Community Agriculture Alliance: Listening to the needs of our community
Steamboat Pilot & Today
Last July, Yampa Valley Land Trust developed a comprehensive survey to better understand our community’s evolving needs and how land conservation can continue to improve the quality of life we enjoy here.
The survey was sent to more than 300 donors, landowners, partners and community members. Thirty-five percent responded to the questionnaire. Similar surveys conducted by other land trusts in Colorado returned a 3 to 6 percent response rate, underscoring how strongly our community feels about Land Trust’s mission to preserve the character of our valley.
Those surveyed overwhelmingly ranked rivers and water resources as the most urgent priority for Yampa Valley Land Trust to address, with 96 percent identifying water as a “pressing conservation issue.” Anyone who spends time in Routt County knows that water is critical to our way of life, whether you’re an agricultural producer, fly-fisherman or raft guide. The Land Trust has long recognized the importance of water in the Yampa Valley and will continue to focus on conserving its precious water resources.
Wildlife habitat ranked second among respondents, with 87 percent identifying it as a pressing issue. Large, undeveloped tracts of private land are strongholds for wildlife that offer sanctuary during trying times of the year. Some of the most valuable elk winter range is found on private lands, and many iconic Colorado species such as greater sage-grouse nest and raise their young there. Private lands will play an integral role in providing wildlife habitat as Routt County continues to grow.
Highly visible scenic landscapes came in third, with 86 percent ranking it a pressing conservation need. It’s no secret that the Yampa Valley is a scenically inspirational haven for many of us that we enjoy during our daily commute, a walk along the Yampa River Core Trail or skiing atop Mount Werner. The Yampa Valley’s lush hay meadows and pastoral vistas never fail to inspire its residents and visitors. Preserving the distinctive rural character of this valley — including open landscapes along its busy travel corridors — continues to be a primary focus for Yampa Valley Land Trust.
Rounding out the top four was maintaining productive agricultural lands, and 71 percent of respondents said this is a pressing issue. With steadily increasing land values in Routt County putting pressure on longstanding agricultural operations, protecting ranchland is of paramount importance if we wish to retain the qualities that have long defined our community. In addition to supporting a key pillar of the local economy, agricultural lands almost always encompass other high-ranking conservation values like water resources, wildlife habitat, verdant hay meadows and pastoral vistas. Many ranchers and their families are among the most dedicated stewards of the land and were the original conservationists in Routt County.
What can the community expect to see from Yampa Valley Land Trust as a result of the recent survey? Expect to see the trust develop more projects that encompass many or all of these top conservation values.
Yampa Valley Land Trust would like to take this opportunity to thank all of its 2018 supporters who continue to inspire its board and staff. Your contributions have positioned Yampa Valley Land Trust for success in 2019 with several new conservation projects in the works, all in Routt County and all made possible by our incredibly supportive community.
Ryan Gelling is a conservation associate with the Yampa Valley Land Trust.
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