Monday, June 20, 2011

Vistas Over the Fence

Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust 4th Annual “Keep the Rio Grande Grand” Art Benefit and Sale
Opening Friday, June 24, 6 pm til Dark Thirty
The Gallery at the Windsor, Del Norte, Colorado
Show runs until July 4th

Of course I am a great fan of our lands held in common- such as the National and State Forests and Parks. We are blessed in the West with an abundance of public land. I like an analogy in reference to Indian Reservations- that these are our Tribal Lands- if we could just get over our glaring and all-to-easy-to-point-out differences of who makes up the U.S. to consider ourselves a tribe.
It is not the Government (Gummint?) who owns the land- it is you and I.

"Mountain Homestead"
9 x 12 plein air

But I early on noticed something very significant. In the midst of these huge tracts of public land are pockets, sometimes very large pockets, of fenced land- usually posted with no-trespassing signs. Many a time I have stretched my neck over barbed wire- drooling at verdant vistas along streams and meadows- out of reach for the law abiding citizen. These are the private ranches that have been carved out of the most productive and watered lands in the west.

Homesteading was the vehicle for this creation of ranches in the late 1800’s. The U.S. had recently acquired millions of acres of land that was uninhabited (by Europeans) and to encourage settlement the lawmakers decided to give as much of the land away as possible. The classic image for me was some movie with hundreds of people lined up on horseback and in wagons. The official fires a pistol into the air and the great land rush was on.

So if you were able to pick out 160 acres- for free- what would you pick? The landmark cliff face or high peak, or the meadow down in the cottonwoods where you could fatten some cattle? In this way, many of the oasis zones became the core of spectacular ranches. Over a century later, the current land owners, many of them descendents of the original settlers, have the option to make sure these rare lands are retained in their open vistas far into the future.

"Into the Meadow" 11 x 14
The creation of development easements and land trusts have, hand -in -hand, made what is truly a promise into the future. These scenic expanses will be here to be enjoyed by some who have not even been born yet. I salute the vision of these land owners who choose to go this way.

The Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust is a valuable organization created to hold these easements. I am once again participating in the annual art celebration to help raise funds for the land trust projects.

It is also self-serving for me. I want to keep these ranches open- so I can paint them. Who knows- someone may actually let me in to paint on the other side of the fence!

(I say this in jest- I am continually invited by generous land owners who share with pride places they love to show off.)

"Creek and Cone" 9x12 plein air

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