VOLUNTEERS NEEDED TO “RE-GREEN” THE ESTES VALLEY

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED TO “RE-GREEN” THE ESTES VALLEY

As recovery from the devastating 2013 floods progresses across the Estes Valley, EVLT is continuing to provide restoration assistance to flood-damaged lands.  We need your help!

We are recruiting volunteers to assist with our Great Outdoors Colorado-supported flood recovery efforts.  Volunteer opportunities include planting native grass and wildflower seeds, planting trees, installing erosion control blankets, and removing flood debris.  Projects will begin in earnest in April and continue through the early summer.  Some fall workdays may also be planned.

If you would like to help “re-green” the Estes Valley by kick-starting ecosystem function and natural beauty on critically-damaged lands, please visit the Contact Us page on our website.

We’ll notify you prior to each workday and you can decide then whether you can help.  Most workdays last about 4 hours.  Tasty snacks are provided.  All ages and abilities welcome!

A NEW COLLABORATION: EVLT AND THE ESTES VALLEY WATERSHED COALITION

A NEW COLLABORATION: EVLT AND THE ESTES VALLEY WATERSHED COALITION

For the past eighteen months Estes Valley Land Trust has played a significant role in assisting the Estes Valley in its ongoing recovery from the devastating September 2013 floods. EVLT acquired grant funding to provide owners of flood-damaged properties with native seeds and trees. EVLT organized volunteer workdays for flood debris removal and revegetation projects. Also EVLT has contributed to the River Resiliency Master Planning process for Fish Creek and Fall River since it began in early 2014.

 

Now, recognizing the need to continue its efforts to support flood recovery and river sustainability, EVLT has been assisting with the formation of a new non-profit Estes Valley Watershed Coalition (EVWC), and has agreed to serve as the Fiscal Sponsor for the organization.  In addition, EVLT will be participating on EVWC’s Advisory Group, which is made up of stakeholder organizations within the Estes Valley.

 

What Is the Estes Valley Watershed Coalition?

EVWC is a non-profit organization whose mission is to “promote an ecologically healthy watershed that also seeks to maximize public benefits and minimize public risk, through community engagement and sound science.” It is comprised of citizens of the Estes Valley serving voluntarily to support a safe and environmentally sound watershed for the community.

During the post-flood River Resiliency Master Planning process for Fish Creek and Fall River, two River Advisory Committees were formed to give citizen input to the process. As the master planning process wound down, these two groups joined with parties representing the Upper Big Thompson River and Black Canyon Creek, forming EVWC to begin the implementation process for the Master Plans and to secure funding for projects necessary to maintain all four river corridors in a healthy and safe condition for people and wildlife into the future.

 

EVWC’s Board of Directors includes two representatives each from the four stream corridors (Fall River, Fish Creek, Upper Big Thompson, and Black Canyon) as well as three at-large members.

 

Why Was EVWC Formed?

The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) has been a primary impetus for the formation of this new organization in the Estes Valley as well as comparable watershed organizations throughout the flood-impacted Front Range area. The CWCB and the Colorado Department of Local Affairs are encouraging the development of these coalitions as a mechanism for distributing funding from the federal Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery program.

 

How Will Funding Be Used?

Initial grant funding for these coalitions will be in the form of capacity grants to support paid staff positions for the coalitions and planning grants to help determine the most effective way to prioritize and begin implementation projects from the Master Plans. These planning grants are a necessary pre-curser to implementation projects, as they will bring together landowners and other stakeholders to assure full understandings of the plans and alternatives for a project area. Landowner consensus is required before implementation funding can be obtained.

 

Future grant opportunities from federal and state sources as well as from private foundations and donors will be pursued by EVWC to fund planning, design, and construction of watershed resiliency projects.

 

Why Is a Fiscal Sponsor Needed?

There are several reasons for the need for a Fiscal Sponsor. First, organizational approval for tax-exempt status by the IRS is a lengthy process. Tax-exempt status is a requirement of many grant applications. By aligning with a non-profit Fiscal Sponsor, EVWC can take advantage of diverse fundraising opportunities and avoid project funding delays.

 

Also, having a Fiscal Sponsor to handle EVWC’s back-office operations enables the Coalition Board and Staff to focus their time and energy on the work of project planning and implementation. Similarly, this allows the Coalition to hire a Watershed Coordinator whose skills can be specific to river resiliency rather than accounting and administrative functions.

 

What Is Estes Valley Land Trust’s Role as Fiscal Sponsor?

EVLT will provide administrative and financial services to the Coalition, including accepting grant and donor funding on behalf of the Coalition, while leaving all programmatic control in the hands of the EVWC directors. The Land Trust will receive a nominal fee from EVWC for its services as Fiscal Sponsor.

 

What Is Estes Valley Land Trust’s Role on the Advisory Group?

The Advisory Group, which is currently being formed, will include potential stakeholders for many of the projects, including representatives from the Town, the Sanitation Districts, the Recreation and Parks District, the Land Trust, and similar organizations. In this role, EVLT will advise the Coalition on the use of conservation easements as a tool to protect stream corridors, open space, and riparian wildlife habitat while benefiting the property owners.

 

What Are the Next Steps?

The search for a Watershed Coordinator by the EVWC Board of Directors is currently underway. For the near future, the Coordinator will share space in the Estes Valley Land Trust offices. This will aid in effectively establishing the various, and often separate, administrative, financial, and operational functions while decreasing overhead costs to EVWC.

 

How Can I Stay Informed about EVWC’s Projects?

A website and social media presence will be established and more information will be distributed through various media outlets. Coalition meetings are held every other Wednesday evening at the Estes Valley Library. The meeting schedule will be on the Coalition website or at http://estesvalleylibrary.evanced.info/signup/eventcalendar.aspx. Anyone interested in supporting the activities of the Estes Valley Watershed Coalition is welcome to attend.

 

GOCO awards $25,000 grant to EVLT to extend riparian restoration efforts

GOCO awards $25,000 grant to EVLT to extend riparian restoration efforts

EVLT-Aug-29-650x431Estes Valley Land Trust is delighted to announce that the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Board has awarded the land trust a $25,000 grant as a part of their Riparian Restoration Initiative.  The stated goal of GOCO’s Riparian Restoration Initiative is to “provide meaningful opportunities for youth and volunteers to improve and restore rivers, streams, and connected wetlands that occur on publicly and privately protected open space properties.”  Estes Valley Land Trust’s post-flood restoration work aligns well with GOCO priorities and EVLT’s efforts to restore private properties protected by conservation easements will now be extended through 2015.

EVLT, in collaboration with the Town of Estes Park, will plant native, woody vegetation and seed with native grasses and wetlands species on over 135 acres of flood-damaged riparian lands, including along Fish Creek, Fall River, Black Canyon Creek, the East Fork of Fish Creek, and the North Fork of the Big Thompson River.  The goal is to restore habitat for wildlife and reduce erosion and run-off of sediment. Land trust volunteers and students from Eagle Rock School will be engaged in the work.

Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers and open spaces. GOCO’s independent board awards competitive grants to local governments and land trusts, and makes investments through Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Created by voters in 1992, GOCO has funded more than 3,500 projects in all 64 counties without any tax dollar support. The grants are funded by GOCO’s share of Colorado Lottery revenues, which are divided between GOCO, CPW, the Conservation Trust Fund and school construction. For more information, visit goco.org.

Although the GOCO grant applies only to properties protected by a conservation easement, EVLT still has funding available for Fall 2014 re-vegetation open to the wider community.

If you are interested in volunteering with Estes Valley Land Trust, please contact us or email evlt@evlandtrust.org.

 

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EVLT re-vegetates flood-damaged properties

EVLT re-vegetates flood-damaged properties

Re-vegetation-650x487Estes Valley Land Trust (EVLT) is pleased to announce the receipt of a $35,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado.  The purpose of these funds is to assist with flood recovery, specifically re-vegetation and erosion control this spring through early fall.

