About Us

The Rio Grande Watershed Conservation & Education Initiative (RGWCEI) started as a part-time education position with the conservation districts of the Rio Grande Watershed. These five districts (Center, Costilla, Conejos, Rio Grande, & Mosca Hooper) recognized that youth education was an important element in promoting their mission of soil & water conservation. Over the past 25 years, RGWCEI has grown to become an independent non-profit, the only conservation education non-profit in Colorado partnering with conservation districts and other organizations to bring natural resource stewardship to youth of the San Luis Valley. Our programs, learning resources, and partnerships interact with more than 3,000 youth every year!


RGWCEI staff enjoy being part of our community through programs, festivals, and events.

Bethany Howell

Executive Director

Bethany has worked with RGWCEI since 2016. Her background includes public relations & communications work in higher education and non-profits. She holds two degrees from Hardin-Simmons University and grew up on her family's heritage ranch in Central Texas. Bethany also acts as the Public Education Liaison for the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable. She lives with her family in the foothills of the San Juan Mountains where she especially enjoys reading outside and running trails with her husky.

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Hannah Thill

Program Coordinator

Hannah is a native of Indiana and brings a wealth of knowledge about biology and environmental education. She is a 2018 graduate of Goshen College and has worked with RGWCEI for the past two years as part of the Mennonite Voluntary Service. Hannah joins the full-time staff in August 2020 as our first Program Coordinator! When Hannah is not planning engaging activities for Valley youth, she is crafting, knitting, or spending time with her housemates exploring the mountains.


To the world, it might be just dirt. But to a farmer, it is LIFE.

Our Mission

The Rio Grande Watershed Conservation & Education Initiative strives to increase understanding and awareness of natural resource stewardship and working landscapes in the San Luis Valley through K-12 and community education, collaborations, and connections.


Our Vision

RGWCEI  staff and board of directors recognizes that our area of Colorado is dependent on stewardship of agriculture and our natural resources. Through our programs, partnerships, and dedication to watershed health, we hope to provide a deeper engagement for our community with those resources.

Rio Grande Basin youth need a place to live, learn, and play now and in the future. 

We Need Your Support Today!