Rebecca Jewett puts her love of the Rocky Mountains to work as executive director of the Palmer Land Trust.
It’s a passion that grows from her family’s long presence in the shadow of the mountains.
“I’m actually a fifth-generation Coloradan on both sides of my family,” she said. “My great-great grandparents came to Central City and to the San Luis Valley.”
A Colorado College graduate, Jewett received a master’s degree in environmental and natural resources law and policy from the University of Denver. In 2005, she went to work for the Rocky Mountain Field Institute, a hands-on conservation and stewardship organization based in Colorado Springs.
“I had volunteered for RMFI in college,” sad Jewett, “hard, physical work building trails and moving rocks. I love the high alpine environment, and Pikes Peak is a beacon — it kept pulling me back.”
Jewett stayed at RMFI for nine years, rising from program coordinator to program director to executive director. In June 2014, she joined the Palmer Land Trust.
Founded in 1977, the organization has protected more than 100,000 acres in the Pikes Peak Region and southeastern Colorado from development. The trust uses a variety of tools to preserve farms, ranches, wildlife migration corridors and landscapes.
While the Pikes Peak Region is blessed with vast tracts of publicly owned Bureau of Land Management and national forest lands, the region is also losing privately owned land to development faster than any comparatively sized region in the country, she said.
“You have to involve the private sector, to work around the edges and close the gaps,” said Jewett. “We work cooperatively with landowners so that ranches can remain ranches, farms can remain farms. We usually work to create conservation easements rather than acquire land directly.”
The Land Trust is currently concentrating on two areas of interest: the Banning-Lewis Ranch and the lower Arkansas Valley.
“We’ve been engaged in discussions with [Banning Lewis Ranch landowner] Nor’wood,” Jewett said. “We’d like to see a balance between human needs and the natural environment. It’s a really important project — our identity is wrapped up in the natural landscape, but we look to the west, to the mountains. Looking to the east is important too, so perhaps we hope that Banning-Lewis can have public open space and even ranch lands.”
In the past, Jewett explained, preservation deals required that farm water rights be used only on the farm — temporary use agreements with urban providers weren’t permitted.
“We need more flexibility,” said Jewett, “and try to take future droughts into account. We’re dealing with a really uncertain future.”
But whatever the future holds, you can expect Rebecca Jewett to be part of it.
Jewett previously served on the PLT and Trails and Open Space Coalition boards. She’s presently the treasurer of the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts.
“I don’t see myself leaving Colorado,” she said, “and land conservation is my passion. There’s so much to be done, especially in merging nonprofit and for-profit enterprises. There’s a lot we can do in more innovative ways.”
When she’s not working, Jewett is in the mountains.
“I started climbing Fourteeners when I was 10 or 11,” she said, “and I have 14 to go, but they’re the hardest ones! So we’re doing 13ers now — maybe we’ll aim for 100 of the 500 highest summits instead of the 100 highest.”
And in the winter?
“I ski the bumps,” she said. “Wherever you go, you can always find bumps.”
-— John Hazlehurst