40 Stories in 40 Weeks: the Land Trust’s 25th Anniversary

The beginning

In 1980, the Mesa Land Trust was founded by local landowners concerned about heightened development pressures presented by the oil-shale boom. John and Doris Butler, Harry Talbott, Blaine Derrick and Herman Allmaras spent many hours around the Butler’s coffee table forming and guiding the organization. The Land Trust began its work by preserving several small orchards on East Orchard Mesa and received its first three conservation easements in 1982.

The Land Trust was one of the nation’s first agricultural land trusts. Between 1980 and 1995, the Land Trust acquired eight easements on East Orchard Mesa, in Palisade, Grand Junction, and the Plateau Valley, totaling over 4,200 acres of land. For 15 years the Land Trust existed on the faith and hard work of its volunteer board of directors.

A decade of growth

With the receipt of a grant in 1995, the Land Trust was able to open an office, hire its first paid staff, and begin a proactive public outreach program. Since then, the pace of conservation and ability to respond to opportunities dramatically increased.

The Land Trust was able to develop new partnerships, such as the Community Separator Project with Mesa County and local municipalities, implement a joint project with The Nature Conservancy to protect wildlife habitat, river corridors and un-fragmented ranchland.

The Land Trust now employs 6 staff and has expanded from 5 to 17 Board members. Thanks to many generous landowners, 83 conservation easements have been completed, preserving over 43,000 acres in and around Mesa County.

Celebrating success

The Land Trust will be hosting a series of events in the coming year to celebrate our successes and thank our founders, supporters, landowners and partners.

Neighborhood parties will be held in some of our focus areas – Palisade, Glade Park and the Lower Valley. These will be casual celebrations and folks who live in these areas as well as those from other parts of the valley are encouraged to attend. Some may be on easement-protected properties. The first will be at Carlson Vineyards on Sunday evening, July 10. The other dates are yet to be confirmed, but will likely be late August and in September. Invitations will be sent out about a month prior to these events.

In the late fall, a more formal Founder’s Dinner will be held. It will honor and recognize the key people who started the Land Trust and had the vision and determination to grow it into the organization it is today. More information will follow and invitations will go out a month prior to the dinner.

The next 25 years

Without a doubt, Mesa County will continue to grow and change. With projections of over 200,000 residents before 2030, many places that are now open lands will be developed. The goal of the Mesa Land Trust is to preserve the most special of these places – critical wildlife and riparian habitat, viable blocks of orchards and vineyards, the most productive farm ground, important ranch landscapes and unique scenic vistas. Thanks to the vision of our founders, we can look forward to sharing many future land protection successes with our supporters and partners!

2020 Update

As we celebrate the 40th anniversary this year, we are grateful to the visionary founders who dedicated countless hours to the Land Trust. In 2008, after 28 years on the MLT Board of Directors, John Butler was the last board member to retire. Blaine Derrick passed away in 2012. 

Today, under the name Colorado West Land Trust, the Land Trust stewards currently over 500 conservation easements, totaling over 120,000 acres, across six western Colorado counties. Ten full time staff members are currently employed with offices in Grand Junction and Montrose. 

Over 600 donors provide individual and business support to our conservation efforts and each year dozens of volunteers support CWLT events and efforts to restore native plants and refurbish areas damaged during trail construction.