Advocate for access
SUMMIT COUNTY – For Steve Fausel, access to America’s wild places is more than just a nice idea. It’s central to his relationship with the world around him. For decades, the Summit County resident has put his energy and resources into ensuring the survival of the 190-million-acre national forest system.As an acknowledgment of those efforts, the U.S. Forest Service recently honored Fausel with a Lifetime Achievement Award at a ceremony in Pine attended by four former chiefs of the agency.A longtime supporter of the National Forest Foundation, a nonprofit partner of the Forest Service, the 63-year-old millionaire entrepreneur and industrialist was instrumental in the establishment of the Continental Divide Trail Alliance (CDTA) in 1995. Chartered by Congress in 1978, the Continental Divide Trail will eventually be one of the longest trails in the world. At its expected completion in 2008, it will extend nearly 3,100 miles from Canada to Mexico and pass through five mountain states, including Colorado.Despite its remoteness, Fausel believes passionately in the value of the trail to the nation as a whole. “Most Americans probably won’t ever walk on the trail,” he said. “But America is based on a dream, and freedom is still part of our core beliefs. (On the trail) you can go and walk and do what you want.”The Alliance was conceived as the nonprofit half of a public-private partnership to support the building and maintenance of the trail, as well as public education about its existence. The founding chairman of its board of trustees, Fausel now serves as the CDTA’s national spokesperson and honorary board co-chair.”Without Steve’s long term support, enthusiasm and involvement with the Continental Divide Trail Alliance there would be no trail,” Alliance co-executive director Bruce Ward said recently.
A native of Burlington, Iowa, Fausel’s deep-seated attachment to wide open spaces is one reason for his relocation to Summit County. He bought his ranch on the Lower Blue in the 1980s, and now makes his home there, between trips around the globe to oversee his far-flung business and philanthropic interests.Fausel credits his childhood on the banks of the Mississippi River with his love for nature, and his engineer father with instilling in him the belief that anything was possible.”My father was one of the best teachers ever,” he said. “There wasn’t anything we didn’t do.”In Fausel’s first business venture as a youngster in Burlington, he made wooden towel stands with Winnie the Pooh decals, in his grandmother’s shed, to sell to Sears Roebuck. Since then, his business has grown to include such diverse industries as LaMont Ltd., a furniture importer and manufacturer, and SeaArk, an aquaculture seafood producer in South Africa.Financial success has allowed Fausel to use his wealth to further causes he believes in. The Fausel Foundation provides support to organizations that reflect his interests, ranging from conservation groups to high-level foreign policy think tanks.One of his concerns is that technology is changing the face of the world so fast that people are in danger of losing track of what’s really important.”I want my kids to have something besides a virtual experience of the forest,” he said. “I want them to have something besides a virtual experience of human relationships.” As for his lifetime commitment to the Forest Service, Fausel is clear about his belief in its importance.
“Where does our character as a country come from?” he asked. “It comes from the land, partly. It comes from your parents and tradition. It’s about a dream called freedom – not about security. Forestland is freedom. It changes you when you’re out there.” Fausel said he hopes the Forest Service will be able to meet the challenges of the 21st Century and he expects the Continental Divide Trail to continue to be supported.”The trail is a piece of a much bigger pie,” he said.Personally, he plans to spend as much time as he can on the ranch with his wife, Shannon, and their two small children, Wolf and Saylor. Despite all his wealth and success, Fausel is quick to say that life is not all about money.”I’m not a bit afraid to feed my golden retriever off my fork at a dinner party,” he said.As for the Forest Service’s public acknowledgment of his philanthropy, Fausel is circumspect about the award.”I’m not a do-gooder,” he said. “I do what makes me feel right, not what makes me look right.”The greatest honor of his lifetime was very private, he said. He experienced it when he carried his golden retriever, Josh, up the mountain on his ranch to bury him.
The Continental Divide Trail in Summit CountyThe Continental Divide Trail follows the same route as the Colorado Trail in Summit County. It enters the county at Georgia Pass, travels through the Golden Horseshoe near Tiger Road to the Gold Hill trailhead. From there, it runs over Gold Hill, and joins with Miner’s Creek Trail to cross the Ten Mile range to Copper Mountain. The trail then passes through the ski area and up Guller Creek past Janet’s Cabin to Searle Pass. For more information about the Continental Divide Trail, contact the Continental Divide Trail Alliance at (303) 838-3760, (888) 909-2382 or http://www.cdtrail.org.Harriet Hamilton can be reached at (970) 668-4628, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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