Vail Daily column: Land Trust works to conserve this great place | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Land Trust works to conserve this great place

A hundred years ago, our valley floors from Vail to Gypsum were nearly all ranchland. Since then, towns and resorts have sprung up, strung together by roads and highways. Eagle County attracts a vibrant array of visitors, many who have chosen to call this place home. The cornerstone reason people choose to stay is the natural beauty and open spaces.

These natural places inspire us, call us to explore and seek adventure and offer respite from our busy 21st-century lives. Eagle Valley Land Trust, a local nonprofit, aims to ensure those places are protected forever for the enjoyment, education and benefit of all who experience this special place.

Preserving a legacy

As my wife and I raise our daughter, we often speak of our hope that she will know and appreciate the scenic vistas, historic lands, pristine waterways and open spaces we enjoy today. Visitors will continue to fill our restaurants and hotels, but only if we protect the land that drew them here. Preserving the character of our community by protecting land forever is what Eagle Valley Land Trust does, backed by our forward-thinking supporters. Together, with grants and donations from people like you, we protect our wildlife, ranching heritage and our open spaces. We do it for our future.

Looking Back

In 2015, thanks to broad-based, generous community support, the Land Trust made significant strides in the mission to protect land forever. We built rapport with ranchers as they increasingly consider permanently protecting their historic ranches. An August ranch tour coordinated by the Land Trust connected more than 70 locals with three ranching families who welcomed us with great hospitality. On display was our community’s unique ranching heritage and the indomitable spirit needed to continue ranching an increasingly urban area.

The Land Trust’s Legacy Festival celebrated the efforts of local businesses, nonprofits and governments who demonstrate a commitment to the conservation of our natural resources. At the annual family-friendly event, with the ever-popular Cow Patty Bingo as its centerpiece, the public generously showed their support of our work. Attendees of the free event learned about our efforts to increase farm and ranchland conservation ­— lands permanently protected by the Land Trust, and the landowners behind those projects.

Gaining Feedback

Recognizing the importance of every voice in our community, the Land Trust reached out to the local Latino community during the Cielito Lindo Music & Heritage Festival held in Avon in September. There, we gathered insightful feedback from a vital constituency. The responses were important and uplifting and show the possibility of partnership and collaboration between our goals and the Hispanic, Latino and Mexican communities in our county.

The Cordillera Ridgeline conservation easement is the latest conservation success. In early December, 167 acres of wildlife habitat and a scenic view in the heart of our valley were protected forever. This multi-year project was completed with the cooperation of Eagle County and the U.S. Forest Service, as well as through the generosity of our donors.

These 2015 success stories position the Land Trust for a fruitful and exciting 2016. Please consider supporting Eagle Valley Land Trust with a year-end contribution and help us carry forward our momentum. In 2016, with your support, we aim to continue leaving a legacy of conservation and hope to announce more protected land as we celebrate our 35th year. Join us as we preserve the character of our community for our visitors and their children and for generations to come. Just as our land is the cornerstone of our community, our donors make up the cornerstone of our work.

Eagle Valley Land Trust was founded in 1981 as a nonprofit environmental conservation organization and is state certified and nationally accredited. The Land Trust currently holds 29 parcels and more than 7,500 acres of protected lands under conservation easements in Eagle County. These properties stretch from East Vail to the entrance of Glenwood Canyon and from Tennessee Pass near Leadville to Yarmony Mountain near the Routt County border.

For more information about the Eagle Valley Land Trust, or to make a donation, please visit http://www.evlt.org.

Tom Wessel is the community outreach and development manager at Eagle Valley Land Trust.