Howard and Werner: Investing in forest restoration and sustainable recreation |

Howard and Werner: Investing in forest restoration and sustainable recreation

We’re honored to join together for this month’s column to share some exciting news. Whether you live here year-round or visit for a weekend, we’re all invested in the vitality and sustainability of the beautiful places where we live and play. On behalf of the National Forest Foundation and Vail Resorts, we’re pleased to announce that in 2023, the White River National Forest Ski Conservation Fund will invest more than $600,000 in 10 forest restoration and sustainable recreation projects in our backyard throughout the Eagle Holy Cross Ranger District.

For those who might not be familiar with the Ski Conservation Fund, the National Forest Foundation and Vail Resorts raise money and then partner with the White River National Forest on community-based forest stewardship projects. This innovative program enables guests who experience Vail Mountain and Beaver Creek Resort to donate a dollar or more to the National Forest Foundation when purchasing online tickets or season passes, or when staying at one of our lodges. The National Forest Foundation then provides a 50-cent match on every dollar donated by guests and oversees the investment of those funds in local WRNF stewardship projects.

The funds that we raise together go to support a wide variety of forest restoration and recreation projects. Allocations are made with guidance from a Community Advisory Committee consisting of representatives from land and wildlife management agencies, local government, tourism and lodging sectors, recreation interests, and ecological health groups. This important group communicates local stewardship priorities to our partners at the White River National Forest, who carefully consider committee input in bringing forth potential projects and programs for annual funding consideration.

Over the two years that the re-imagined Ski Conservation Fund process has been in place, the committee has emphasized projects and programs that enhance wildlife habitat and watershed health. Stemming from this feedback, we’re on track to invest more than $300,000 in wildlife habitat projects this year, with a specific focus on ungulate habitat (elk, deer and bighorn sheep), sage grouse, Brewers sparrow and aquatic organisms. We’re also investing close to $150,000 in projects benefitting watershed health and water quality, including projects intended to minimize erosion and the proliferation of noxious weeds.

Organizations receiving Ski Conservation Fund funding support in 2023 include the Eagle River Watershed Council, Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, Walking Mountains Science Center, Eagle Summit Wilderness Alliance, and Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance. As always, the National Forest Foundation strives to partner with local nonprofit partners, youth corps and volunteer groups to fulfill the projects in which we invest.

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The National Forest Foundation and Vail Resorts are proud to facilitate this opportunity for those who enjoy our National Forests. The Ski Conservation Fund is an outstanding program that gives back to the land that sustains the economic vitality and character of the Eagle County community. We’d like to thank all community members and guests who have contributed and participated in these forest stewardship projects, and we look forward to continuing these community partnerships as we strive to sustain our beautiful surroundings.

Beth Howard is vice president and chief operating officer of Vail Mountain. Jamie Werner is the White River National Forest stewardship coordinator for the National Forest Foundation.

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