Ewelina and Stanley moved to Crawford in Delta County, Colorado, in the Smith Fork Valley in 2015. Their life savings were used to form the Wild Cooperative, an organization to steward the land on the outskirts of over 175,000 acres of the West Elk Wilderness. To the founders, this co-creative partnership means reintegrating nature (its natural rhythms, trust and responsibilities) into their lives and vice versa. They created an education and demonstration site for regenerative living skills and ethics (Permaculture). The teachings are provided to a large community through workshops, internships, and short stays that foster a change from the human-centric to bio-centric perspective. The workshops include topics on Nonviolent Communication® and wild bioregional foods and medicine with a focus on nature awareness skills. Wild Cooperative sees this healthy village creation with resilient social, economic, educational, and ecological guilds as a building block of a new and ancient biotic culture.
Since the Ute tribes (Núu-ci, meaning “The People”) were caring for this land, the Rocky Mountain Grand (Colorado) River area has been known for its ecological diversity and fertility. No wonder that present day organic food growers have flocked to the western foothills of the Rockies. However, most of Western Slope of Colorado is in a state of extreme drought and the rest of the western North American continent is not doing any better. In addition, the water situation is being challenged by changes of use from irrigation to urban applications, speculation by hedge funds and other financial profit driven investments.
In 2018, Wild Cooperative was given an opportunity to acquire No. 2 priority water right on the Smith Fork, tributary to the Gunnison river, dating from 1889. This water had been used for irrigation of pastures until 1990s, when the water right was separated from the land and has not been utilized for about 30 years. Wild Cooperative has been in the legal process of restoring those decreed rights, tying them back to the land and continuing to irrigate with them. According to the complex water law of Colorado, these rights will be lost if not put into beneficial use. The transfer of these water rights has been recommended by the Colorado Division of Water Resources’ (DWR) Division Engineer’s Office and a new decree has been drafted by the Water Court Referee.
Unfortunately, the Wild Cooperative’s neighbors have been opposing the transfer. Even though the hired engineer has proven that there is no injury to existing water right users, which was confirmed by the Colorado DWR’s Engineer, and the proposed decree contains many protective stipulations, the objections continue. After unsuccessful final negotiations with the opposing neighbors, the case is going to be referred to the Water Court Judge in August, 2021. Trial proceedings are typically protracted and costly and the Wild Cooperative is in need of funds to have the water right change application approved by the Water Court. The application contains an upstream water right transfer for irrigation purposes as well as an augmentation plan, where a minuscule portion of the irrigation water is legally converted into domestic water for three off-grid households. After the application is approved, Wild Cooperative can purchase the water rights and build the necessary infrastructure, including a pond to fulfill the augmentation plan requirements and to create a diverse habitat for plants, animals and fungi.
Wild Cooperative has spent over $20,000 on engineering and legal fees, up to date. The projected expenses, due to unreasonable opposition from the neighbors and the need for a judge to hear the case, amount to over $120,000. This would cover the following expenses:
legal and expert fees,
water rights purchase,
metering and irrigation infrastructure,
and a well pump upgrade.
Keep water rights in Crawford, Colorado
Wild Cooperative needs your support so we can continue our mission. Re-learning how to live in ecological balance is going to be key to the future of human communities as well as all communities of life. It is small organizations with an experiential education, like the Wild Cooperative, that are leading the way in creating a better future. This model is crucial for the wholeness of the generations to come.
Thank you so much for your consideration and support! Please spread the word about our campaign.