by Jim Daus
The Eagle Valley Land Trust often has opportunities to visit remarkable open space properties in the more remote parts of Eagle County . Even with our strong commitment to conservation, our county-wide orientation usually means that we don’t get a chance to observe a specific piece of property on a daily basis. One lucky person who has had that chance is Eagle County resident Marjorie Westermann. In the following, she describes the land around her home, as only someone who has spent hundreds of hours interacting with that land can do.
In 2000, the future of the property was in doubt. Bogged down by litigation, Marjorie determined what her vision for the future of the land should be and set about trying to turn it into reality. She wanted to live on her land in the same house she’s lived in for over 20 years, protect the property from development, and ensure that the parcel did not end up with multiple owners in the future. To meet these goals, she approached the Land Trust with the idea of selling a conservation easement at fair market value. In recent months, this concept has been put in motion. To preserve the natural, scenic and historical value of the Taylor Hill Placer property, the Land Trust partnered with the Eagle River Watershed Council to assist Marjorie in raising $262,500, including funds from Great Outdoors Colorado, Natural Resource Damage Funds and private funds and putting a conservation easement on the entire 62 acres.
The Westermann property has strong conservation values. Because the property borders Highway 24, Colorado residents and visitors are able to enjoy its natural beauty on a daily basis. As an in-holding (private property surround by National Forest), potential development of this parcel would negatively affect the surrounding public lands, thus permanent protection helps to ensure that development takes place in appropriate areas near existing towns. As it stands, the Westermann property will serve to protect more than thirty acres of wetlands at the headwaters of the Eagle River , including several springs. The eastern portion of the site contains the historical remains of Taylor City , (a 19th century mining town) and several spacious meadows interspersed among deep forest. The entire parcel also possesses excellent wildlife habitat.
Over 50 bird species and 75 different wildflowers have been documented living here, along with the usual complement of Rocky Mountain mammals. A rare sight occurred in February 2002, when two moose were observed feeding on the willows The Eagle Valley Land Trust and Marjorie Westermann placed this property under a conservation easement in late 2003, prohibiting future development of the property forever. The land will remain in private ownership, and a Stewardship Fund has been created to ensure that the conservation values of the property remain undiminished.
I have lived on Tennessee Pass since 1978. I now have the opportunity to fulfill a dream by placing the entirety of Taylor Hill Placer under a conservation easement. I asked the Eagle Valley Land Trust to spearhead this preservation. The wetlands are a riparian paradise – home to busy beaver, muskrat, pine marten, ermine, mink and a host of birds including mallards, green-winged teal, lesser scaup, red-tail hawk, ptarmigan and owl. Until the ponds are snow-covered and frozen, brook trout look like a hailstorm at day’s end, catching bugs until dark when the bats take over. German brown trout swim gracefully in the ever-changing channels and chest-deep holes of pure streams. This is a watery landscape and feeding ground for elk and deer, where black bears are irregular visitors but still enjoy a drink. Coyotes howl from the abandoned railroad tracks across the meadow and fox are often seen playing, catching mice or looking in our windows.
— Marjorie Westermann