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Realtors back environmental cause

Scott CondonAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN The pairing last year of real estate agents with the most vociferous environmental group in Aspen was an odd mix that turned out to be a match made in heaven.The Aspen Board of Realtors formed a special standing committee last year to raise funds and political support for Wilderness Workshop, the Roaring Fork Valley’s oldest local environmental organization.Realtors for Wilderness contributed nearly $10,000 to help promote Wilderness Workshop’s programs and projects, according to Craig Ward, a real estate agent who helped lead the effort. There were no strings attached to the contribution.Ward estimated between 80 and 100 members of the Aspen Board of Realtors contributed to the Realtors for Wilderness fund, usually with $100 donations. The association for local real estate agents has 689 members. The committee hopes to boost both the number of contributors and the total raised for Wilderness Workshop in 2007, Ward said.Wilderness Workshop’s members – even the hard-core faction – have embraced the partnership with the real estate agents, according to Dave Reed, the nonprofit group’s development director.Reed acknowledged that he was “braced” for some criticism after the announcement of the collaborative effort last fall: “We received exactly zero negative comments,” he said.Wilderness Workshop had a budget of about $294,000 last year, so the contribution from Realtors for Wilderness was “significant,” Reed said. Like Ward, he anticipates that contribution growing as Wilderness Workshop educates more real estate agents about what it does.One of Wilderness Workshop’s big campaigns in 2007 will be promoting a proposal to add about 280,000 acres of wilderness in Colorado. Annual efforts to designate additional wilderness died in the Republican-dominated U.S. Congress over the past several years. Conservation groups are anxious to take another swing with a proposal now that Democrats are in the majority.Ward said the success of the fledgling Realtors for Wilderness came as no surprise to him. Real estate agents are just as likely as any subset of the valley’s population to enjoy the outdoors and support conservation efforts, he said. And many real estate agents also realize the beauty of national forests and other public lands is what makes the real estate business so successful in the Roaring Fork Valley, he said.Rod Woelfle, president of the Aspen Board of Realtors, said many people assume that a real estate agent is “a pro-development person.” In reality, he said, most agents are “pro-community.”In addition to Realtors for Wilderness, the Aspen Board of Realtors has a standing committee that contributes to the Aspen Music Festival and it awards the Heldman/King Scholarship to high school students each year. Individual members give to a variety of causes, Woelfle said.Wilderness Workshop’s Reed said the conservation organization is looking forward to a long, fruitful relationship with the real estate agents.”Why wouldn’t the environmental community want to work with a powerful, influential part of the community?” he asked.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com


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