Funds from this grant are being used by EVLT to purchase plants and seeds to assist with the restoration of vital vegetation to flood-impacted areas in the Estes Valley.  Seeds have already been provided for nearly 30 acres and plans are underway for assistance to many more areas.  In addition, EVLT is coordinating volunteer crews to assist with debris removal and plantings.  Currently, materials provided by EVLT include erosion-control blankets, native grass seeds, willows and trees.

EVLT maintains conservation easements on over 9,500 beautiful acres in the Estes Valley.  These properties are being given first priority, but re-vegetation support also will be extended to the wider community, as resources and funds are available.  EVLT has plans to leverage these funds for further re-vegetation grant dollars in future years as the community rebuilds.

If your property needs re-vegetation assistance, whether or not you are a member of the EVLT family, please contact EVLT for further information on how we might assist you in your recovery efforts.

As of January, the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado has raised and awarded $1,827 million to local non-profits in Colorado to assist with flood recovery issues. EVLT finds itself in an ideal position to use its grant for restoration of some of our most significant and beautiful vistas in the Estes Valley.  The grant provides yet another opportunity to fulfill our mission, “…to preserve and protect open space, streams, and wildlife habitat throughout the Estes Valley.”

Monumental tasks are still ahead, and the funds from this grant are just part of the effort.  If you are interested in volunteering with EVLT as we help restore properties across the Estes Valley, please visit the EVLT website at www.evlandtrust.organd use the contact form.  You can also email evlt@evlandtrust.org or call the office at (970) 577-6837.  “Like” us on Facebook to receive the most up-to-date information at https://www.facebook.com/estesvlt .

Needed: Flood Restoration Volunteers

Needed: Flood Restoration Volunteers

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The effects of the September floods will undoubtedly be felt for years to come here in the Estes Valley.  Because we have such a fantastic network of committed members and volunteers, EVLT is in a unique position to help rebuild the community following such a widespread disaster.  We have received a $35,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado to purchase plant materials such as native seed mixes and willows to assist with restoration, and we are coordinating volunteer efforts to do the restoration projects.  We are also pursuing further funding to help the wider community.

EVLT is coordinating volunteer work days through the spring and summer.  We are asking YOU to join us in restoring our treasured open space and our community!  The work will be outdoors and will involve debris cleanup, silt removal, reseeding, and replanting vegetation.

Please respond to us by email, phone, or the website contact form (http://estesvlt.org/contact-us/) to be put on our volunteer list!  By having your name on the list, you’ll hear about all of the volunteer days we schedule and you are welcome to join us whenever possible.

Our next volunteer opportunity is Saturday, March 22nd.  We will be assisting with cleanup in Glen Haven, which desperately needs help!  Please let us know if you are interested in joining us on this date, as well as if you are interested in future flood recovery volunteer opportunities.  We will meet at the EVLT offices at 9:00 am and will be back to Estes Park by 1:00 pm.

The scheduled volunteer days are:

  • March 22nd
  • April 12th
  • April 23rd

Thank you!!

We are on Facebook now – “Like” us to receive the most up-to-date information! https://www.facebook.com/estesvlt

An EVLT Perspective on Lot 4

An EVLT Perspective on Lot 4

From Estes Valley Land Trust Board of Directors

 

The concept of a “conservation easement” is in the news as Estes Park citizens discuss the various merits of preserving open space through this legal agreement which is both voluntary and permanent. What a conservation easement is, how it is accomplished, and what its long-term obligations are should be part of this conversation.

EVLT is a nationally accredited land trust (one of a prestigious first group of 39 out of over 1,500 to be awarded this designation in 2008) that administers the stewardship responsibilities of 159 conservation easements (9,600 acres) in the Estes Valley. EVLT is not a government agency, but instead is an independent, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.

