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San Luis Valley ranchers honored with national conservation award

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San Luis Valley ranchers Jim and Greg Higel received high praise and honors from Ducks Unlimited (DU) and the Environmental Law Institute during a recent visit to the nation's capitol.

DU, the Nation's largest wetland conservation organization, presented the Higels with the organization's Heritage Habitat Society Award on May 10 for permanently conserving the landowners’ Rio Grande River corridor property with a conservation easement. In addition, the Environmental Law Institute recognized the Higel Family with their 2006 National Wetlands Award for exemplary landowner stewardship.

“There is no better example of a conservation-minded family than the Higels,” said Bob Sanders, DU manager of conservation programs, “from land protection, to wise use of water, to supporting conservation organizations – they do it all.”

The Higels’ gift to DU of this conservation easement has a value of $238,000. The San Luis Valley family also donated a permanent endowment of $20,000 to monitor the easement perpetually.

Conservation in the San Luis Valley, especially along the Rio Grande Corridor of the southern valley, involves a unique group of partners, ranchers, farmers, private landowners, non-profit organizations, as well as local, state and federal agencies. Funding through the North American Conservation Act is a critical component in allowing these divergent interests to work together toward conserving this important landscape for waterfowl and other wildlife.

During their visit to Washington, the Higels spent time with Colorado U.S. Senators Wayne Allard and Ken Salazar
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