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Staff report
Suzanne Fusaro Stephens was appointed executive director of Aspen Valley Land Trust.
Matt Suby/courtesy photo |

Stephens appointed to head AVLT

Suzanne Fusaro Stephens, long-time associate director of Aspen Valley Land Trust, has been named as the new executive director of the conservation organization.

Stephens is a Roaring Fork Valley native and graduate of Aspen High School. She holds a degree in biology from Reed College and worked as an intern and naturalist at Aspen Center for Environmental Studies and as the director of land conservation at Roaring Fork Conservancy before joining AVLT in 2003.

Stephens replaces long-time Executive Director Martha Cochran, who left AVLT at the end of last year.

“It is an honor to be chosen to lead this great team and continue the important mission of AVLT. I’m looking forward to continuing to work closely with the landowners, partners and supporters who make our work possible,” Stephens said in a statement.

AVLT Board of Directors President Jim Cardamone said, “The Board unanimously selected Stephens and we are excited to have someone of her caliber to lead AVLT as we celebrate our 50th anniversary in 2017. Suzanne has a proven record on AVLT staff, and our partners in the conservation community share the Board’s enthusiasm. We’re really happy to hire such a quality person from within the AVLT family.”

Aspen Valley Land Trust works with landowners to permanently conserve land in the Roaring Fork and Middle Colorado River valleys for agriculture, open space, wildlife habitat and public recreation. In her work at AVLT, Stephens has specialized in the ecological, legal and financial aspects of land conservation transactions. She has raised more than $4 million in grants for conservation easement acquisitions and overseen the conservation of more than 85 properties.

Stephens lives in Carbondale with her husband, Jeff, and daughter Harbour.

Illegal snowmobilers cited

Wilderness rangers from the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District recently caught two snowmobilers who were illegally riding in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area near Richmond Ridge.

The men were issued $500 citations. One had an Aspen address and one had a Boulder address but was also an Aspen area resident, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The names of the men weren’t released.

The Jan. 27 incident spurred the Forest Service to remind people that the White River National Forest is one of the most heavily visited national forests in the nation. There are a high number of visitors participating in a diverse number of recreational activities. It is their responsibility to know if the activity they are undertaking is legal and designated in that area.

Snowmobiles, and all motorized and mechanized equipment, are illegal in wilderness.

“We make the effort to inform riders with signs along Richmond Ridge showing the wilderness boundary. However, ultimately it is their responsibility to know the regulations and to avoid taking their machines into designated Wilderness,” Karen Schroyer, Aspen-Sopris District Ranger, said in a statement.

Over the snow vehicle travel is restricted to the Richmond Hill Road south of Aspen Mountain due to the mix of private lands, permitted ski/hut operations and the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness area. Prior to visiting the White River National Forest visitors are encouraged to obtain a free Motor Vehicle Use Map either at the closest Ranger Station or online at http://www.fs.usda.gov/whiteriver/.

Ranch certified as wildlife friendly

Rock Bottom Ranch in the midvalley has received its Certified Wildlife Friendly designation after a rigorous auditing process.

The designation was awarded by the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network for the ranch’s efforts to prioritize habitat conservation alongside agricultural production and education.

Rock Bottom Ranch is operated Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. Ranch Director Jason Smith said the operations seek to show how wildlife, natural landscapes, and domestic agriculture are both possible and healthy.

“Agricultural production has a rich history in the American West and small farms and local food systems are gaining noticeable momentum,” Smith said in a statement. “The scalable and replicable sustainable production methods we use at RBR demonstrate the possibilities for productive local food systems in high-altitude climates like the Roaring Fork Valley, which are often located at the intersection between agricultural and wild lands.”

Rock Bottom Ranch is taking it a step further to show how production systems and land management techniques can actually benefit natural habitats and area wildlife.

Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network Executive Director Julie Stein said Rock Bottom Ranch’s methods benefit species such as mountain lion, black bear, bobcat, coyotes, elk, deer, and numerous birds of prey. Wetlands on-site also attract myriad migratory birds like the Yellow-headed Blackbird, as well as Great Blue Heron, White-faced Ibis, Trumpeter Swans and many other species. “Following the reviewed auditing process, which assesses criteria from careful stewardship of rangelands to proactive practices to protect livestock to habitat restoration, RBR joins peers around the world who implement best practices for biodiversity conservation and business.”

RBR is the 10th farm the United States to hold Certified Wildlife Friendly® status.


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