVCCI, please contact:

Programmatic priorities and project-related questions:

Judy Lopez
Colorado Open Lands

Allen Law
Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust

Application process and online application assistance:

Anne Tattam
Western Rivers Conservancy
503-241-0151, ext. 219

Stay on top of our work

Choose the news you want to receive, and we’ll keep you abreast of our conservation efforts around the West.