Vail Daily column: The value of conservation | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: The value of conservation

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Editor's Note: This is the fourth in a multi-part series. Members of the Board of Directors of the Eagle Valley Land Trust are writing about their favorite conservation easements and why these open spaces and special places are important to our community. Your local Land Trust holds conservation easements on nearly 7,000 acres throughout our community which preserve and protect the land and its natural resources forever. Check back next month for another installment, or visit http://www.vaildaily.com to read previous columns.

Until a year ago, I had always admired the work of the Eagle Valley Land Trust Board from the outside. Now, as a member of the Board of Directors, I see the dedication of the group from the inside and recognize, even more, how important it is in this valley to preserve land and make the distinction between "open space" and "conservation easement."

Because of this distinction, the Miller Ranch Community Open Space is my favorite conservation easement.

As an attorney with 30 plus years in real estate law, I understand and value the distinction between "open space" and "conservation easement". What I like about Miller Ranch is not only its characteristics of proximity to a population center and the ability of the local residents to enjoy the trails, river and wildlife but also the fact that it is a perfect example of the difference between "open space" and "conservation easement". In the Planned Unit Development (PUD) that Eagle County approved for this property, the commissioners had the foresight to designate some of the area as open space. Not only did they designate a portion of the Miller Ranch property as open space, they specified that it should "remain in a permanently natural condition in perpetuity".

My experience as an attorney, dealing in real estate law, has shown me that the ultimate protection for a property, to ensure its open space qualities in perpetuity, is to place it in a conservation easement. Without this deeded protection, the property is always subject to the proposals of developers and the differing goals and priorities of future town council members or future county commissioners. With a conservation easement in place, Miller Ranch will remain as it is, providing opportunities for neighborhood walks with parents, kids and dogs – fishing access – bird watching – a place to exercise and maintain physical fitness – and many other outdoor recreational opportunities for the citizens of Eagle County.

Having this property designated as a conservation easement ensures that this mile long stretch of the Eagle River on 32 acres, supporting beavers, river otters, bald eagles and a local elk herd in the winter, will remain it its predominately natural state. Instead of merely having an open space designation that provides for the current use of the property, all of these uses and more, that will benefit the public, are now guaranteed through the deeded and recorded conservation easement that protects the land forever.

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If you want to explore the Miller Ranch Open Space, it is located southeast of the Miller Ranch neighborhood, bordered on the west by the "blue bridge", on the south and east by the Eagle River and on the north by the railroad tracks. This piece of permanently protected property was once a part of a much larger parcel of open space, however, many acres of that space have been developed for schools, housing and public parks. We at the Eagle Valley Land Trust are proud to have helped balance the needs of the community by making sure that the commissioners' goal – creating some unspoiled open space in the Miller Family Ranch – has been accomplished.

The Eagle Valley Land Trust worked diligently with the residents of the Edwards, Berry Creek, Singletree and Arrowhead Metro Districts as well as the County Staff and the County Commissioners to make the desires of protecting the Miller Ranch Open Space a reality. Protecting property forever is what a conservation easement does, and the Miller Ranch Community Open Space, along with 24 other parcels of land in Eagle County, are protected forever by your local Land Trust.

Bob Holmes is a member of the Board of Directors for the Eagle Valley Land Trust. He is a real estate attorney and partner in the Denver office of Bryan Cave, LLP. Bob and his wife Judy live part-time in Eagle-Vail. For more information about the Eagle Valley Land Trust and local conservation areas, please visit http://www.evlt.org.