Protecting productive, hard-won agricultural lands and their natural systems is the life work of Lucy Waldo, new conservation director of Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas. Waldo’s affinity for distinct Colorado ranchlands and the people who work them has moved her to facilitate conservation easements.
“We need to pay attention to protecting the natural resources that we depend on,” Waldo said. She calls this “one of our fundamental goals as humans.”
Before joining the Land Trust, Waldo served as director of the Gunnison Ranchland Conservation Legacy for 11 years. There, she helped ranching families complete 25 conservation easements that protected nearly 10,000 acres of productive ranchland. Waldo was also director of the Colorado Water Workshop, a western water policy conference hosted by Western State College in Gunnison.
Waldo sees conservation easements on private lands as serving landowners, the surrounding community and, ultimately, humankind. Conservation easements are voluntary, coming from landowners, and another expression of private-property rights.
“It’s a win-win solution,” Waldo said. “We need to value the agricultural lands and natural areas that provide food, water, shelter and clean air for people and other creatures.”
Waldo grew up in Maryland, where her father worked with dairy cattle at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. Her mother was a family counselor.
Waldo came to Colorado in 1980 to attend Colorado State University in Fort Collins. She earned degrees in agricultural extension education and history.
Waldo found her career path in the early ’90s while working with a community group in Gunnison, focusing on a grand vision for the valley.
“There was a strong consensus to see working ranchlands continue to be a part of the community’s future,” Waldo said.
Despite her years of experience, Waldo is challenged by every conservation easement. Keeping up with ever-changing legal requirements, tax benefits and finding funding is only part of the process. Each parcel of land has unique characteristics and landowners have specific needs and desires.
“I find it especially satisfying to listen to people’s stories of how their families worked diligently to create a productive farm or ranch,” Waldo said.
“Generations have devoted themselves to improving their operations and taking care of their land. You can hear the pride and love in their voices. Helping landowners conserve the land they love is incredibly satisfying.”
Waldo is rooted in the central Rockies, her home for more than 20 years. Her work takes her to Lake, Chaffee, Fremont, Saguache and western Park counties.
“I have great respect for people who work the land in this challenging climate,” Waldo said. “I watch my neighbors haying and see the long hours, sweat and dedication that go into the year’s crop. The lush abundance of the meadows in August depends on the hard work of the ranchers, and the recurring gifts of the water and the soil.”
Waldo spends her free time riding horses, hiking and cross-country skiing.
“I hope that I will always keep this awareness of how blessed we are and how important it is to take care of the world,” Waldo said.
Swan is OSM/VISTA project coordinator for Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas.