The Rio Grande is a western icon and the lifeblood of the desert Southwest. It originates in the snow-capped peaks of the San Juan Mountains of Colorado and meanders 1900 miles to the Gulf of Mexico. It is the third longest river in the United States. Along its course, it bisects New Mexico, flows along the southern border of Texas, and serves as the international border between the United States and Mexico. The Rio Grande is central to the history of the area, and serves as the ecological, cultural and economic engine of the region. However, this once perennial river that pulsed with life is withering away due to the challenges of nineteenth-century water law, twentieth-century infrastructure, and twenty-first-century population growth, climate change, and drought.
Jen Pelz is an attorney, biologist, and river activist. Jen grew up in the Rio Grande basin, splitting her time between the middle valley in central New Mexico, the northern mountains along the Santa Fe River, and on the Conejos River in southern Colorado. Jen received her J.D. and Certificate of Environmental and Natural Resource Law from the University of Oregon School of Law in 2002 and obtained her B.A. in Field Biology from the University of Northern Colorado in 1998. Jen co-directed the 2001 Public Interest Environmental Law Conference in Eugene, Oregon and worked at the Western Environmental Law Center’s clinic. Prior to joining Guardians, she practiced law for seven years at a small private firm in Denver, litigating land use, public lands, and water law cases. Her work currently focuses on securing environmental flows for the Rio Grande to support native fish, wildlife, and plants by holding state and federal water management agencies accountable, fighting for the Rio Grande to have a right to its own water, and reforming existing archaic water policies and rethinking water infrastructure in the West.
516 Alto Street
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501