San Isabel welcomes new land, water steward

Springtime marks change and new beginnings, and for San Isabel Land Protection Trust that is particularly true this year. We are excited to announce an addition to our conservation team. Karen Foley joins us as our land and water steward.

In addition to Karen's hiring, San Isabel has announced other key staff changes. Executive director Linda Poole has taken a job as regenerative grazing specialist with the National Center for Appropriate Technology. Janet Smith, San Isabel’s development director since 2016, has been named acting executive director.

Karen will manage and oversee conservation easement monitoring and work with landowners on land care issues. She has a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies, with a concentration in conservation and ecology, from the University of Vermont and a master’s degree in biology, with a soil ecology specialization, from Utah State University.

Linda said, “San Isabel has bounced back better from the pandemic, thanks to our new and continuing staff. We feel like we won the lottery hiring Karen Foley as the new land and water steward. Jerry Glassman is back carefully stewarding the Bluff Park, and Janet Smith has all the right stuff to lead the organization as acting executive director. It was a great honor to serve this community for three years, and I leave confident that the board and staff will thrive moving forward.”

San Isabel holds 134 easements, protecting 42,437 acres between the eastern slopes of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Interstate 25 corridor. The easements safeguard irreplaceable wildlife habitats, productive ranchlands, clean water and scenic open space for all to enjoy.

Linda's new position also offers opportunities for soil health and water conservation efforts in the San Isabel region. Her appointment with the National Center for Appropriate Technology is nationwide, but so far, she has been focusing on soil health in grazed landscapes of Montana, Colorado and New Mexico.

We continue to partner with Colorado Open Lands (COL) on an array of conservation work, expanding both organizations’ capacity to meet conservation demand. Since 2015, COL and San Isabel have built a close partnership, including at the Bluff Park in Westcliffe. COL holds the easement on the central portion of the park owned by San Isabel.

Karen has a wide variety of field experience and technical skills important to conservation easement monitoring, land care and sustainable water programs. 

Most importantly, she brings a strong desire to work in the land conservation field. She identified conservation as a deep passion after working on easements and monitoring at the Vermont Housing Conservation Board and set out to gain the skills she needed to make that happen.

“Since my work with land trusts during my undergraduate studies, I have wanted to become a land steward,” Karen said. “My mentors at the Vermont Housing Conservation Board were (and still are) a huge inspiration. They taught me about the effort and flexibility it takes to accomplish conservation with private landowners in a way that benefits everyone and the environment.”

Her move to Utah introduced her to the Western landscape.

“I was determined to find a stewardship position with a land trust in Colorado,” she said. “It quickly became my favorite Western state. I was particularly interested in San Isabel Land Protection Trust because much of our work revolves around water, a critical resource.

“I look forward to meeting the landowners we have easements with and other stakeholders to listen to their wisdom and work together,” Karen continued. “I am also very excited to get to know the Wet Mountain Valley, both the people and the place, through exploring and getting involved with the community.”

San Isabel Land Protection Trust, a nationally accredited land trust, employs collaboration, innovation and science to safeguard health and resiliency of land, waters and wildlife in southern Colorado. Through land protection and care programs, strategic partnerships and outreach, San Isabel helps to ensure the lasting vitality of our land and rural communities.

Colorado Open Lands is an accredited land trust that has helped to protect more than 580,000 acres across more than 550 conserved properties since 1981. It operates statewide and has worked with numerous local land trusts to facilitate new conservation projects, support monitoring and enforcement of existing easements, and advance the role of land trusts in spearheading natural resource restoration projects.

Our staff is on the move!

  • Linda Poole now works as a regenerative grazing specialist at  the National Center for Appropriate Technology. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
  • Janet Smith is now acting executive director. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
  • Karen Foley is our new land and water steward. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
  • Our Westcliffe office is open. The office phone number is 719.783.3018. Please get in touch!
Janet Smith

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  • “We are situated along the Gold Belt National Scenic Byway, where several land trust organizations are involved with protection of lands. San Isabel was extremely well informed. We, and our neighbors, are very pleased with the end result, and the annual monitoring process is unobtrusive. I wish more folks would take the time to learn about the benefits San Isabel offers.”

    – Curt Sorenson, PhD, Fremont County