The Land and Rivers Fund program is preserving Eagle County, one penny at a time
EAGLE — Locals and visitors alike can help ensure the future of the Eagle Valley’s scenic lands and waterways in what might be the most painless fundraiser ever.
By shopping, dining or purchasing services at one of the local businesses participating in the Land and Rivers Fund program, consumers pay an extra 1% on their purchase with the money going to the Eagle Valley Land Trust and the Eagle River Watershed Council.
“It’s such a minuscule amount for each customer to pay,” said Sue Nikolai, program director for the Land and Rivers Fund. “To date, the funds raised is more than $56,000. That $56,000 represents thousands and thousands of transactions. They all add up.”
Participating businesses are asked to display a sign that informs customers about the 1% charge and directs them to the Land and Rivers Fund website. The signs also let the customer know they can simply opt out of paying the 1% charge.
“Businesses who have signed on are very enthusiastic and supportive of the Land and Rivers Fund program,” Nikolai continued.
Chris and Brittany Hudgens, owners of the Colorado Meat Co. in Avon, run one of those businesses.
“What made my wife and I want to do this is because with us just starting the business, it is difficult to donate to organizations,” said Chris Hudgens.
But by adding the 1% at the cash register, Hudgens said his business can help with an important community cause.
The Hudgenses are passionate about the work done by the Land and Rivers Fund. Colorado Meat Co.’s beef is all free of hormones, steroids and antibiotics from cattle raised on Western Slope pastures.
“The water source is huge for our ranches,” said Hudgens. “And our animals depend on the water to keep the grass growing and keep them fed.”
Additionally, he touted the Eagle Valley Land Trust’s efforts to preserve the ranching heritage of Eagle County — something his business relies on to function.
“Keeping agriculture going is an important motivation for us,” said Hudgens.
Where does the money go?
The to-date $56,000 raised by the Land and Rivers Fund can’t go that far toward land purchases or big water projects. However, the funds can play a vital role as matching dollars for larger grants or function as readily accessible money for special projects.
“We use the money to work on the projects that have the biggest impact on land and rivers in Eagle County,” Nikolai said. She cited highway fencing, a comprehensive wildlife study and the highway and river cleanup events as examples.
“Last summer, when the Eagle River was so hot… we did a lot of outreach to keep people from fishing after noon,” she said.
The land trust and watershed council have pledged that once the fund generates a net revenue of $100,000 annually, the two organizations will send a percentage of the money collected to a community grant program. That will allow other entities in the county to apply for funding their own conservation and environmental projects.
In the long run, Nikolai said the Land and River Fund is an effort to preserve open space and protect river health before it’s too late.
“The population of Eagle County is supposed to double in the next 20 years and that will put increased stress on the land,” Nikolai said. “So, in 20 years, we don’t want to look back and see we didn’t do anything when there was still the opportunity to do so.”
Nikolai said the Land and Rivers Funds is always on the lookout for more participating businesses.
“The program is definitely growing and we are hoping it will grow exponentially,” she said.
To date, here’s a list of the participanting merchants:
- Alpine Quest Sports
- Root and Flower
- A Good Sport
- Rudy’s Liquor Store
- Bonfire Brewing
- Sunrise Minturn
- Candi Johns Salon
- Tu Casa Restaurant, Coffee Shop and Bar
- Colorado Meat Company
- Two Arrows Coffee
- Cripple Creek Backcountry
- Drunken Goat
- UPS Stores
- Maker and Stitch
- Vail Catering Concepts
- Max and Lily’s Café
- Village Bagel
- Up the Creek
- Minturn Anglers
- Vail Valley Rolfing
- Main Street Grill
- Gallery 8 Arts.
To learn more about projects planned through the Lands and Rivers Fund or to sign up to participate in program visit landandrivers.org.
“This is a celebration of all our veterans have done for us,” said Pat Hammon with the local VFW Post, who served as a nurse in Vietnam. “It’s not a time for sadness.”