Trust Our Land: Q&A with new executive director of Eagle Valley Land Trust
The core of the Eagle Valley Land Trust’s mission is conservation. Every day, the board and staff work to protect the lands that our community and wildlife depend on. But EVLT also does more than that. I sat down with Jessica Foulis, the land trust’s new executive director, to answer a few frequently asked questions and look towards the future.
Brittany Bobola: Jessica, what is a land trust?
Jessica Foulis: A land trust is a nonprofit organization that works to permanently preserve land in its natural state — there are over 20 in Colorado and over 1,700 in the United States. Since its inception in 1981, the Eagle Valley Land Trust has worked with property owners (both private property owners as well as local governments) to permanently conserve over 11,200 acres of land for the enjoyment, education, and benefit of all who experience this special place.
BB: So if a landowner wants to conserve their land, what is the process?
JF: Basically, property owners can voluntarily work with EVLT to create a contract (called a conservation easement), which permanently limits the development of that property. For example, a landowner could choose to sell or donate the rights to subdivide or build a house to EVLT. EVLT would then hold on to those rights permanently. There are funding sources and tax benefits available to support these transactions. The landowner continues to retain full ownership of the property and generally can continue to use the property as they always have. If the owners decide to sell the property, future buyers are still bound by the contract, meaning the conservation is forever. Landowners can contact me directly if they are interested in conserving their land at Jessica@evlt.org.
BB: What are some examples of land parcels here in the Valley that are protected by EVLT?
JF: EVLT protects 36 properties across Eagle County. Some of the most recent projects include Minturn Boneyard and the Brush Creek Valley Ranch and Open Space. Others include the West Avon Preserve, Miller Ranch Open Space, Eagle River Preserve, and the East Vail Waterfall.
BB: Does EVLT require access to protected land for public use?
JF: No. It is the property owner’s choice whether or not to allow public access, such as a trail across a portion of their property. The land trust will support the property owner’s decision about public access. Lands conserved by EVLT, but owned by the county or towns, typically include significant public access including trails or boat ramps. West Avon Preserve is a good example — it’s owned by the town of Avon, protected by EVLT, and has some of the most scenic hiking trails and well-designed mountain biking trails in the area.
BB: What is your vision for the future of EVLT’s work?
JF: Protecting the lands that matter most to our community and wildlife will always be at the heart of EVLT’s mission. In addition, we are working to build partnerships across our county to identify issues facing our community that protected land can help solve. Examples include behavioral health and wellness, equitable access to green space, and climate change.
BB: How can people support or get involved with the Eagle Valley Land Trust’s conservation work?
JF: Being a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, EVLT’s work is funded entirely by generous donors in our community who value local conservation, open spaces, and wildlife. Making a donation of any size is a great way to support the organization. In addition, we are always looking for volunteers, especially for our new habitat restoration series. To learn more, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to http://www.evlt.org.
Brittany Bobola is the administrative and fundraising coordinator at the Eagle Valley Land Trust and can be reached at email@example.com.