You know the old phrase: Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over. Over the two years that I’ve now been in the San Luis Valley (SLV) of Colorado, I’ve heard a lot of stories that recall that phrase. Stories of family members who no longer speak due to disagreements irrigation strategies, landowners who’ve been shot by trespassers hoping to steal water under cover of night, ranchers on their fifth year of a water court case due to a neighbor dispute. This story, however, is not one of those.
Dogs aren’t new to me, but they almost seemed that way when I moved to the San Luis Valley and started working as a Private Lands Wildlife Biologist. I grew up in Chicago, IL and the dogs I knew were house pups – used to lazy mornings and an afternoon walk. So when I moved to the San Luis Valley and met a cattle dog that wanted nothing to do with me, I was surprised. But by spending time with local landowners and their dogs, I quickly learned the difference between the “pet” dogs I’d grown up with and the working dogs out here in the San Luis Valley – and much more. I’m a Private Lands Wildlife Biologist and I work with landowners, ranchers, and farmers to conserve wildlife habitat on their properties. Landowners are typically focused on making a living and carrying on generations-old traditions, while I am focused on creating and enhancing habitat for migratory and resident birds. These goals often go together, allowing us to develop and work on projects that both enhance landowner operations and benefit birds and other wildlife.