Travis Custer, a dedicated local ag man and conservationist, has been tapped to lead the Montezuma Land Conservancy as executive director.
He previously worked as an agricultural technician with the High Desert Conservation District, and is a board supervisor for the Mancos Conservation District.
He has a background in agricultural sciences, outdoor education and environmental policy, and operates a small farm near Mancos.
At High Desert, Custer developed programming for soil health and water efficiency to benefit local farmers. He has also been involved with the National Young Farmers Coalition and the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union.
Custer is already familiar with the Land Conservancy, helping to develop its new educational outreach project at Fozzie’s Farm. This year, more than 400 students gained hands-on experience on the farm.
With support from landowners, the Cortez-based Montezuma Land Conservancy implements permanent conservation easements on local farm land to prevent development and protect agricultural uses in perpetuity, even if the land sells.
“Losing our ag land to development is a real risk, and there is a real urgency to protect it for future generations,” Custer said. “I’m excited to join the Land Conservancy and help fulfill the mission of saving agriculture and open space through conservation easements.”
Since 1998, the conservancy has conserved more than 44,000 acres for 73 different landowners in Montezuma, Dolores and San Miguel counties. They have 10 potential easements in the pipeline for the next few years.
“In the next couple of decades, there is expected to be a huge turnover of farm lands,” Custer said. “Conservation easements can help keep farmlands viable into the next generation. They are an important tool for older landowners who would like to see their land continue as a farm or ranch, but don’t have heirs to take over.”
The value of open space and farms is matched only by the people who manage them, he said.
“The value I have for human relationships is an important piece for me, and making that personal connection is the only way to reach our goal of saving our beautiful open space and agricultural lands,” Custer said.
He replaces former executive director Jon Leibowitz, who recently took a job as executive director for the Northeast Wilderness Trust in Vermont.