Rio Arriba County is among the poorest counties in New Mexico and ranks among the most impoverished in the Nation. Residents want to preserve their traditional lifestyle, including their rural environment, yet they also want to provide economic opportunities for their citizenry—particularly their youth. Among the local traditions is family and community-based agriculture using acequias, which are community-operated irrigation systems. These systems represent not only a water-carrying network, but a political and cultural structure as well. Located on rich bottomlands, they occupy land that has been farmed for thousands of years, dating back to the Anasazi people. Around 1200 A.D., Tewa Pueblo people constructed the first of these irrigation networks, which were expanded by native people and Spanish settlers starting around 1600.
Conflicting with this farming tradition is the emerging pattern of housing development, which is occurring disproportionately on the bottomlands, the most productive farming areas. Uplands which are more suitable for development are federal lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).