Vail Daily column: Open space provides valuable benefits | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Open space provides valuable benefits

Matt Stern

Open space, unspoiled and undeveloped, is the largest contributor to our high quality of life, and the strongest driver of our outdoor recreation and tourist-based local economy. Eagle Valley Land Trust’s work is essential to the fabric of our community because it provides valuable natural benefits such as clean air, clean water and habitats for wildlife to flourish. Additional benefits include a stable local economy, plentiful jobs, recreation access and outdoor education to youth.

Diligently Monitoring Properties

Once open space land is conserved forever with a conservation easement, the work to sustain that parcel does not end. As a nationally accredited land trust, Eagle Valley Land Trust is required to monitor the properties each year. The important job of monitoring ensures that land, water, habitats and recreational values are maintained throughout the long-term. Because Eagle Valley Land Trust monitors its properties diligently each year, we can, in good conscience, add to our portfolio of conserved lands.

Land Stewardship Program

Why is the Land Stewardship program so important? Eagle Valley Land Trust’s Land Stewardship Program facilitates the long-term sustainability of our community’s environment. If Eagle Valley Land Trust does not monitor the conserved properties effectively, then our community could lose more than 15 miles of public trails, two miles of public river access, 5,000 acres of local agricultural land and more than 7,000 acres of critical wildlife habitat.

Preventing Overuse

Eagle Valley Land Trust’s Land Stewardship function prevents our lands from being abused or “loved to death” (overused) so that future generations may enjoy them. This year, for example, Eagle Valley Land Trust staff worked with the owners of West Avon Preserve to improve winter wildlife closures, restore old social trails, improve user experience and re-vegetate illegal social trails that were having a detrimental effect on the conservation values of the property. Eagle Valley Land Trust performs this kind of duty on all 28 of the properties it oversees throughout Colorado. 

Preserving Way of Life

Another example is the 2,800 acre Bair Ranch at the mouth of Glenwood Canyon. Preserving ranching as a way of life, and as an important supply of local food, greatly enriches culture in our community for guests and residents alike. Each year, Eagle Valley Land Trust ensures that the local food and fiber production of this six-generation sheep ranch is continued, critical big-game wildlife migration corridors are sustained and extremely valuable and senior water rights are kept on the land.

The public benefit of protecting this water is that it supports local food production, improves riparian habitat for wildlife, recharges local aquifer, and prevents the transfer of water to industrial uses. Stewarding this vast and biodiverse landscape ensures lasting local benefits for all residents and guests in our community.

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. If funding is needed for a stewardship project, such as noxious weed mitigation, then Eagle Valley Land Trust can help landowners tap into local, state or national grant funding to help ensure continued and meaningful stewardship of our cherished properties.

Valley Looks Great

Eagle Valley Land Trust has finished this year’s annual monitoring of your conserved properties, and they look great. This summer, over 100 staff hours have been spent on the land, helping protect and sustain some of your favorite places in the valley. We’d like to thank all of our landowners who have partnered with Eagle Valley Land Trust to steward their properties so well this year, and we look forward to continuing to uphold our stewardship promise to our community. Once again, land conservation is not finished once a conservation easement is complete. Eagle Valley Land Trust is preserving the character of our community forever.

About Eagle Valley Land Trust

Eagle Valley Land Trust was founded in 1981 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit environmental conservation organization and is state certified and nationally accredited.

The Land Trust currently holds 28 parcels and more than 7,000 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 Eagle Valley Land Trust, please visit our website at http://www.evlt.org.

Matt Stern is the land stewardship specialist at the Eagle Valley Land Trust.