Vail Daily column: Heritage, legacy and local food | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Heritage, legacy and local food

At a recent event, the Bair and Luark families hosted the Eagle Valley Land Trust and 74 guests on their ranches.
Special to the Daily |

Long before skiers enjoyed a Gore Range sunrise from the top of Vail Mountain, ranchers throughout Eagle County enjoyed the early-morning alpenglow from their fields and atop their horses and tractors. In a community where skiing often takes the spotlight, the second annual Eagle Valley Land Trust Ranching Heritage Tour connected guests with two ranching families that have worked on and cared for their land for many generations.

On a beautiful mid-July day, the Bair and Luark families hosted the Eagle Valley Land Trust and 74 guests on their ranches. We heard tales of success and of overcoming adversity and stories of change. We learned of the many creative ways ranchers adapted through the years in order to continue the work they love and deepen the ranching heritage of their families. We learned how they hope subsequent generations will care for the land as well as they have.

“There is tremendous economic value in keeping private lands productive — one way to do so is through conservation easements,” said Amanda Barker, executive director of the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts.

Many farms and ranches on Colorado’s Western Slope — such as Bair Ranch — have benefited from having a conservation easement placed on the landowner’s property, maintaining Colorado’s important ranching heritage, supporting local economies and preserving landscapes, wildlife habitat and industries that attract tourists year-round. Thank you to Eagle County Conservation District and Access Real Estate for sponsoring and ECO Transit for providing two buses for the day.

On Aug. 6, Eagle Valley Land Trust held its largest fundraiser of the year, the conservation-themed third annual Legacy Festival. Thank you to our title sponsor Alpine Bank, Vail Honeywagon, R.A. Nelson, El Pomar Foundation and more for making the event possible. An exciting silent auction, free family fun, and the famous Cow Patty Bingo brought people together to celebrate our community’s collective conservation successes.

On hand were conservation-minded local agencies, nonprofits, businesses, and community members, all of whom care about the question, “What will be our legacy?” When people from our community buy a deed to their squares on the bingo field, even if they do not win, they know the “field of dreams” is more than 40 by 80 feet. Our mountain community is that field. The impact of our largest annual fundraiser is enduring. Ranching and wildlife, wilderness and scenic beauty are all alive in Eagle County. We must keep them alive and well, forever. That must be our legacy.

For 35 years, many people have entrusted Eagle Valley Land Trust with the important role of preserving the places that mean so much to our community. Together with landowners, engaged citizens, ranchers and community support, Eagle Valley Land Trust continues to fulfill its mission to preserve forever our scenic vistas, open space, historic lands, waterways and wildlife habitats that represent the uniqueness of Eagle County and the central Rocky Mountains for the enjoyment, education and benefit of all who experience this special place.

Together we are making a difference. We are leaving a legacy of conservation that will ensure the places we love that are still here today, are here tomorrow. Already, more than 7,700 acres in Eagle County have been protected, forever. From the East Vail Waterfall and West Avon Preserve to Miller Ranch Open Space and the latest Abrams Creek Open Space in Eagle, these places will be enjoyed for their scenic, natural and recreational qualities for generations to come.

Bringing full circle the concepts of heritage and legacy, Eagle Valley Land Trust will host its first Farm to Fork harvest dinner on Thursday on a ranch in the Lake Creek Valley of Edwards. Guests will enjoy locally sourced food, some from Lake Creek itself, while overlooking another ranch conserved forever by a forward-thinking landowner in partnership with Eagle Valley Land Trust. One will quite literally get a taste for the connection between land conservation and the local, healthy and vibrant food our community values. While enjoying a fine glass of wine, they might also ponder — and realize — the importance of ranching heritage, protecting our historic land and precious wildlife habitats, and the legacy we desire to leave for future generations.

Please visit http://www.evlt.org/farmtotable to buy your tickets today.

What will be your legacy?

Tom Wessel is the community outreach and development manager at Eagle Valley Land Trust. Call 970-748-7654 and visit http://www.evlt.org for more information.