As we close the chapter in 2021 and look forward to what 2022 brings, the Eagle Valley Land Trust, like many other organizations in our community, find that we are overwhelmed with gratitude to the friends, partners, donors, supporters and advocates who helped propel us through a deeply uncertain year.
When our board of directors and staff prepared plans and budgets for a year of restoration work last December, we proceeded with extreme caution. We found that the chances of continuing the generosity of support our organization and other nonprofits received in 2020 through 2021 were uncertain at best. But what we experienced was quite the opposite. As our society slowly emerges from a challenging 2020 year, flowers are beginning to rise from the ice in an astonishing array – the seed buds and blossoms sown the year before.
By Earth Week, the message was clear: 2021 was a year to move forward, not to turn back. Our community was ready to act and invite businesses and nonprofits to step up, innovate, and work to meet the needs of our community without hesitation.
The Eagle Valley Land Trust, along with many organizations in our community, have responded to this call. Our team took the opportunity to make an impact. Over the past 12 months, the Eagle Valley Land Trust has helped protect 712 acres: the Walking Mountains Sweetwater and Sweetwater Lake campuses. In addition, we have engaged over 400 local landowners regarding conservation options.
The Community Conservation Team, led by Oliver Skelly, has implemented 43 community events, brought more than 300 local youths to the conservation lands to learn service and programming and hosted four restoration projects on public lands. Our stewardship team, led by Tori Davis, worked with land owners to monitor all 38 conservation hikes within EVLT’s conservation portfolio. On top of all this, our management team, led by Brittany Bubola, has curated a brand new strategic plan in partnership with our distinguished board of directors.
But even with the high-strength team that EVLT identifies with hiring, the behind-the-scenes work that makes conservation possible depends on our partners. Partnership was the main theme this year.
For example, Sue Nikolai has brought six new local business partners to the Land & Rivers Fund who have helped generate more than $60,000 for EVLT and our friends at Eagle River Watershed Council, who have had an amazing year maintaining rivers and watersheds. Gatherings In Vail, event planning firm Joette Gilbert, led EVLT to the most influential Farm to Fork party ever. The Conservation Trust, White River National Forest, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and local donors, including Eagle County and the Town of Gypsum, enabled the creation of Colorado’s 43rd state park and an entirely new paradigm for conservation in the United States with the support of our office of Deputy Director, Bergen Tjossum.
And though our partners, servants, and council are the leaves and roots of the blooming flowers mentioned above, our benefactors and defenders are sun and water; They are what fuels and drives our efforts to preserve the environment. EVLT donors and other nonprofits serving our community have an incredible impact locally. We cannot do this work without them.
As our community moves forward and makes progress on all fronts, we spend this holiday season full of gratitude for this community and enjoying the beautiful garden we’ve created together. thank you.
Jessica Follis is the CEO of Eagle Valley Land Trust. To learn more about the impact of EVLT on the community or how to conserve your land, visit EVLT.org.