 

StanleyProperty3Three of EVLT’s conserved parcels are in front of the Stanley Hotel – see the lots colored in purple on the accompanying map. Under the town leadership of Mayor Bill Pinkham, these lots were placed under permanent conservation easements in a legal agreement with the Town of Estes Park in November 2008. As part of the process, EVLT thoroughly documented the conservation values of these properties, including the viewshed toward the Stanley Hotel (Lots 5 and 6) and the wetland area on Black Canyon Creek (Lot 8). Lot 4 (behind Safeway/Upper Stanley Village) remained zoned as commercial property.

By definition, a Conservation Easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust. It preserves in perpetuity the conservation values of the land. It is the responsibility of the land trust to evaluate the conservation values of the property. Before the easement is put in place, EVLT and the landowner agree to limits on the uses of the property. Once in place, any future owner must abide by the limitations of use created by the easement, and the land trust assumes the responsibility of enforcement should conservation values be violated.

When a land trust is approached by a landowner concerning the possibility of placing a conservation easement on property, the land trust conducts an extensive evaluation of the conservation merits of the property. Not every vacant property meets the requirements of a conservation easement.  EVLT has developed a ranking system to assist in this process.  Each property is subjectively evaluated based on the following nationally recognized standards:

  • Open space in the entryway into Estes Park, RMNP, or Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest
  • Valuable to community for scenic character
  • Protects scenic vistas or view corridors
  • Creates larger block of contiguous open space
  • Valued as wetland, floodplain, or riparian area
  • Valued as wildlife habitat
  • Contains native ecosystems of educational or scientific value
  • (and some additional credit is given for properties of historical or recreational value)

Credit is deducted for properties that are small (under five acres) or contiguous with commercial development or properties that demonstrate hazardous issues. Additional deduction of credit is done if the evaluation anticipates difficulty in accessing, enforcing, monitoring, or other issues of stewardship or management. Deductions are also made if the ownership of the property is divided, difficult, fragmented, or inaccessible.

In initial meetings with the landowner, EVLT explains the financial obligations of the owner if the conservation easement is finalized. Current costs for a new easement generally range from $10,000 to $20,000 and involve contribution to a stewardship investment fund to pay for future monitoring and enforcement of the easement. Once the owner decides to proceed with a conservation easement, EVLT evaluates the property’s conservation values. The owner specifies any uses they wish to retain, and EVLT determines whether those uses jeopardize the conservation values.

EVLT has not done a formal evaluation of Lot 4 as a potential conservation easement because the owner (the Town of Estes Park) has not requested it. The language of the April 1 ballot issue suggests possible use of Lot 4 for public recreational use, trails, hiking, biking, horseback riding, tables and shelters. On a parcel of 6.88 acres, further clarification of these uses (while preserving conservation values) would need careful specification before EVLT could proceed.

A request has been made that EVLT publically state whether or not the organization could accept a conservation easement on Lot 4. Although EVLT realizes this would be helpful to voters, it is impossible for EVLT to make such a declaration prior to clear negotiations with the owner.

EVLT’s Directors have consistently maintained they would consider taking a conservation easement on Lot 4 if the owner requests it, but that will only be a first step (out of 22) toward completion. At this point, it is impossible for the Board to state whether or not it would accept the conservation easement.

“Preserving open spaces for future generations” is the mission of EVLT. That mission is achieved by protecting those easements already in place and working toward adding new easements which meet high standards of conservation value. There are no perfectly clear or easy answers in the Lot 4 discussions. As stated in our mission statement, EVLT is an advocate for protection of the lands that are “valleys, wetlands, streams, ranch lands, and wildlife habitat in the Estes Valley and surrounding area” and “lands adjacent to Rocky Mountain National Park and the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest.” That is our mission, and although it is not simple, it is also our passion.

Please visit EVLT’s website at www.evlandtrust.org to learn more about our mission and share your questions and concerns. We welcome your membership and your participation in accomplishing our goals.