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Saving land for science

Veronica Whitney

While most kids his age are immersed in playing sports and videogames, 14-year-old Will James is trying to preserve macroinvertebrates, fish, deer, rock and sagebrush<all inhabitants of the Eby Creek Watershed.James, an eighth-grader at Eagle Valley Middle School, is spending part of his spring break trying to collect $30,000 so he can enter an auction Saturday to buy a 57-acre parcel on Eby Creek, an important wildlife corridor to the Eagle River and an important site for students of Eagle and Gypsum schools to study natural science.So far, the Eagle Valley Land Trust has contributed $10,000 for Saturday1s auction.3I just want this land to be preserved and not to be developed, James says. 3I want to see it every day as open space. I1m concerned we1re not doing enough to preserve the environment.Will1s dream, he says, is to purchase Lot 220 of Eby Creek Mesa and give it to the Gore Range Natural Science School and the Eagle Valley Land Trust.Will1s efforts to preserve the parcel started four years ago when he talked with Vance Faulkenberg, the parcel1s owner at that time, to try to strike a deal. But Faulkenberg sold the parcel to John Poulkish, who got a five-house subdivision approved.Poulkish is auctioning the property on Saturday. The starting bidding price is $295,000.3This is an important piece of land to protect from development interests, says the Eagle Valley Land Trust1s executive director, Cindy Cohegan.3It1s important to preserve Eby Creek1s stream bed. Also, there1s open space preservation and scenic values.Kim Langmaid, executive director of the Gore Range Natural Science School, says the Red Cliff-based school uses the Eby Creek parcel a lot as an educational site with children from Eagle and Gypsum.3We1d like to preserve it as an educational open space, Langmaid says.In the past years, Eagle Valley Middle School students have established six long-term wildlife study plots on this parcel, along with a dozen more upstream on land owned by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.Over 200 Eagle Valley Middle School students have conducted aquatic and terrestrial research studies in the Eby Creek Watershed.3This is like science in their backyard, Langmaid says. 3Children can sample water quality, identify macroinvertebrates and record the bio-diversity in the area. It1s an outdoor laboratory.For the campaign to raise $30,000 for the auction, James has spent $500 of his own savings printing up a flyer asking for donations.3Will1s pretty exceptional, Langmaid says. 3This shows that people want to protect what they love.Before he can establish a maximum bid, James1 father, Ted, says he still needs to see what kind of response he gets from the public this week.3I don1t know yet how high we can go, says Ted James, a science teacher at Eagle Valley Middle School. 3We need to see how much money we can raise.Also, the Gore Range Nature Science School and the Eagle Valley Land Trust could pitch in more money if Will James wins the auction on Saturday. Langmaid and Cohegan, however, couldn1t say how much.3We have too many projects on the table at this point, says Cohegan, who these days is finalizing a fundraiser to close a land swap deal with the U.S. Forest Service.3I don1t think there will be a lot of interest from developers because this isn1t a view lot, Ted James says. 3The view is of the road.For several months, Cohegan says, the land trust and the science school have been trying to work with the landowner and the town of Eagle to put an easement on the property.3But Eagle County has a road easement that would make it difficult for us to put an easement on the creek, Cohegan says.Will says he feels lucky he can live in Eagle, but he1s concerned about future development.3It1s such a beautiful place, he says. 3I don1t know how many developers will be at the auction, but I1m concerned with how many houses they1ll put there if we can1t buy the parcel.3It1s tremendous to find such passion and commitment in a 14-year-old boy, Cohegan says. 3He1ll grow up to enjoy it. This kind of passion will make a difference in the future of Eagle County.Help wantedTo enter the auction to purchase the 57-acre parcel in Eby Creek Mesa, Will James needs to collect $30,000 by Friday evening.If you1d like to contribute, please make your check payable to GRNSS Eby Creek Fund and mail it to Will James, P.O. Box 2077, Eagle, CO 81631.Donation are tax deductible.Include a self-addressed stamped envelope to return your money inthe event that they don1t win the bidding at the auction, thisSaturday.The Gore Range Natural Science School also accepts credit cards.For more information, call Kim Langmaid at the Gore Range Natural Science School at 827-9725, ext. 11.


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