Trust Our Land: Inspiring the next generation of environmental stewards | VailDaily.com

Trust Our Land: Inspiring the next generation of environmental stewards

Jessica Foulis and Deirdre Conroy
Eagle Valley Land Trust
Future Conservationists, EVLT's signature community conservation program for local youth, is a chance for participants to explore their local protected lands.
Special to the Daily

Did you know that you are an important part of our ecological web? And that every “tug” on that web, big or small, is felt by every other member of the web? This summer, over 500 local youth explored concepts like these during Future Conservationists.

Future Conservationists is the Eagle Valley Land Trust’s signature community conservation program for local youth. Up to six times each week throughout the summer, EVLT staff met with participants from camps and programs hosted by Walking Mountains Science Center, Homestead HOA Clubhouse Kids Program, Bright Future Foundation, The Cycle Effect, and Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement. During these visits, local youth explored conservation, ecology, and environmental ethics on local open space protected by EVLT.

Lessons range from roaming quests to understanding the heritage of Eagle County to visualizing ecosystems and wildlife perspectives through drawing and word-mapping. These lessons are designed to teach about the intricacies of nature, the value of conservation, and the meaning of “forever” to inspire the next generation of environmental stewards.

Future Conservationists programs utilize a variety of lenses to empower youth to explore nature in whichever way suits them best. Time and time again, participants contribute fantastic and innovative ideas for promoting human-wildlife coexistence and land protection. It is common for facilitators to learn as much from participants as the other way around.

EVLT’s staff bring lesson plans with definitions and conceptualizations for terms like ecosystem, perspective, biodiversity, and coexistence, but participants creatively weave them into local contexts. It’s not all philosophical; we also run around in the grass, watch birds, howl like wolves, and draw. We talk about ecosystems; we learn about giving wildlife space by pretending to be moose; we go on quests to learn more about the history of our home, Eagle County. Most of all, we enjoy time in nature.

Partnerships make learning possible. When EVLT is able to join our outstanding partner organizations, we strive to make lessons engaging and special through guided exploration and student-led learning. Above all else, we make sure that learning and spending time on protected land is fun and accessible to all.

Future Conservationists is an important component of EVLT’s Community Conservation Initiative, which aims to leverage public open spaces to fill community needs. By engaging participants on local protected lands, we’re able to not only break down barriers to enjoying nature, but also help inspire the next generation of conservation leaders in our community.

Did anyone you know attend a Future Conservationists lesson this summer? We’d love to hear about it.

Jessica Foulis is the Stewardship and Outreach Manager at the Eagle Valley Land Trust. She can be reached at community@evlt.org. EVLT is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. For more information about the Eagle Valley Land Trust and how it is conserving land and benefiting the community, visit http://www.evlt.org.