Help us keep this region wild and beautiful

Bobcat! There’s a bobcat in the yard!

Staccato barking from my dog Keli woke everyone in the house at dawn on a recent November morning. Normally quiet and cheerful, Keli had anxiously whined and paced through the night between dark windows that overlook my untamed yard of scrub oaks, aspens, pines and firs. Living on a toe slope of the Sangres, all kinds of wildlife abound just the other side of the windows, providing endless entertainment for my whippet/Australian shepherd sidekick. 

 

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But that night Keli was just plain scared. When she started growling out at the night, I elbowed in for a look, but dark skies, indeed. All I saw were glittering stars and the pale gleam they cast on the snowy slopes of Horn Mountain. A bit perplexed at her behavior, I left Keli to guard us from unseen monsters.

With dawn’s light, Keli – super-sized by hair standing on end – raised the roof with frantic yips. Then I could see it, too. Less than 25 feet outside the window was a bobcat, a big adult, sleek and elegantly spotted, with piercing bright eyes, half-length twitching tail, and legs much longer and stronger than seemed necessary for such a lithe, perfect body.Exhilarated, I texted my neighbor, San Isabel board member Dianne Whalen about the exquisite cat in our neighborhood. “Wow. Good news,” she texted back. “I so want our land to be wild and inviting for animals.”

Dianne sums up what many of us feel about this special place. This is our home – at least a home of our hearts, even if our primary address is elsewhere – and we want to help it remain wild and beautiful, with abundant wildlife, productive agriculture, flowing water and thriving rural communities. What of value can each of us bring to the shared, lasting conservation of our homeland?

Thirty-some years ago, ranchers and community members recognized the blessings and beauty of the area, and visionary leaders, including Ben Kettle, crafted zoning protections so the Wet Mountain Valley would not end up parceled, parched and paved like so much of the Front Range. Twenty-five years ago, a small group of conservation-minded citizens formed the organization we now know as the San Isabel Land Protection Trust. (Check out our website – SanIsabel.org – for Randy Woods’ inspiring perspective on the founding and future of San Isabel.)

This is not the time to lose momentum in protecting our land, water and rural way of life. Quite the opposite. Now we are called to step up the pace, scope and effectiveness of our work if we are to keep our land “wild and inviting for animals” and for people who will steward the land wisely for generations to come.

As San Isabel President Larry Vickerman says, “There’s no denying it’s getting hotter and dryer around here.” Scientists predict 30 percent less precipitation, and without sound water planning, Colorado could lose more than 20 percent of irrigated agricultural lands in the coming decades. With Colorado’s population projected to nearly double by 2050, we must implement smart growth principles that maintain open space and viable agriculture now, or it will be too late to welcome newcomers into vibrant, sustainable communities. The window of opportunity is closing to prevent haphazard dry-ups and declining agricultural economics, both of which threaten our commitment to keep flowing water and good stewards on the land.

In November, 21 past and present leaders of San Isabel held a day-long strategic planning retreat. We affirmed that our strong foundation is the perfect launch pad for a bold, transformative program to safeguard the San Isabel region through the unprecedented challenges and opportunities of the next 20 years. 

We are now fleshing out prioritized programs to ensure collaborative, durable, swift conservation success. Our challenge is to integrate the traditional wisdom of long-time landowners with the best of emerging science, powered by resources from entrepreneurial approaches and philanthropy. Blazing these new trails is crucial, but it won’t be easy and it won’t be cheap. We project near-term budget increases of around 30 percent to meet our ambitious targets.

Your support helpsbuild a strong financial footing for our work, helping shape the landscape and the future of our region in profound ways. Thank you for all you do to help conserve our beloved San Isabel landscapes and communities.

With best regards and wishes for a joyous holiday season …

Note: Special thanks to board member Bob Steimle for the photo of the bobcat trio that visited his home off Verdemont Road.

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  • “Because San Isabel is pro-agriculture, we were able to work closely with them to craft the contract we felt comfortable with. It allows us to capture revenue off the land while still living on it and maintaining full autonomy of ownership.”

    – Elin Parker Ganschow, Music Meadows Ranch and Sangres Best