A Jump into Land Conservation with Palmer by Espy

Guest Post by Espy Thomson, Heather Campbell Chaney Environmental Fellow

Friday afternoon arrived and along with it, the end of my first week and a half at Palmer Land Trust. I walked out of The Perk coffee house having just finished a meeting with Charlie Campbell. Charlie is the force behind the Heather Campbell Chaney Environmental Fellowship which allowed me to work at Palmer Land Trust this summer. It was absolutely delightful to meet him, a birder and fellow New Englander, and to hear about his daughter, Heather, who was an avid environmentalist. 

Naturally, as one does on a beautiful Friday afternoon after a long week, I reached into my pocket and called my mother. She picked up on the second ring. I apologized for not having spoken in so long. “There’s no plodding along here at Palmer,” I told her. I just jumped right in.

My introduction to land trust management began with a ribbon cutting ceremony on my second day at the office. I went into the field with my supervisor, Candice Hall, and fellow intern, Michael Storace, and listened to different members of the public share their varied opinions about the conserved property. Over the course of the week, I began to learn about the differences between public lands and private land conservation and how they are interconnected. I was introduced to the precedent setting water rights work on the Bessemer Ditch that Palmer is spearheading in the Pueblo area. This work focuses on helping to protect some of the most important farmlands and source of local food in the area. Then I had an eleven-hour day on Wednesday where I attended the Palmer quarterly board meeting in Salida and learned the basics of nonprofit management. As part of the program, we visited the historic Hutchinson Ranch, which is protected by a conservation easement held by Colorado Cattleman’s Agricultural Land Trust. On Thursday, I arose at 4:15am for another eleven-hour day at BX Ranch, a 25,000-acre property conserved by Palmer. There, I followed an environmental planner around and discussed the basics of grazing practices and land health practices with him.


When my mom started to sympathize with me about the long days, I stopped her. “I don’t know what I was expecting,” I told her. “But there aren’t very many better ways to spend an eleven-hour work day then out on Colorado land, learning from the people associated with Palmer.” I’m delighted and excited for this opportunity this summer. My mom started to agree with me that it did sound wonderful. “But it isn’t just about traipsing about outdoors,” I felt the need to assert. Beautiful scenic outdoor access could be a finite resource. Palmer Land Trust is doing vital work to protect land and water in these times of enormous change and development in this state. I am really thankful for the opportunity to work with an organization that is tackling these issues head on and to learn more about possible avenues for environmental work.


About the Heather Campbell Chaney Environmental Fellowship

This fellowship was started by Charlie Campbell upon the passing of his daughter, Heather, in 2001. It provides opportunities for two students each summer to honor Heather’s environmental legacy and work in either environmental education at Catamount Institute or in land conservation at Palmer Land Trust. The fellowship not only benefits the students, but also the nonprofits who gain engaged and passionate workers for ten of the busiest work weeks of the year.