Trust our Land: Nurture with nature | VailDaily.com

Trust our Land: Nurture with nature

Bergen Tjossem
Eagle Valley Land Trust
According to a new study, adults and children should spend at least two hours a week in nature. Future Conservationists, EVLT's youth outreach program, helps connect kids to local conserved land.
Eagle Valley Land Trust

Access to nature is foundational to Eagle County’s prominence as a world-class destination. For visitors and locals alike, spending time in our mountains, valleys, and rivers is healing.

Indeed, time spent in nature is one of our oldest cures and a key reason why the Eagle Valley Land Trust is dedicated to protecting this important resource and fostering pathways for adults and children to experience it.

Time in nature has been shown to benefit all people, and the push to understand these diverse benefits has been diligently pursued. A new study published this month in the journal, Nature, found that people who spent at least 120 minutes in nature each week enjoyed better health and a greater sense of well-being than those who didn’t.

It doesn’t matter if this time in nature is enjoyed in small chunks of time or in a single two-hour session — either way, it is a low cost, low-risk step toward better physical and mental health.

The benefits to children that spending time in nature provides has been documented by scientists around the world for decades. Children who routinely spend time in nature show higher cognitive function, concentration, self-control, lower rates of depression, increased empathy and concern for wildlife, and awareness of humans’ reliance on nature.

Many of these benefits are a result of the physical activity and less structured creative play that lead to the development of strength, skill, and confidence in outdoor environments. Natural areas also provide children with locations for quiet retreat, which is important for psychological well-being.

Not all physical environments are created equal. While manicured landscapes, fields, and playgrounds are important, they do not fulfill children’s need to explore and engage with nature, sometimes referred to as “adventure play.” Land protected in a natural state, with its wildlife, trees, bushes, and rocks intact (like the Eagle River Preserve or Abrams Creek Open Space) provide kids with an engaging experience that can’t be automated, mimicked, or simulated.

You don’t need to understand the underlying science to reap the health benefits of nature. It is innately intertwined in our sense of fun and relaxation.

But people are busy. Kids are busy. Time in nature can fall by the wayside when we are forced to juggle priorities. That’s why EVLT is focused on protecting natural land where it is easily accessible to everyone in our community.

Future Conservationists is EVLT’s bridge between children and protected land. The programs, which run multiple times a week across the county’s conserved land, get kids outside to explore, learn, and play in nature.

Thanks to innovative partnerships with Walking Mountains Science Center, The Cycle Effect, Bright Future Foundation’s Buddy Mentors, the Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement, and now the Homestead Clubhouse Kids Programs, more kids will be able to immerse themselves in nature on local protected land this summer.

Do your kids participate in programs with our great partners? We’ll see them out in nature. To learn more about signing your kids up for Future Conservationists this summer, contact EVLT at community@evlt.org.

Bergen Tjossem is the communications and development manager at the Eagle Valley Land Trust. He can be reached at bergen@evlt.org. EVLT is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. For more about the Eagle Valley Land Trust and how it is conserving land and benefiting the community, visit http://www.evlt.org.