New Eagle County program offers ways to help out land and rivers with voluntary 1 percent fee on merchant transactions | SummitDaily.com

New Eagle County program offers ways to help out land and rivers with voluntary 1 percent fee on merchant transactions

Pam Boyd / Vail Daily

Hardscrabble Ranch is a 1,540-acre parcel the Eagle Valley Land Trust preserved in 2017 in partnership with Eagle County Open Space, The Conservation Fund, Great Outdoors Colorado, the town of Eagle and Eagle Ranch Wildlife Committee. All donations received from the new 1% for Lands and River fundraiser will be used directly by the Land Trust and the Eagle River Watershed Council within the Eagle River and Colorado River watersheds.

EAGLE COUNTY — When surveyed about their community values, Eagle County residents often cite open lands and riparian corridors as priorities.

Now, a new fundraising program launched by the Eagle Valley Land Trust and the Eagle River Watershed Council gives residents and visitors a way to financially support those values in a way that their pocketbooks will barely notice.

The 1% for Land and Rivers initiative is pretty self-explanatory. The organizations are reaching out to area merchants willing to impose a voluntary 1 percent fee on transactions, with the money going to the two sponsoring nonprofits. Participating businesses will display signs noting their participation in the program, and customers will have the option to opt out of the payment at the time of purchase.

Jim Daus, executive director of the Eagle Valley Land Trust, was inspired to launch the program in Eagle County after studying similar efforts in the Crested Butte and Buena Vista areas. Program participants in those communities told Daus that customers were overwhelmingly supportive of their programs and, during their operation, only one or two people a year ask to opt out of paying the 1 percent fee.

“This is a way for everyone in the community to give a little bit,” Daus said. At 1 percent, the fee is a penny on a $1 purchase, a dime on a $10 percent or a dollar and on $100.

ANYONE CAN HELP

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Every type of business is welcome to participate, and the Land Trust and Watershed Council are willing to help get the program started. In addition to providing signs for both the business front entry and cash register area that announce participation in 1% for Land and Rivers, program volunteers can work with business owners to launch the effort. Program literature notes that point-of-sale setup should be very simple, but if a merchant has issues, then the program can provide a $100 credit if a business needs to contact its bookkeeper or other professional point-of-sale representative.

“Don’t overthink the opt-out. It is very rare that people opt out (typically less than one customer per five years). There are several simple ways other businesses handle this. For businesses that provide bids and invoices, we’ll provide sample language showcasing your support of land and rivers,” the program statement says.

All donations received from 1% for Lands and River will be used directly by the Land Trust and the Watershed Council within the Eagle River and Colorado River watersheds to help fund their objectives of promoting clean water and responsible growth through preservation of open space, agricultural operations, fish and wildlife habitat, public recreation, scenic vistas and significant natural resources. The organizations are proud to share the work they have done with landowners and local, state and federal agencies to help identify and protect land and water with key values.

More than 7,700 acres of Eagle County land have been placed in conservation easements, while many projects are currently underway that will significantly add to this acreage. More than 40 miles of stream banks and fish habitat have been restored and protected. Every year, more than 5,000 points of water quality data are collected and analyzed in an effort to stay ahead of threats to stream health.

COMMUNITY STATEMENT

Beyond the dollars, organizers believe the program will demonstrate community solidarity behind conservation efforts.

“It helps us reach out to businesses who want to show their support for our natural resources and who want to take an active role,” said Bergen Tjossem, communications and fundraising coordinator at the Eagle Valley Land Trust.

“Protecting healthy rivers and open spaces in our community is simply good business. It is an investment in the future of our economy and community,” notes the 1% for Land and Rivers program statement. “We are fortunate to live in an area where the natural beauty attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year.”

With estimates from the Colorado State Demography Office indicating the population in Eagle County will double over the next 25 years, the Eagle Valley Land Trust and the Eagle River Watershed Council believe that it is critical to focus on conservation issues today.

“Open lands and rivers are critical resources in our valley,” said Holly Loff, executive director of the Eagle River Watershed Council. “They both represent not only what we love about the valley but they also support our economy.”

She noted the business community has been supportive of the plan.

“We think the program is going to be huge,” Loff said.

In fact, other local community nonprofits may get a boost from 1% for Lands and Rivers.

SHARING THE WEALTH

As they launch their new program, the land trust and watershed council have pledged that once 1% for Lands and Rivers hits the $100,000 annual threshold, a portion of the funds generated will be allocated to a grant program. Grants will be available to organizations and entities working on land and water conservation projects in Eagle County. So, for example, if a nonprofit that works with local youth wants to plan a tree-planting or riparian restoration work day, then it could apply for funding from the program.

“We want this to be something for the whole community, not just for our two nonprofits,” Daus said.

FOR MORE INFO …

Information about 1% for Lands and Rivers, including an agreement form for businesses interested in signing up to participate, can be found at http://www.landandrivers.org. Information about Eagle Valley Watershed Council can be found at http://www.erwc.org, and information about the Eagle Valley Land Trust can be found at http://www.evlt.org.

REACHING OUT

The 1% for Land and Rivers program is currently building is Founding Circle — the first 10 retailers who sign up for the program. So far, the circle is half drawn with five participants:

• Minturn Anglers

• Sunrise Minturn Cafe

• Colorado Meat Co.

• Alpine Quest Sports

• Bonfire Brewing

As time goes on and more and more businesses participate, Jim Daus, executive director of the Eagle Valley Land Trust, said members of the Founding Circle will continued to be recognized as the merchants who made the program possible.

“I am certain we will look bank fondly on our Founding Circle,” he said.