Vail Daily column: Land Trust provides stewardship tools
We live in a beautiful, wild and accessible place. All who spend significant time in Eagle County can agree with this claim. We are so fortunate to be able to walk, bike, or take a short drive from our offices and homes and immediately be immersed in a gold medal fishery, a flowing sagebrush single-track, elk roaming grounds, a shimmering aspen grove, an expansive pasture or a deep, sub-alpine forest.
Over 7,000 acres of these pristine and wild places in Eagle County have been conserved forever by the Eagle Valley Land Trust and its many partners. These places are what define our community, our economy and our way of life.
With each conservation success, there comes with it a permanent responsibility for Eagle Valley Land Trust: We must maintain the protections placed on these local lands forever. We are required by the Internal Revenue Service, and by the requirements of the Land Trust Alliance, to protect the conservation values specific to each property if the landowner fails to do so in a reasonable manner. Conservation values, as defined by the IRS, can include any of the following: Wildlife habitat, public recreation, scenic views and agriculture uses. We want to work with landowners collaboratively to preserve and enhance these conservation values of the land. This is why we have created a new position at Eagle Valley Land Trust, the land stewardship specialist.
Toolkit of Information
What exactly is stewardship and what will the stewardship specialist do? Continued protection of conserved land is central to the mission of any land trust. One of the most beautiful and fascinating things about land is that it is constantly in motion, changing with the seasons and the years — ever evolving. New noxious weeds sprout up, fencing deteriorates, floods change the course of rivers and streams, animals inhabit new areas and social trails can develop. It is a constant process and Eagle Valley Land Trust helps landowners address these complex problems so that they preserve the conservation values any property they choose to purchase. The land stewardship specialist provides a toolkit of information and guidance when landowners need that extra help in the face of ever-changing conditions.
We are not here to interfere with landowners’ management of their land. We are here to help landowners through the process of stewarding their land forever. By building strong relationships with our landowners, understanding their land management goals and tapping into their knowledge of place, we become a trusted resource to answer landowner conservation questions. Once a year, Eagle Valley Land Trust visits each property with the landowner to identify successes and document any changes to the property. If any impacts to the conservation values are noted during the visit, then the land trust will address these impacts with the landowner to determine if any action is needed. If action is needed, then the land trust can help in a multitude of ways including locating grant funding for the landowner so the impacts to the conservation values are addressed.
Examples of this may include: Sharing expertise on noxious weed identification; providing information about cost-sharing, wildlife-friendly fencing programs; accessing federal grants for range management; or working to design a low-impact trail through a property.
West Avon Preserve
A great example of this stewardship collaboration is the West Avon Preserve, owned by the town of Avon. Currently in its final stage of trail construction, the Preserve required considerable effort and teamwork from the Town of Avon, Eagle Valley Land Trust, and the Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association during the planning process. Eagle Valley Land Trust reviewed proposed trail alignments, to ensure that the newly proposed trails were consistent with the conflicting conservation values of public recreation and habitat for wildlife. As a result, we are so excited to have open access to sustainable, multi-use trails while limiting impact on wildlife corridors and habitat for sensitive species on the property.
Eagle Valley Land Trust continues to provide landowners and our entire community with tools and information to steward land in a sustainable manner. By effectively stewarding their properties, landowners create healthier ecosystems and habitats, a thriving local agricultural economy, multi-use recreational areas and weed-free open spaces. Here at your local land trust, we help ensure that our children will be able to enjoy the same amazing place we live in now.
Matt Stern is the land stewardship specialist for the Eagle Valley Land Trust. He lives in Vail and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, about the work of your local land trust and their stewardship program, call 970-748-7654 or visit http://www.evlt.org.