Trust Our Land: You can be a habitat steward
Trust Our Land
What does it mean to be a good steward of the land? Pulling weeds, picking up trash, maintaining trails — or is stewardship something in addition to that? That’s a question land trusts have been asking for decades, and the original land stewards have been contemplating for millennia before that. If you’re interested in getting your hands dirty and learning more about what land stewardship means here in the valley this summer, read on.
Today, one tool we commonly use to conserve land is known as a conservation easement. It’s a simple legal agreement between a landowner and a qualified conservation organization or government agency that limits the development or use of a property in order to protect its natural, scenic, or cultural values in perpetuity.
These values can include important wildlife habitat like elk calving grounds, a migration corridor connection, allowing or maintaining public access, protecting a viewshed, and many others. It is a voluntary arrangement where the landowner, public or private, agrees to permanently restrict certain activities on their land to ensure its conservation. The easement runs with the land forever, even if it changes hands to a new owner.
What happens after the easement is put in place? After encumbrance, the land trust is then obligated to monitor and enforce the agreement in perpetuity — or steward it. This involves visiting the property annually, meeting with the landowner, and addressing any issues that arise.
Land trusts also help landowners navigate the easement’s restrictions by answering requests, like where to build a structure, how they can manage weeds effectively or improve wildlife habitat. That’s where land trusts like Eagle Valley Land Trust can offer expertise on the easement and share resources. It’s important for the landowner to work comfortably within their agreement.
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While protecting the conservation values comes first, the Eagle Valley Land Trust and other land trusts throughout the state have been working on new ways to proactively support landowners in improving the ecological health of their land. Eagle Valley Land Trust believes landowners are the best stewards of their land; we’re simply offering additional resources like grant writing support, volunteer recruitment for certain projects, compiling informational resources, and facilitating expert guidance and support on more technical projects.
These projects can be anything from large-scale habitat restoration to more volunteer-accessible and low-tech projects, like barbed-wire fence removal or litter cleanup. No matter what the scale of the projects, these efforts contribute to a cumulative, beneficial impact and offer a myriad of ways for people to connect with their local lands.
How to get involved
This summer, the Eagle Valley Land Trust and Eagle County Open Space and Natural Resources will offer several opportunities to get out on the land and help support our local restoration efforts. Additionally, our partners at the Eagle River Watershed Council and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers will be offering a variety of other local opportunities for you to help with around the valley.
Are you ready to get your hands dirty to restore and enhance wildlife habitat and our community’s open spaces? Eagle Valley Land Trust will be hosting projects each month throughout the summer, so check out our events page to learn more at EVLT.org/join-us/events/.