Haughey leaving land trust for another green pasture | AspenTimes.com

Haughey leaving land trust for another green pasture

Reid Haughey is moving from one green pasture to another.

Haughey is leaving his post as executive director of a leading conservation organization in the Roaring Fork Valley and taking the helm of a conservation organization making a splash throughout the West.

Haughey said yesterday he will step down as executive director of the Aspen Valley Land Trust on May 10. He will become president of the Wilderness Land Trust the same day.

“Reid wasn’t looking for a new job. He had an offer come his way. He took advantage of it,” said Michael McVoy, president of AVLT’s board of directors. “It certainly wasn’t something that AVLT forced.”

Haughey said he was approached about the new position by former Aspenite Jon Mulford, the founder and president of Wilderness Land Trust. Mulford started the organization about 10 years ago to acquire pockets of private property within designated wilderness areas. He then gets the land into the hands of the U.S. Forest Service or another federal agency.

The group has helped avoid exploitation of property owners who essentially threaten to develop within pristine areas unless they are paid a ransom.

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Haughey confirmed that he wasn’t looking for a job or to leave AVLT, but couldn’t turn down the Wilderness Land Trust offer.

“I think I was so complimented that I was asked,” he laughed.

Mulford moved to Washington state, where he operates the Wilderness Land Trust. Haughey is moving the headquarters back to Carbondale, and he will stay in the midvalley with his family.

He said he is not only leaving AVLT on good terms, but also in good condition. He credited his predecessor, Chuck Vidal, for building a strong organization. Haughey was recruited to make it even stronger.

During his tenure, AVLT went from having up to $900,000 in the bank to having $11 million “book value,” and it went from holding conservation easements on 3,000 acres to 7,500 acres.

AVLT, which turned 35 years old this year, is Colorado’s oldest land conservancy. The organization holds easements that prohibit or limit development.

One new direction that Haughey took the organization was piecing together bigger deals that sometimes involve developing a portion of property to raise funds to preserve a larger portion.

That tactic was employed to acquire the 1,800-acre Lawrence Ranch southeast of Glenwood Springs.

Haughey also led efforts in recent years on several high-profile projects, such as acquisition of most of the Independence ghost town and the Ryan parcel at Ashcroft.

AVLT moved to Carbondale and purchased office space there during his stint as director. The move reflected its focus throughout the valley and into the I-70 corridor.

“We’re sorry that we’re losing him,” said McVoy.

Before joining AVLT, Haughey was well-known in Aspen as the Pitkin County manager in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

AVLT will concentrate its search for a replacement in the Roaring Fork Valley and throughout Colorado, according to McVoy. The search could expand if it doesn’t receive a high level of candidates, but McVoy doesn’t think that will be a problem.

McVoy credited Haughey with coaxing AVLT through a maturation process. The organization went from quietly accepting conservation easements to aggressively identifying endangered, environmentally valuable lands and trying to buy them.

Its recent transactions have featured teamwork among partners to acquire properties. McVoy said the AVLT board isn’t considering any major philosophical shift.

Haughey has helped in recent weeks to lead a coalition’s effort to promote an alternative to the city of Aspen’s 330-unit Burlingame employee housing project. He and McVoy said that effort will continue despite Haughey’s departure.

“I’m simply a spokesperson for a very committed organization,” said Haughey.

Jen Uncapher, AVLT’s deputy director, will become the interim director when Haughey leaves.

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