Ski Conservation Fund provides $675K in grants to Summit, Eagle nonprofits | SummitDaily.com

Ski Conservation Fund provides $675K in grants to Summit, Eagle nonprofits

The Gore Range Trail in the Eagles Nest Wilderness near Silverthorne. The National Forest Foundation, in partnership with the ski areas in Summit and Eagle counties, has given $675,450 in grants in 2019 to help preserve trails and wilderness in the White River National Forest.
Hugh Carey / hcarey@summitdaily.com

FRISCO — White River National Forest is an outdoor wonderland, with world-class trails and campgrounds in a still-pristine wilderness that draws 9 million visitors a year. That makes White River the most visited national forest in the nation.

But with more visitors every year comes a lot of hard, expensive work to keep trails maintained and accessible. The same goes for the annual game of whack-a-mole volunteers and local authorities play with invasive weeds sprouting up around the forest.

For the past 12 years, the National Forest Foundation has partnered with local ski areas and the U.S. Forest Service to fund volunteer and government organizations’ work through the White River National Forest Ski Conservation Fund.

This year, the fund is giving $675,450 in grants to 14 forest health nonprofits and programs in Summit and Eagle counties, with $1.1 million in matching or in-kind contributions from the nonprofits and their volunteers.

The conservation fund is made up of voluntary donations from patrons who stay in ski area lodging or purchase lift tickets at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, Copper Mountain Resort and Vail Resorts’ properties at Breckenridge, Keystone, Beaver Creek and Vail.

The National Forest Foundation, a nonprofit partner to the U.S. Forest Service created by Congress in 1992, provides a 50 cent match to each dollar donated by ski area patrons.

Since 2007, the fund has provided more than $6.6 million in grants to local nonprofits for on-the-ground conservation projects in the White River National Forest.

One of the beneficiaries is Friends of the Dillon Ranger District, a forest stewardship nonprofit that works to build and maintain trails in Summit County’s neck of the White River National Forest.

Michael Connolly, executive director of the group, said the conservation fund gave the group $100,000 in its latest round of grants.

“We very much appreciate the amount of money we get from the Ski Conservation Fund and look forward to continue this partnership,” Connolly said.

The grant will go toward more boots-on-the-ground trail work across Summit, ensuring continuing accessibility and safety, Connolly said.

“We probably would not be able to do the breadth of work we do without the conservation fund,” he said.

Emily Olsen, the National Forest Foundation’s program manager for Colorado, said the foundation seeks to support exactly that kind of work.

“That kind of on-the-ground, getting your hands dirty, tangible work is very important to the mission of the National Forest Foundation,” Olsen said.

She said the partnership with the ski areas reflects the passion the organizations have for natural treasures like the White River National Forest.

“The capacity provided by these organizations to enhance the Forest Service’s mission is critical,” Olsen said. “That’s especially true in Summit County, where use of forest is skyrocketing.”

At a glance

2019 Ski Conservation Fund grant recipients:

  • Colorado Mountain Club: Flat Tops Wilderness Trail maintenance and volunteer project
  • Eagle River Watershed Council: Upper Piney River watershed restoration
  • Eagle Summit Wilderness Alliance: suppression of noxious weeds in three wilderness areas
  • Friends of the Dillon Ranger District: Forest Stewards Program and the Tenderfoot Trail system improvements
  • Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers: volunteer projects
  • Rocky Mountain Youth Corps: empowering future leaders through service partnerships
  • The Greenlands Reserve: ecological enhancement of community wildfire breaks and campgrounds on the White River National Forest
  • Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association: Eagle County Adopt a Trail Program and North Trail restoration
  • Walking Mountains Science Center: natural resource internship and Community Conservation Program
  • Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado: White River National Forest volunteer stewardship investments
  • Wilderness Workshop: Habitat Restoration Program
  • Wildlands Restoration Volunteers: Hippo Trail community reroute project
  • Mesa Youth Services: East Zone invasive plant control
  • Summit County: East Zone invasive plant control

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