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Trust our Land: What do you love about our local protected open spaces?

by Bergen Tjossem

 

East Vail Waterfall, forever protect by EVLT in 2001.

By Jim Daus

With Valentine’s Day, February becomes a great time to reflect on the love we share with our partners and family. Here at the Eagle Valley Land Trust, we have also been reflecting on the love we have for our outdoor spaces, and the love we share in the work being done to conserve lands in Colorado.

In the spirit of the season, we’ve reached out to some of the great stewards of land in the Eagle Valley to discover more about their “most loved lands” and how that love and passion has opened up a lifetime of discovery and a strong commitment to the protection of our open spaces.

 

Kim Langmaid, Ph.D. – Founder, Vice President, and Director of Sustainability and Stewardship Programs at Walking Mountains Science Center

Kim is inspired by the Walking Mountains Buck Creek Parcel as an important piece of conservation for students and future generations.

EVLT: What do you love about this conserved property?

KL: So many of the youth in our valley-wide community have the opportunity to experience the property and participate in hands-on learning experiences which connect them to this land. Whether it’s kindergartners learning about the natural history of local beaver and muskrat, or 5th graders learning about local mule deer habitat, or high school students collecting data on the water quality of Buck Creek, this protected piece of land is accessible to the entire community every hour of every day, every day of the week.

EVLT: Why was it important to conserve it in the first place?

KL: This land was important to conserve because of its value for environmental and field science education for current youth and for generations to come. It is extremely important that youth have the opportunity to explore the natural world and develop a sense of wonder and connection to our mountain landscape and the wildlife populations we share this valley with.

EVLT: Now that it is conserved, how do you envision the future of that land?

KL: I envision that every person in Eagle Valley has the opportunity to explore this land and learn from it along with the educators and naturalists at Walking Mountains. This land will provide a dedicated and protected place for the benefit of our entire community.

 

Kathy Borgen, land trust supporter :

Kathy fell in love with the East Vail Waterfall the first time she saw it and knows the importance of conservation to keep a treasured piece of land in pristine condition.

EVLT: What do you love about this conserved property?

KB: We lived in East Vail from 1972-1996. It was always a beautiful place, a talisman for the mountains and chutes in East Vail. Every time one looked at it, it revealed another beautiful aspect of the waterfall and the different seasons. 

EVLT: Why was it important to conserve it in the first place?

KB: Precisely because it is a scenic talisman for East Vail and Eagle County residents and to keep it safe from inappropriate uses that might scar/erode the area around it.

EVLT: Now that it is conserved, how do you envision the future of that land?

KB: It should be left as it is for all to enjoy the differing aspects of the relationship between water and the mountains.

 

Bergen Tjossem, Communications and Fundraising Coordinator, Eagle Valley Land Trust

Bergen grew up exploring the trails around Buffehr Creek which fostered a love of the outdoors at an early age because of those experiences.

EVLT: What do you love about this conserved property?

BT: As a kid in the 90s, I watched the land surrounding my favorite trail, which I thought was a family secret, develop. The Buffehr Creek trail connects to the White River National Forest lands perched to the North of the Vail Valley via the North Trail. The area is home to my favorite bike trail, twenty-something years of camping experiences and family memories, secluded ski touring, abundant wildlife and incredible views of Both Mt. of the Holy Cross and the Gore Range.

EVLT: Why was it important to conserve it in the first place?

BT: The Buffehr Creek Trail wouldn’t have lasted long had it not been protected. The valley was simply developing too quickly. This parcel is one of the main access points to the public lands north of the Vail Valley. Losing it would have further reduced recreation access for locals and guests and destroyed a wildlife corridor frequently used by bears, moose, and deer.

EVLT: Now that it is conserved, how do you envision the future of that land?

BT: The sign at the bottom reads: “This 9.29-acre parcel is part of the Town of Vail’s Open Space Program and is permanently protected for the enjoyment of the public by the Eagle Valley Land Trust.” I’m heartened to know that this land will be permanently maintained the way it is and has been. As the Vail Valley continues to develop and outdoor recreation diversifies and increases in popularity, trails like this one will continue to disperse crowds and partially mitigate the environmental impacts of recreation.

 

Gary Brooks, President Emeritus, Eagle River Watershed Council

Gary has worked for years to maintain the health of Eagle County’s rivers. He sees the Brush Creek Valley (Hardscrabble Ranch) parcel as a countywide treasure.

EVLT: Why do you care about it? How long has it been important to you?

GB: It protects miles of Brush Creek as a rare free flowing stream located at the headwaters and provides a high quality aquatic environment for all aspects of the riparian environmen

EVLT: Did you perceive any threats to that land?

GB: Before the conservation easement was finalized, the property was zoned for development so the threat of increased impervious areas adjacent to a high mountain stream with low assimilative capacity for stormwater pollutants has been eliminated. Another possible threat is in how the land is managed currently for active ranching. I worked on the design of Eagle Ranch which was also an active cattle ranch and Brush Creek was highly degraded when the property was acquired for development. The new owners of the property recognized the problems that overgrazing had on the property and removed the cattle. Surprisingly, the riparian corridor reestablished itself once it was no longer grazed annually. I would hope that the current ranching operation at Hardscrabble Ranch fences off the areas adjacent to Brush Creek and its tributaries to allow for a healthy riparian corridor.

EVLT: Do you think that appreciation will grow or change in the future?

GB: I think that the public’s appreciation of this parcel will grow once EC open space implements best land use management practices to rehabilitate and enhance the unique piece of property.

EVLT: What would you consider to be a “successful” outcome of conserving that land?

GB: Allowing the land to heal from past uses to become a more natural and sustainable environment overall and specifically, to preserve the Brush Creek riparian corridor.

Jim Daus is the executive director of the Eagle Valley Land Trust. To learn more about land conservation efforts in the Eagle Valley, please visit www.evlt.org

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