‘If you want to go far, go together’ | AspenTimes.com

‘If you want to go far, go together’

Aspen Valley Land Trust is embarking on its first broad community engagement effort, “Your Land Trust Listens,” to help shape its strategic conservation plan for the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys

By Lauren Glendenning Brought to you by Aspen Valley Land Trust

Help share the valley’s future
The Aspen Valley Land Trust wants to know what the community cares about and what it needs from its Land Trust. In order for their work to remain relevant and meaningful, AVLT seeks to respond to changing needs by involving the community in envisioning the future.

Come to a public listening session in either New Castle, Carbondale, or Aspen (and bring your friends). An online version of the community survey is available at http://www.avlt.org. Your participation is crucial to this process, and AVLT wants you to think big!

From Independence Pass to the Roan Plateau, the Aspen Valley Land Trust wants to understand how communities are feeling about population growth, changing climate, conservation issues, and community issues, among other topics. Through various community engagement efforts, AVLT hopes to shape its strategic conservation plan — which will outline the organization’s conservation work in the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys over the next 5 to 10 years — with a lot of input from the community.

“We hope to find out not just what pressing conservation issues people identify, but what pressing issues conservation might be able to help address,” said Suzanne Stephens, executive director of the Aspen Valley Land Trust. “We hope to connect with supporters as well as people and communities that are not currently involved with the Land Trust so that we can better understand the trends people worry about, and help set a future course that is most responsive to current needs.”

The issues
Some of the many issues facing the valley include a lack of affordable housing, impacts of drought, climate change, loss of open space and agricultural land, and pressures on wildlife and natural resources.

One of AVLT’s most important engagement tools is a 15-minute survey it hopes residents will fill out online. The questions aim to gather information about which issues matter most to people.

Is access to locally grown food as important as providing critical habitat and resources for wildlife? Do people want to maintain open spaces and scenic buffers between communities? Do they want to maintain the rural agricultural heritage of the area? How much does conserving land really matter to local residents?

“The population rate in Colorado is growing, and we’re feeling that change pretty acutely,” said Matt Annabel, Communications and Outreach Director at Aspen Valley Land Trust. “Every community feels it a little differently, so we’re wanting to engage folks to understand what they’re feeling now, and what each community’s threats and opportunities are now.”

Community-driven conservation
Across the country, land trusts are stepping back, talking with their communities and taking stock of where they want to focus to produce the best conservation – and community – outcomes, Stephens said.

“Throughout our history, this concept of community-driven conservation has been a recurrent theme, but it’s risen back to the forefront over the last few years as a result of a few high-profile community projects such as the Save Red Hill effort and the purchase of a property used for outdoor education in Marble that hopes to serve schools from Aspen to Glenwood,” she said.

This important feedback will help AVLT direct and prioritize landscape-scale conservation work, as well as other types of community-drive conservation projects like these. It’s the first time the organization has ever solicited such broad community feedback.

“We don’t want to add something to our mission that’s not a good fit for the communities we work in, nor do we want to leave behind something really important,” Annabel said.

This community involvement will help AVLT become more aware and connected and informed as it charges ahead.

“A land trust relies on partnerships to make conservation happen, and the people and communities we work with are our most important partners,” Stephens said. “As the old saying goes, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’”