Eagle Valley Land Trust: A look back at our land, and efforts to protect it, in 2017 (column) | VailDaily.com

Eagle Valley Land Trust: A look back at our land, and efforts to protect it, in 2017 (column)

Jim Daus and Adriana Bombard
Trust our Land

2017 has been an exceptional year for land conservation in this community. Milestones were reached and goals achieved that would not have been possible without the support of this community. Thank you.

First, in partnership with Eagle County and our generous landowners, more than 3500 acres were forever protected, including:

• Conserving our cherished views on the Buchholz-Winfrey Ranch: 1,760 spectacular acres located on the southeast flank of the Castle Peak mountain complex, overlooking the town of Eagle and including wildlife habitat, as well as scenic open space that's visible from Eagle and Gypsum.

• Increasing public access close to town on the Hardscrabble Ranch: an easily accessed, 1,540-acre parcel preserved in partnership with Eagle County Open Space, The Conservation Fund, Great Outdoors Colorado, the town of Eagle and Eagle Ranch Wildlife Committee. This property includes wildlife habitat, 2.5 miles of fishing access, ranching heritage, scenic open space, trails and other recreational access. The Eagle Valley Land Trust managed a fundraising effort that raised more than $330,000 toward the project.

• Protecting space for wildlife to roam on Horse Mountain: 201 acres that are rugged and majestic located between Salt and Bruce creeks and towering over Brush Creek and Hardscrabble Ranch and including wildlife habitat and scenic open space that's visible from town of Eagle and Interstate 70.

Recreational Access

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We are also excited about the work we did to expand recreational access to conserved lands in 2017. In addition to our participation on the Hardscrabble Ranch project, the conservation of Abrams Creek Open Space in 2016 by the Land Trust and several partners enabled the LOV Connection trail in Eagle, completed in 2017. This links Second Creek and Abrams Creek with a phenomenal new trail for hiking and biking near the town of Eagle.

If you have not already enjoyed these trails and views, then we encourage you to do so.

Eagle Valley Land Trust is also honored to promote stewardship of our land via dedicated community outreach and education programs.

• Planting the seed of conservation in young minds: Through our Future Conservationists program, we collaborated with other youth-serving organizations, including SOS Outreach and Walking Mountains Science Center, to educate kids about the importance of protecting our land.

• Hiking to connect us with our land: Eagle Valley Land Trust provides Community Land Connection monthly hikes and property tours for the public, often in collaboration with organizations such as the Eagle River Watershed Council and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Hikes such as "Living with Wildlife" educate participants about elk behavior at the Eagle River Preserve.

• Bringing the community to the cow: The 2017 Ranching Heritage Tour to Haymeadow and Gates ranches gave participants an in-depth experience with ranch lands and their contributions to our livelihood and cultural heritage.

In 2017, the Land Trust welcomed a great number of new donors at all levels, including new members of our Sustaining Council (our highest level), as well as two new Legacy Partners, who provided planned gifts in their estates. This support is vital for our ongoing land conservation work.

We also celebrated land conservation at this year's Farm to Fork event, which was preceded by Garden to Glass, a new local mixologist competition highlighting a locally sourced ingredient (lavender this year). Congratulations to this year's winners, Ryan Suoto and Scott Robinson, of The Rose restaurant in Edwards.

We are deeply grateful to the Scudder and Webster families for opening their beautiful property for a very successful event that raised crucial funds for our organization. Alpine Bank was once again title sponsor of the 2017 Legacy Festival, which featured Ol' Bessie doing her thing on the Cow Patty Bingo field.

And on the topic of community support: We entered a national video contest and won.

Eagle Valley Land Trust was honored just a few short days ago with first place in the National Land Trust Alliance's "Land is My …" video contest. Vail Valley videographer Ben Dodd and his team at Capture the Action created a truly exceptional video that showcases what makes our land special here in Eagle County, and their talent was propelled by votes from community members like you to earn us first place.

We cannot thank Ben, Capture the Action and all of you who voted enough for your role in making this success possible. The grand prize of $10,000 is a win for our entire community, as it will help us continue our mission to protect the places we love permanently for future generations. If you have not seen the video, I encourage you to visit our website or our Facebook page to view it.

Goodbye, Dr. Steinberg

Finally, and on a more somber note, all of us at the Land Trust continue to mourn the loss of our friend, and one of our land's greatest and longest-serving stewards, Dr. Tom Steinberg, president emeritus of the land trust and ardent supporter of open space conservation. Dr. Steinberg guided the land trust as its president for many years and oversaw the conservation of thousands of acres of land in our community.

There was no more kind, thoughtful and tireless man, attributes that made him a force for many great outcomes. Joe LeBeau, Arrowhead Metro District, Arrowhead at Vail Association, River Ranch Association, River Dance Association and Country Club of the Rockies recently helped underwrite the Tom and Flo Steinberg Nature Trail and seating area at Miller Ranch Open Space in Edwards, a beautiful tribute to Dr. Steinberg.

As we bid farewell to another year and look forward to 2018, we are comforted to know that Dr. Steinberg's legacy will live on forever in the lands and waters he worked successfully to protect.

We at the Eagle Valley Land Trust wish you and your family a very happy new year and best wishes for 2018.

Jim Daus is the executive director of the Eagle Valley Land Trust, and Adriana Bombard is the Eagle Valley Land Trust board president.