Aspen Valley Land Trust book honors land preservationists
ASPEN ” Aspen Valley Land Trust has figured out how to make a little money in these tough economic times ” and a cool way to share its story.
The nonprofit organization produced a book this fall that honors 48 individuals and families that have teamed with it to preserve their land. The coffee table-quality book features awesome photographs by Lois Abel Harlamert and stories by AVLT Executive Director Martha Cochran. “Our Place: People and Conservation in the Roaring Fork and Colorado River Valleys” sells for $29.95 and is available at a variety of stores throughout the Roaring Fork Valley. It also can be ordered online at http://www.avlt.org. The book was published by Westcliffe Publishers of Boulder.
In reality, the project won’t be a big money-maker, Cochran said. It was designed more as a promotion of conservation. AVLT is the oldest land trust in Colorado. It has helped private landowners preserve more than 28,000 acres in the Roaring Fork and Colorado river basins.
Landowners work with AVLT to place conservation easements on their land. In a nutshell, they surrender some or all of the development rights and, in return, receive tax benefits. AVLT’s job is to enforce the conservation easements.
The book was the idea of Harlamert. She worked earlier this decade with Anita Witt of Missouri Heights on a book called “I Remember One Horse ….” about the last of the cowboys and ranchers in the Roaring Fork Valley. That project was a big success and connected Harlamert with some families that had preserved their ranches. She approached Cochran in 2004 about profiling those families.
Cochran said her staff saw the project as a way to “recognize and honor the people who made contributions” and an excellent way to avoid falling victim to institutional memory ” the loss of facts and background as people in an organization change. Cochran, a journalist by training and former publisher of the Glenwood Post Independent, made an interesting discovery early in the process of interviewing the preservationists. “When you ask them about themselves, they don’t have much to say. Ask them, ‘What can you tell me about the land?’ and they get talkative,” she said.
People who feel strongly enough about their property to preserve it for eternity tend to express powerful feelings about their love of the land. Woody Creek icon George Stranahan talked about his motivation for preserving his Flying Dog Ranches near Lenado and Carbondale and some Lenado mining claims.
“I want to make sure I am never a destroyer of land,” Stranahan told Cochran for the book.
Charlotte Hood preserved what Cochran considers “one of the most scenic high country ranches in Garfield County.” Hood worked with the Colorado Division of Wildlife to create a “wildlife transfer program” for transplanted wild turkeys, beavers and other native species. And Hood wanted to make sure the land remained a wildlife preserve forever, in memory of her late husband and father.
“I’m appalled by the development in the valley,” Hood is quoted as saying.
After four years of hard work, the book was released in September at AVLT’s annual Land Dance fundraiser at the Strang Ranch in Missouri Heights. “Our Place” struck a cord. More than 1,000 copies have been sold from the first printing of 2,500. AVLT gets 60 percent of the proceeds from local sales. Those funds support its conservation efforts.
The book gives a subtle little hint that AVLT’s mission isn’t finished. “Our Place” is referred to as “Book One” on the title page, suggesting more conservation will take place along with more recognition of the land preservationists.
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