Conservation leaders to convene in Snowmass |

Conservation leaders to convene in Snowmass

Snowmass Village will host a national convention of land preservation organizations in mid-October.

Rally ’99, organized and sponsored by a national organization called the Land Trust Alliance, will bring together more than 1,200 leaders in the land conservation and land trust movement.

The Land Trust Alliance, founded in 1982, has a membership of some 750 land trusts and more than 1,000 individuals. The alliance, headquartered in Washington, D.C., is a national umbrella organization that provides technical assistance and training to local, regional and national land trust groups.

Just as the Roaring Fork Valley’s ranch lands and open spaces are being eaten up by golf courses and sprawling development, the same thing is happening on an even greater scale in most other desirable parts of the country. With local and state governments either helpless to slow development or actually promoting it, private, nonprofit land trusts have sprung up around the country to combat the loss of open lands and wildlife habitat.

Land trusts are nonprofit, volunteer organizations that work with landowners, using a variety of tools, to protect land from development. Conservation methods include land purchases and donations, strategic estate planning and conservation easements which permanently restrict development.

Locally, the Aspen Valley Land Trust holds interest on more than 35 properties, amounting to about 5,000 acres of land. The group also owns outright a number of properties that are managed as open space or parks in the Aspen area. AVLT is actively working with Roaring Fork Valley landowners and families to preserve additional undeveloped land. AVLT and the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts are host organizations for the conference.

Martha Nudel, a spokesperson for the Land Trust Alliance, said registration for the conference is closed, with 1,254 attendees already enrolled and a waiting list of 80. She said the limitation was not due to a shortage of beds, but a desire to maintain the quality of the educational programs.

“We put a limit on the number of folks,” she said, “because we don’t want to have crowding in our work sessions and seminars.”

Well-known author Terry Tempest Williams, a Utah native and an activist for conservation, will be one of the speakers at Rally ’99. Williams’ books include “An Unspoken Hunger – Stories from the Field” and “Desert Quartet – An Erotic Landscape.”

Nudel said another speaker at the convention will be John Russonello, a partner in a polling firm in the Washington, D.C. area. Russonello has done polling on public attitudes toward open space and produced a study called “Personal Choices and Public Priorities: Americans’ Attitudes Toward Sprawl.”

Workshop topics will include subjects such as federal land exchanges, Western water law, fund raising, stream and lake restoration, violations of conservation easements, and one seminar titled “Saving Farms and Ranches, Not Just Farm and Ranch Land.”

Nudel said Snowmass Village was chosen for the gathering partly because the group prefers to meet in smaller towns.

“We’ve always picked sites that are moderate in size because we don’t want our conference to be lost in a big city like New York City or Boston,” she said. In addition, she said, off-season in Snowmass Village offers affordable lodging prices to land trust members, who tend to be of moderate means.

But Nudel said she hoped off-season doesn’t mean all the restaurants and shops will be closed.

“We are just a snitch concerned that some of the places our people want to go will be closed,” she said.

The schedule for the convention includes a number of field trips for attendees, including guided tours of some local examples of land preservation, like North Star Nature Preserve, the Windstar Conservancy in Old Snowmass and Jerome Park. Jerome Park is 4,700 acres of ranch land in western Pitkin County protected under conservation easements arranged by Pitkin County’s Open Space and Trails program and the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, with major funding from Great Outdoors Colorado.

Participants will also have the opportunity to join a variety of recreational field trips. Those include a Fryingpan River fly-fishing trip, a visit to the Hot Springs Pool in Glenwood Springs, hiking trips to such destinations as American Lake and Cathedral Lake, rafting in Glenwood Canyon, rock climbing east of Aspen or mountain biking at various locations.

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