Trust our Land: How conservation builds a stronger community in the Vail Valley
By Jessica Foulis
The Eagle Valley Land Trust (EVLT) is part of a large community of land trusts scattered across the country. In fact, there are 1,363 land trusts in the United States, 37 of which are in Colorado.
What do land trusts do? Simply put, our nation’s land trusts permanently protect important pieces of land on behalf of local communities and wildlife. For example, the Eagle Valley Land Trust now permanently protects the Minturn Boneyard Open Space, which is owned by the Town of Minturn and available for all community members and visitors to enjoy.
As conservation has evolved over the last century, it has become clear that conservation efforts cannot reach their full potential without community input and participation. Land trusts, which are foundational to conservation efforts in the United States, have kept pace with this evolving science.
Land trusts across the country, including EVLT, have learned to leverage conserved land to address additional community needs through a vast diversity of programming. They have developed partnerships and programs to serve veterans, engage elders, address food and hunger, partner with schools, address workforce housing issues, and inspire youth beyond the classroom. For example:
- By partnering with two veterans groups, the Five Valleys Land Trust in Montana is able to tackle a variety of forest management and land stewardship work while providing “on-the-ground” training in chain saw techniques, forest management, and emergency response to veterans interested in natural disaster response. Veteran fishing events have been hosted on land conserved by EVLT in our community.
- Research has shown that outdoor experiences close to home are important for aging adults. Several land trusts, including the Hilltown Land Trust in Massachusetts, have designed programs to bring seniors and others with lower mobility onto conserved properties to enjoy the physical and cognitive benefits of nature.
- Through its farm incubator program, Colorado Open Lands provides protected plots of land in the San Luis Valley to families and new farmers, including immigrant farm workers from Central America, to develop their own farming operations.
- Numerous studies show that time outdoors is critical for the health and wellbeing of children. The Kennebunkport Conservation Trust in Maine partners with local schools to bring kids to protected land. Each grade adopts one of KCT’s conserved properties and learns about its unique environmental and historical values during field trips throughout the year.
- The Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust in Massachusetts compliments its conservation work by providing after school programs for eight local K-12 schools. The programs get kids outside to learn and explore their local surroundings with teacher-naturalists from a partner organization. EVLT has teamed up with several local youth-serving non-profits, like The Cycle Effect, to provide similar programming through our Future Conservationists program.
- EVLT partnered with Eagle County Open Space, the Town of Avon, and Walking Mountains Science Center to help Walking Mountains acquire an ideal site for workforce housing. Without this collaborative approach, the site would have been sold and developed for high-end townhomes serving neither affordable housing nor open space purposes.
By leveraging conserved land to address community needs in partnership with local organizations, land trusts can increase the return on the community’s investment in conservation projects and support partners addressing important local issues.
Is there a need that your local land trust, the Eagle Valley Land Trust, could help address? We would love to hear from you. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jessica Foulis is the stewardship and outreach manager at the Eagle Valley Land Trust. She can be reached at Jessica@evlt.org. EVLT is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. For more about the Eagle Valley Land Trust and how it is conserving land and benefiting the community, visit https://www.evlt.org.\