National Forest Foundation and Vail Resorts Re-envision Partnership in Colorado to Support Local Stewardship Priorities
The White River National Forest (WRNF) and those who enjoy it have lots to celebrate this Earth Day. The National Forest Foundation (NFF), in partnership with Vail Resorts, is expanding its regional capacity to further engage Summit County and Eagle County, Colorado communities in setting priorities for restoration projects and trail work supported by the WRNF Ski Conservation Fund.
Since its inception in 2007, the Ski Conservation Fund has invested over $7 million in 31 community organizations to support on-the-ground work benefiting the WRNF. Funds are generated via an innovative partnership between the NFF, Vail Resorts (Breckenridge, Keystone, Beaver Creek, and Vail), Copper Mountain, and Arapahoe Basin. Guests of these resorts are able to donate a dollar or more to the NFF when purchasing online tickets and season passes or staying at their lodges. The NFF then provides a 50-cent match on every dollar donated by guests and oversees the investment of those funds in forest stewardship projects on the WRNF.
Now, through this re-envisioned partnership, the National Forest Foundation and Vail Resorts will work closely with local representatives in Eagle and Summit Counties and the Eagle-Holy Cross and Dillon Ranger Districts to ensure funds support the most critical projects in each community. The NFF will establish two community advisory committees to recommend high-priority stewardship projects for funding, partnering with the U.S. Forest Service and other essential organizations to implement the selected projects.
“Through our longstanding partnership with the National Forest Foundation, we’re preserving the places we love for future generations through on-the-ground conservation efforts,” said Nicky DeFord, director of community investment at Vail Resorts. “This revamped commitment is a truly collaborative effort to protect and restore our public lands, prioritizing what’s needed most in each community as we turn our generous guest donations into action.”
To support this effort, the NFF, in partnership with Vail Resorts, has established a new position dedicated to the 2.3 million acre WRNF. Jamie Werner, NFF’s new WRNF Stewardship Coordinator, has previously worked in partnership with the WRNF and brings a wealth of experience in community-based collaborative restoration work and project management to the position.
“I’m honored to be furthering the NFF’s mission to promote the health and public enjoyment of the forests that so many of us in the region hold dear. It’s really exciting to take a step back and consider how we as a forest-wide community can address the challenges facing our public lands,” Werner said.
“The White River National Forest has benefitted tremendously from the many partner projects funded through the White River National Forest Ski Conservation Fund. Its creation 14 years ago provided an innovative way for the public to support a wide variety of our partners who work to benefit the forest,” said White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams. “These changes to the program will help local communities be more involved in setting priorities for projects across the landscape.”
The NFF is proud of the many forest restoration and recreation projects the Ski Conservation Fund has supported across the White River National Forest over the years and we’re thrilled to be working with local communities to increase the impact of this initiative.
Community priorities for the first round of projects supported by the re-envisioned Ski Conservation Fund will be established in summer 2021 and projects will be implemented in 2022.