My fellowship has officially come to a close! The past 10 weeks have flown by, as they always do. As I sat down with Stephanie this week to reflect upon my experience, I realized how much more I learned than I ever expected. At the outset, I was excited contribute to the stewardship team at Palmer. As promised, I practiced my field botany skills, met landowners, critically examined the details of conservation easements, and explored the diverse landscapes of the region. What really surprised me was the immense warmth of the Palmer community and their willingness to share information far beyond the scope of stewardship.
Each member of the staff, the board of trustees, and Palmer partners seemed genuinely excited to welcome another person into their conservation network. From board and subcommittee meetings to staff meals and trips to the Arkansas River Valley, my exposure to the nuances of Palmer’s work was unending. Topics included tax codes, water scarcity, litigation challenges, fundraising principles, ecological threats, regional history and so much more. In each new meeting or discussion, I could instantly see the enthusiasm and dedication this eclectic group has for Colorado land. They all know how important Palmer’s work is, especially under the pressures of Colorado’s skyrocketing population growth (expected to double to nearly 10 million by 2050!) However, their enthusiasm by no means makes this work simple. If anything, I have learned that land trusts must be patient, diligent, creative, and extremely detail-oriented to achieve their goals. Conservation easements do not often come together easily, especially with complications in government procedures and tax codes in the last several years. These documents are meant to last in perpetuity, and to do so they must be written with the perfect balance of flexibility and precision. Luckily, Palmer has a team ready and willing to confront any issue imaginable en route to southern Colorado conservation. Whether I continue to work for land trusts, other nonprofits, or another field entirely, my time at Palmer has illustrated what passion, strong leadership and good organizational structure can do for any initiative.
As I mentioned last week, I am lucky enough to not have to say all my goodbyes quite yet. I will continue to work on conservation plan mapping with Palmer through September. However, I’d like to take this time to thank the sponsors of this fellowship as I move on to my new responsibilities. The Public Interested Fellowship Program at Colorado College has done a phenomenal job at drawing hundreds of CC students into the nonprofit sector, especially where opportunities would not exist otherwise. I am also grateful to the Heather Campbell Cheney Environmental Fellowship for funding this particular fellowship, helping to expand the reach of PIFP into the environmental field. And of course, I couldn’t have done this without the Palmer Land Trust and all the people that support it!