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Trusting Our Future To Nature

There are a couple types of land trusts but most common to the public is when a private, not-for-profit organization actively works to conserve land by assisting in land conservation easement procurement. And we have our own, home-grown land trust right here in Eagle County, the Eagle Valley Land Trust (EVLT) that does just that.

Not knowing exactly what a land conservator like EVLT does and what their work means to a community has fostered some interesting assumptions. Are these just a bunch of tree-huggers who are simply determined to keep land use out of reach to those pesky human beings? Are these people just concerned about keeping the wide-open spaces out of the hands of the evil developers? Let’s begin with what EVLT is not–it is not an anti-development organization, hell-bent on looking to throw itself in front of the wrecking ball to stop the wheels of progress.

What EVLT is is a local body that advocates for smart growth, preserving and protecting local land for everyone–homeowners, businesses, sportspeople, tourists, guests, families and, yes, our furry and scaly friends too–and maintaining this glorious environment that drives our local economy.

“Founded in 1981, some forward-thinking people determined the importance of protecting the lands we love, and protecting it forever,” says Jim Daus, executive director, EVLT. “Our organization creates awareness of the need for conservation in Eagle County as well as educating the public about the benefits of open space, ranching heritage and wildlife habitat protection. Saving these landscapes and waterways are what preserve the lifestyle and the jobs we enjoy here in our area–and that is worth protecting.”

It is the open spaces and wild places that beckon us outside to play and explore, and it is this environment that fuels our local economy, which is why EVLT’s work is so important.

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EVLT does not fund or purchase land. It assists in putting parties together, perhaps a municipality or private party, who have a
desire to create a conservation. Through conservation easements, these voluntary legal agreements preserve scenic or agricultural open space, natural habitat or recreational areas for the benefit of the public and/or landowner, a protection lasts forever. And tax advantages are created immediately when for the landowner when an easement is created.

When a private landowner agrees to place a conservation on their property, they maintain ownership and are free to use their land as they deem fit, such as continuing the family farming or ranching operation. The land may be sold or passed down to heirs — but the land is protected forever.

EVLT also helps the county and local municipalities purchase land for conservation, preservation and recreational opportunities and then monitors and inspects the conserved land annually. “It takes about $100 to protect one acre of land forever. Our goal is to save 2,000 acres of open space per year. Last year, we are very proud to say we have added 3,500 acres to Eagle County open space and increased our portfolio by 45 percent,” says Daus. More than 11,000 acres in and around the Eagle River Valley have been safeguarded by EVLT, including 104.5 miles of river access, 35 miles of track public trains, over 11,000 acres of wildlife habitat as well as historic ranchlands and homesteads.

Nearly two-thirds of the conserved land contains recreational public access. EVLT feels it has a powerful message about the importance of protecting our environment as it relates to both our economy and wellbeing: our land is a matter of supply and demand–if we extinguish our supply of accessible open space within our community, there will no longer be the natural character that attracts tourists to visit and spend money here.

“A thriving outdoor, tourism-based economy requires that we protect and save our outdoor space,” says Daus. “Maintaining the rural character of our community is a driver of our economy. Not only does that character entice people to make this area their home but it is what charms the tourists to return again and again.” For over 35 years EVLT has pioneered stewardship of land use values in our local area. It does so with an understanding of how preservation and growth go hand in hand. A sense of obligation to landowners and the community is captured in EVLT’s mission statement: To protect forever the lands we love, to preserve our heritage, scenic beauty, recreational opportunities and wildlife habitats, and to build a permanent legacy for future generations.

EVLT does not fund or purchase land. It assists in putting parties together, perhaps a municipality or private party, who have a desire to create a conservation. Through conservation easements, these voluntary legal agreements preserve scenic or agricultural open space, natural habitat or recreational areas for the benefit of the public and/or landowner, a protection lasts forever. And tax advantages are created immediately when for the landowner when an easement is created.

When a private landowner agrees to place a conservation on their property, they maintain ownership and are free to use their land as they deem fit, such as continuing the family farming or ranching operation. The land may be sold or passed down to heirs — but the land is protected forever.

EVLT also helps the county and local municipalities purchase land for conservation, preservation and recreational opportunities and then monitors and inspects the conserved land annually.

“It takes about $100 to protect one acre of land forever. Our goal is to save 2,000 acres of open space per year. Last year, we are very proud to say we have added 3,500 acres to Eagle County open space and increased our portfolio by 45 percent,” says Daus. More than 11,000 acres in and around the Eagle River Valley have been safeguarded by EVLT, including 104.5 miles of river access, 35 miles of track public trains, over 11,000 acres of wildlife habitat as well as historic ranchlands and homesteads. Nearly two-thirds of the conserved land contains recreational public access.

EVLT feels it has a powerful message about the importance of protecting our environment as it relates to both our economy and wellbeing: our land is a matter of supply and demand–if we extinguish our supply of accessible open space within our community, there will no longer be the natural character that attracts tourists to visit and spend money here. “A thriving outdoor, tourism-based economy requires that we protect and save our outdoor space,” says Daus. “Maintaining the rural character of our community is a driver of our economy. Not only does that character entice people to make this area their home but it is what charms the tourists to return again and again.”

For over 35 years EVLT has pioneered stewardship of land-use values in our local area. It does so with an understanding of how preservation and growth go hand in hand. A sense of obligation to landowners and the community is captured in EVLT’s mission statement: To protect forever the lands we love, to preserve our heritage, scenic beauty, recreational opportunities and wildlife habitats, and to build a permanent legacy for future generations.