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Area to recieve conservation funds

Danie Harrelson

— The Yampa Valley stands apart from many places in the West because its natural landscape has remained relatively untouched.

The Nature Conservancy recently announced a $75 million campaign to preserve such places in Colorado.

The historic Heart of the West campaign, the Nature Conservancy’s largest undertaking in the state, will provide people in the state with creative means to preserve habitats and species around their communities.

Ann Oliver, program manager for the Northwest Colorado Nature Conservancy, said the Yampa Valley is one of 15 key sites in Colorado that would receive a share of the campaign money.

The ecological importance of a river that maintains its traditional behavior can be seen in what grows along the river, she added.

“The Yampa River still flows in its natural patterns and doesn’t have a mainstream dam on it,” she said. “It lays the foundation that enables the regeneration of some really somewhat rare but also very high quality riverside plant communities.”

The Nature Conservancy has already collected $50 million of its goal through public and private donations. Oliver said the organization’s partnerships with local entities would be voluntary.

“We’re not out to buy out land,” she said. “We want to protect land and work with people through conservation easements to do so.”

Land purchased by the Nature Conservancy for conservation easement still belongs to landowners, but they must leave their land undisturbed and free of development. Some landowners donate portions of their land to the organization.

“They are interested in protecting their land and often approach us about the best way to do that,” Oliver said. “Or we’ll offer the service to them. It works both ways.”

The Nature Conservancy oversees several field offices around the state, and the field office in Steamboat Springs operates as a community-based program, she said.

Oliver stressed that the campaign was not raising money for field offices’ operating costs, but to expand the scope of conservation in Colorado for lands, that unless preserved, will be lost

forever.


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