Over the past few months, Aspen Valley Land Trust (AVLT) has successfully conserved hundreds of acres of land, spanning from a conservation easement on a Capitol Creek Valley ranch and another private easement on the Roan Plateau to a connective corridor between the Lazy Glen and Wheatley open spaces. All three are now protected for the use and appreciation of future generations, both human and wild, protecting habitats and migration routes for all sorts of Colorado critters.
The first easement was Lost Marbles Ranch, contributed by the McBride family and completely protected in December 2022. The bulk of the ranch was conserved in 2019, but with this final easement it joined a corridor of conserved property of more than 5,300 acres. Owner John McBride stated it was a family decision, explaining that it was “just the right thing to do — for the land, for the wildlife and for the Valley.”
In the Roan Plateau, the McDaneld and Porter families donated 815 acres of land on Henderson Ridge Ranch, finalizing its status under a conservation easement in January 2023. According to a press release by AVLT, the easement is “located in an area at risk of intense resource extraction that would degrade the agricultural and scenic character of the area.” Additionally, “The ranch is ranked for having ‘very high’ biodiversity significance and is home to a number of plant communities considered rare and/or imperiled in Colorado and globally.”
Finally, the narrow strip of land connecting two open space parcels in Snowmass is now owned by Pitkin County Open Space & Trails (OST), not only providing a valuable wildlife corridor just beside the Rio Grande Trail, but forever protecting a historic mining flume. All three of these protected spaces represent major victories for wildlife and nature-lovers alike in the face of rapid development in our region.
Since 1967, AVLT has dedicated itself to the protection of beautiful spaces within the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys, working together with private landowners and public offices to conserve over 44,000 acres — 67 square miles — of land since its inception.
Most of this land is preserved via conservation easements on private land: interested landowners voluntarily sign with AVLT to permanently restrict the usage of their property. Although the land will remain privately owned and can change hands over time, its status as an easement means that it will be protected in perpetuity: forever conserved regardless of ownership.
According to AVLT Communication and Engagement Director Carly Bolliger, the process of creating an easement takes about a year and varies significantly case by case. AVLT often partners with OST when working with private landowners, and acquires an ecological baseline of what would be preserved on a parcel of land — migration routes and rare habitats, for example.
After officially being conserved, AVLT also continually revisits the land not only to ensure the easement is upheld, but to educate and remain a resource to the landowners should there be any questions or concerns. Bolliger stated that since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, a significant amount of land has changed hands, and AVLT has been hard at work educating new owners about the legal status and ecological value of their new property.
However, all of this comes at a financial cost, largely to pay for the legal process, the ecological baseline and the land’s continued stewardship. Bolliger emphasized that AVLT is hard at work coming up with more creative funding solutions and acquisition projects, especially since demand for property in Colorado has exploded in the wake of the pandemic: “Land prices skyrocketing has pressed the urgency for AVLT to make its mark and protect as much as possible before all of it is spoken for.”
The pandemic also emphasized the necessity of AVLT’s work. Notably, AVLT owns Coffman Ranch, 141 acres of protected land in Carbondale along County Road 100, which serves as riverside habitat for hundreds of animal and plant species, and now as a community space for schools and nonprofits to educate children of all ages on the beauty and importance of their local landscape.
“With COVID, we’ve seen the need for our community to have direct access to outdoor spaces,” Bollinger stated. “We’ve focused a lot of energy on how to be a better community partner and get kids out there.”
A sunset seen from Henderson Ridge. Courtesy photo
It takes community support to keep The Sopris Sun shining.