<strong>Trust Our Land: Thinking about wildlife and community this holiday season</strong> | VailDaily.com

Trust Our Land: Thinking about wildlife and community this holiday season

Jessica Foulis
Trust Our Land
As elk descend into the valleys to hunker down for winter, we're grateful for all of the people and organizations that help protect their habitat and make conservation possible.
Eaglevalleywild.org/Courtesy photo

As our local elk herd descends into our valley, we’re reminded why we put all this effort, time and resources into conservation. These elk aren’t just setting up winter camp in any old lot or park — they’re returning to the winter habitats where they know they’ll find temporary solace.

Many of these sanctuaries are open spaces protected by the Eagle Valley Land Trust. Many are further guarded by management strategies like temporary wildlife closures and other measures to protect wildlife when they are most vulnerable.

Open spaces like the Eagle River Preserve and the Brush Creek Valley Ranch & Open Space are well known by our community; they are important river access points, close-to-home green spaces, and an easy walk in nature for all people. That they double as critical winter habitats for a variety of wildlife, both big and small, is the nexus that EVLT’s work is all about: bringing to fruition land-based solutions to community challenges.

When we see elk hunkering down in the exact open spaces that our community has permanently protected for them, we can’t help but think about all the people that make this work possible in the first place: Landowners who conserve their land provide an incredible benefit to our community and to wildlife. We’re grateful for them this year. This includes public entities like Eagle County Open Space and the towns of Vail, Avon, Minturn, Eagle, and Gypsum, as well as private landowners who have made the decision to create a legacy of conservation.

In the past year, our conservation partners have come through in big and small ways to move our collaborative efforts forward. These partners include members of the Community Wildlife Roundtable who work to understand and address issues facing wildlife populations as a diverse group of local stakeholders; the Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement, which strives to provide equal access to outdoor spaces and opportunities for youth and families while fostering a stewardship ethic; the Eagle Valley Outdoor Stewardship Coalition, a roundtable that facilitates discussions between land managers, recreation groups and resource stewardship groups to address issues and opportunities in outdoor recreation, local wildlife, and public lands; and the Sweetwater partnership, which has been working hard to listen and understand local needs to plan a sustainable path forward for our community’s newest protected parcel.

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Donors to the Eagle Valley Land Trust are who make all this work possible; the organization wouldn’t exist without them. Through the ups and downs of the past few years, locals and visitors, families and individuals, foundations and businesses participating in the Land & Rivers Fund have continued to come through to support our shared vision of a healthy habitat for people and wildlife, forever. And of course, I am so grateful for EVLT’s dedicated board and staff — I am fortunate to work alongside caring, passionate conservationists every day.

As open spaces in our community become fewer and farther between, protected land becomes far more valuable, and protecting more land is increasingly critical. As we chip away at a pipeline of exciting large-scale projects focused on protecting the scenic open spaces, critical wildlife migration corridors, and recreation opportunities that support our mental and physical well-being, we’re grateful to this community for its continued support. It’s because of you that 2022 was our biggest year yet, and 2023 will be even better. 

Jessica Foulis is the executive director of the Eagle Valley Land Trust and can be reached at jessicafoulis@evlt.org. To learn more about EVLT’s land and wildlife habitat conservation efforts or to donate, visit EVLT.org.

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