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Local conservation news brought to you by AVLT.  | Est. 1967 | 
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In Memoriam: George Phillips

George and Nicole Phillips at their Hidden Creek West
property in Divide Creek.
George Phillips loved his horses, the mountains and the American West. At one time the youngest U.S. Attorney General, George served five U. S. presidents and was legendary for his defense of human rights and fight against corruption. One of his more famous cases is the subject of Mississippi Mud, by Pulitzer Prize winner Edward Humes. A much-honored and admired man, George loved to tell a story about how life at his Hidden Creek West property south of Silt (see article below) kept things in perspective. “I had to leave the ranch for a day and fly to Washington. I got back and said to the foreman, Joe Starbuck, ‘Do you know where I was last night? I was at the White House having dinner with the President!’ Joe was quiet for a couple of minutes and then said, ‘We need to go down to Jones Creek and get them bulls out of there.’ That’s how impressed he was!” (Click here to read George's obituary).
Private land conservation in Divide Creek


In Divide Creek, south of Silt, George Phillips led the charge the buy and conserve 640 acres threatened with 35-acre development. Hidden Creek West, named for George’s Sumrall, Miss. farm, is a western outpost of rugged hills framing a scenic basin. During the nearly 20 years he cared for this land – which lies in a deer and elk migration corridor – George reported herds of 150-200 elk regularly wintering on the property, along with deer, bear and mountain lion. George succeeded in conserving 300 acres before he died, and today we honor his vision and stewardship. But he was not alone.
 
Hidden Creek West is one of many open space gems in the wider basin of Divide Creek and Dry Hollow Creek that abuts the west side of the Thompson Divide and is home to some of Garfield County's most productive ranchland. Since 1997, 27 landowning families have banded together with AVLT to protect more than 6,600 acres of prime agricultural and rangeland throughout this region. It is a quiet story of a grassroots effort, but its success is writ large across the landscape.
See for yourself on the map above
Some 90,000 people annually use parts of the Rio Grande Trail, and most of them pass by land conserved through Aspen Valley Land Trust.  From busy Henry Stein Park, owned by AVLT since 1972, to the Jackson Ranch on the edge of Glenwood Springs, over 17 percent of the popular trail passes through or by more than 1,200 acres of AVLT-conserved land. Another 3,400 acres of conserved land is easily visible to hikers and bikers on the trail. 

A Great Partnership
In 1999, AVLT helped secure a grant from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) to enable the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES) to purchase Rock Bottom Ranch from the Cole Family, which resulted in the ranch being placed under conservation easement in two parts, ensuring that the land would forever remain in its agricultural and open space condition. At the time no one knew just how fruitful this 113-acre educational center and demonstration farm between Basalt and Carbondale would become. 
 
Situated between the Roaring Fork River and the Rio Grande Trail at the base of “The Crown,” the exposure of this mid-valley hub for environmental education has soared in recent years as ACES’ education program has grown and use of the Rio Grande Trail has increased. Just this past month AVLT, ACES, and GOCO completed an update to the conservation easement that, along with a new influx of grant funding, will enhance visitors’ experience by the addition of an eco-education trail and other features, while ensuring that the conservation values of the ranch will forever be protected.
THE FACTS:
Length of Rio Grande Trail along the property: 
4,850 feet


Length of Roaring Fork River protected: 3,400 feet

Riparian forest and wetlands protected:  78 acres

Number of student visitors in 2014: 
3,200
Wetlands of Rock Bottom Ranch
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Images: George and Nicole Phillips, Lois Abel Harlamert; Rock Bottom Ranch class, Tyler Stableford