Trust Our Land: New funding energizes Eagle County wildlife conservation efforts
Trust Our Land
On Feb. 13, Gov. Jared Polis, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and Great Outdoors Colorado announced the recipients of the Outdoor Regional Partnership grants. This time, $75,000 is coming home to our community.
“So many local partners have been working hard to build this coalition,” said Jessica Foulis, the Eagle Valley Land Trust’s executive director. “It’s taken years of collaborating, planning, and applying, but our partnership is finally funded. That’s a big step forward for local conservation efforts for wildlife and recreation.”
The Wildlife Roundtable
The Eagle County Community Wildlife Roundtable was formed in 2020 by community members and organizations trying to understand and address complex issues facing wildlife like elk and deer. Populations have plummeted in recent decades due to a variety of factors including loss of habitat, human interaction, and migration corridor interruptions, which are all amplified by climate change.
The members of the Community Wildlife Roundtable agreed from the beginning that leveraging diverse values, resources and creativity is the only way to address such complicated multi-scalar challenges. Working together, we’ve always believed, would be the only way to create positive action and enduring solutions.
The Outdoor Regional Partnership grant funding will support the foundation required to organize and run an effective collaborative — goals, priority and criteria development are first on the list. There will also be efforts to identify synergies with other local coalitions including the Eagle Valley Outdoor Stewardship Coalition and the Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement.
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These next steps are far from the first efforts undertaken by the group. Over the past three years, the Community Wildlife Roundtable has notched several notable successes: A community wildlife survey and report; Eagle County’s first interactive wildlife map spearheaded by Eagle County Open Space; the “Respect the Wild” informational campaign; and the Eagle County Safe Passages report, which is not a direct product of the Roundtable, but could be adopted moving forward.
The Colorado Outdoor Regional Partnership Funding Program is a collaboration between CPW and GOCO to “support coalitions that bring together conservation and outdoor recreation interests, land managers and local government to ensure that Colorado’s land, water and wildlife thrive while enhancing equitable access to Colorado’s world-class outdoors” according to Gov. Polis’ Feb. 13 press release.
These grants are the result of a recent Executive Order signed by the governor creating the Outdoor Regional Partnerships Initiative. The effort is aimed at charting a long-term, equitable, and sustainable vision for the future of Colorado’s outdoors and outdoor recreation that is driven by bottom-up community planning.
“The Roundtable is incredibly grateful for Gov. Polis, CPW and GOCO’s foresight in planning for the future and for making funding available to productive coalitions like ours all across Colorado,” Foulis said. “I also can’t thank our coalition’s leaders and members enough for their time and dedication to facing these messy challenges head-on.”
The group couldn’t have gotten this far, or secured the grant, without upfront financial support from Community Wildlife Roundtable founding members Eagle County, Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance, and the town of Vail.
Conservation and stewardship at any scale — local, regional, statewide or national — is a complex interdisciplinary endeavor. What we can accomplish here in Eagle County, a microcosm of Colorado’s pressures and opportunities, can galvanize other communities like ours.
Foulis went on to say, “We’re proud of our community’s increasingly stalwart efforts to live in harmony with wildlife. There’s a long road ahead, but this funding and local enthusiasm for outdoor recreation and habitat protection is a big step in the right direction.”