What Do We Do?

We protect open space and wildlife habitat to preserve our quality of life.

A land trust is an organization that works to protect both public and private lands through conservation easements.  A landowner can voluntarily enter into a legal agreement with the Estes Valley Land Trust that permanently restricts land use in order to protect the conservation values of the property.

Our mission is to conserve land throughout the Estes Valley and surrounding areas for current and future generations.

What is a conservation easement?

Conservation easements are the most commonly used method for private land owners to permanently limit uses of the land in order to protect its conservation value. It allows the landowners the ability to continue to own and use their land, but some rights are restricted.

For example, the conservation easement may only allow the owner to build one house on the property, but allow the growing of crops. Each conservation easement is uniquely structured to protect conservation values while maintaining property owner’s rights. The easement could apply to all or just part of a property, and need not require public access. Future owners will also be bound by the easement’s terms, and the land trust is responsible for making sure the easement’s terms are followed perpetually. 

Why donate a conservation easement?

Love of the Land

A land trust is an organization that works to protect both public and private lands through conservation easements.  A landowner can voluntarily enter into a legal agreement with the Estes Valley Land Trust that permanently restricts land use in order to protect the conservation values of the property.

Saving Limited Resources

Our air and water are limited resources. The tree canopy and vegetation serve as critical filters for our air and offset carbon emissions. Wetlands that border our rivers, lakes and streams filter pollution before it reaches our drinking water. Conserving land helps protect the important resources we all depend on.

Economic Benefits

In addition to health and food benefits, conserving land increases property values near greenbelts, saves tax dollars by encouraging more efficient development, and reduces the need for expensive water filtration facilities. Recent studies indicate that for every $1 invested in conservation easements, an annual return of $6 or more is generated for the community.

Helping Community

Conservation easements help protect community resources that come from the land – water, food security, wildlife, and places for recreation and reflection, promote stronger local communities by giving citizens knowledge and support to reach out to their neighbors to protect the local places they love, and serve as a part of a national community of staff, volunteers, members and advocates committed to private land conservation across the country. 

What are "Conservation Values"?
  1. Generally, conservation values are the natural features of land, such as meadows, forests and rivers. Specifically, conservation values are defined in Section 170(h) of the IRS Code, as exhibiting at least one of the following four conservation purposes:
  • Preservation of land for outdoor recreation/education for the general public.
  • Protection of relatively natural habitat of fish, wildlife, or plants, or similar ecosystem.
  • Preservation of certain open space for the scenic enjoyment of the general public, or pursuant to a government conservation policy and will yield a significant public benefit.
  • Preservation of a historically important land or a certified historic structure

The country’s first land trusts originated in the 1850s in Massachusetts. Today more than 1,500 local, regional, and national land trusts across the nation protect more than nine million acres of farmland, wetlands, ranches, forests, watersheds, and river corridors.

Do you allow public access on all properties?

The majority of our easements do not require public access and the owner retains the right to prohibit trespassing. Three of our conservation easements require public access as part of the easement.  Read about our properties here.

Usually, when land is placed in a conservation easement, the public is not invited to enter the property. The landowner places a conservation easement on the property to protect it from further development, and protection is designed to last forever. Title to the property remains with the landowner, but further commercial or residential development is permanently restricted. So the public enjoys the open vistas and the wildlife habitat is protected, but it’s still private property.

Our Founders

At a dinner party in 1987 local residents Jim Crain, Pieter Hondius, Robert Irvin, Lorna Knowlton, Ralph Read, Roland Retrum, and Maurice Worley ardently discussed the need for an organized protection and preservation of the beautiful surroundings of the Estes Valley for future generations to see and enjoy. After several meetings, a land preservation nucleus took shape and Articles of Incorporation for Estes Valley Land Trust (EVLT) were filed with the Colorado Department of State on May 8, 1987. In August of that year, the Internal Revenue Service recognized the Land Trust as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt corporation.

These seven forward-thinkers became our founding board members. We have had over 70 individuals serve on our board since then. 

Land Trust Alliance Accreditation

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission first offered land trust accreditation in 2008, and EVLT was one of a prestigious first group of 39 land trusts (out of over 1,500) to be awarded this designation. The Commission awards accreditation to land trusts that demonstrate compliance with each of twelve accreditation indicator practices drawn from Land Trust Standards and Practices, the ethical and technical guidelines for the responsible operation of a land trust. EVLT has been reaccredited twice since then.

For the public, knowing that a land trust is accredited provides recognition and confidence that the land trust is engaged in the long-term protection of the land in the public interest. Accreditation also aids land trusts in fine-tuning their policies and streamlining their operations during the review process. The Commission conducts an extensive review of the application and grants accreditation only to land trusts that meet the rigorous standards.

Since 2009, the State of Colorado has implemented a certification program as a requirement for any organization that accepts donations of conservation easements with Colorado tax benefits. EVLT has achieved and annually renews its Certification as a Conservation Easement Holder through the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies’ Division of Real Estate

The Estes Valley Land Trust’s mission is to conserve land throughout the Estes Valley and surrounding areas. In 2020, the Board of Directors decided that how we achieve this mission is as important as the mission itself and that a set or organizational core values is needed to help make decisions, operate ethically and in unison. 

Our Core Values

We Are Passionate – We are in awe of nature and conserving land is a labor of love. Our work is inspiring, it changes lives, and our results last forever. We share our passion for nature by getting outside together.

We Strive for Excellence – We strive to always be better, to grow as professionals, and to develop new tools to conserve land and connect people with nature.

We Include Everyone – We serve all members of the community by listening actively and finding common ground. People come first and we intend to better understand and find solutions that serve all.

We Succeed by Working Together – As an apolitical force for land conservation, our approach is collaborative. We realize that we can go farther together and therefore we cultivate lasting relationships with volunteers, landowners, and public and private partners.

We Permanently Protect Land – Our conservation agreements with landowners are permanent and remain with the land. We defend the terms of those agreements, work with legal professionals as needed, and utilize all tools to steadfastly enforce each land protection agreement.

We Focus on Healthy Land – We are all intimately connected to the land. Healthy land provides healthy wildlife habitat and benefits humans in many ways. Numerous threats, both local and global, impact land and threaten biodiversity. We work with others to reduce those impacts and restore land.

We Honor Our Past – The Ute, Arapaho, and other American Indian tribes were the first to call this region home. We are committed to working with the tribal communities to protect and interpret these cultural landscapes.

We Are Financially Strong – We give generously and depend on the generosity of others. We maintain the highest financial discipline to ensure the long-term viability of the organization.