On a rainy Sunday evening, people gathered at the Hotchkiss Fire District to enjoy a catered barbecue dinner from Zack's and to celebrate nine successful years of the Conservation Assistance Program (CAP) in the North Fork Valley.
CAP was established in February 2005 by the West Elk Mine of Mountain Coal Company and the Western Slope Conservation Center, formerly WSERC.
This has been a greatly successful partnership between a coal company and an environmental advocacy group.
Since 2005, CAP has helped preserve 10,725 acres in over 80 conservation easements. Those lands are now preserved forever for agriculture, wildlife habitat and scenic open space.
CAP provides free expertise to North Fork landowners investigating whether to put their land into a conservation easement.
Susan Lohr, CAP director, told those attending the dinner, "We're really happy that so many of you have supported conservation with your own property and in other ways. The Conservation Assistance Program is funded by West Elk Mine in a joint effort by The Conservation Center, formerly WSERC, and the mine. I and Naomi Gray are so privileged to work with this program and to be available to landowners."
CAP currently has 12 projects, with more planned for next year and the year after.
"Many landowners choose conservation easements for their property because they have a love for their land and want it to stay the way it is forever. Their foresight keeps land intact and available for agriculture, wildlife habitat and open space," Lohr said.
Sarah Sauter, director of The Conservation Center, said, "This is a legacy that I am very proud and honored to be a part of. Since the inception of the program in 2006, we've helped landowners place over 10,000 acres in permanent easements in this valley. I think that is absolutely amazing. That's one of the best things we can do long term to protect the culture, the feel and the open space of this valley that we all love and cherish."
CAP works with several land trusts including Colorado Open Lands. Amanda Nims, land protection specialist, came over from Denver to attend the Hotchkiss event. "We've been working across the state for about 31 years. We've protected close to 300,000 acres and we hold 275 conservation easements. And a large part of that is our partnership with CAP."
Kathy Welt represented West Elk Mine. "We've been very pleased with how successful [CAP has] been. We're pleased to be part of that. I can't say enough about Susan and Naomi and the work they have done. They know their stuff to provide valuable assistance to folks to help guide them through the sometimes difficult conservation easement program."
Funded by Mountain Coal Company, CAP is administered by a committee with three members from West Elk Mine and three members from the Western Slope Conservation Center. Seventy-six percent of the funding is invested in landowner assistance.blog comments powered by Disqus