Courtney Bennett started working at the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT) in the spring of 2014 through the Colorado Open Lands Fellowship Program. Following her fellowship Courtney transitioned into a project management position and eventually took over CCALT’s conservation easement monitoring program, ensuring that CCALT’s 300+ conservation easements were monitored annually. After nearly five years of work at CCALT, Courtney has decided to pursue her passion of conserving open space with Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) as their new Land Protection Grants Officer. Courtney is leaving behind a strong impact on CCALT’s staff, Colorado landowners, and our conservation partners across the state. To celebrate the time Courtney devoted to CCALT, we’ve asked each of the current CCALT staff members to share their favorite memory of her. We hope you enjoy them!
One of my favorite memories of Courtney’s time at CCALT was her interview, which ended up being an eight-hour road trip through South Park and Salida with Wade Shelton from the Trust for Public Land. The interview itself included extensive questioning from both Wade and I as we navigated the icy winter road conditions. This was followed by an intense landowner meeting in Salida that included the landowner throwing back shots of whiskey. Courtney handled herself well throughout, and to my surprise was even more eager to work for CCALT afterward. I am certain this had to be one of the most challenging, interesting, and perilous job interviews of all time. I will add that in retrospect, the job interview seemed to be preparing her for the many challenges she would eventually face in her role at CCALT, including handling difficult landowner situations, perilous travel conditions, and intense easement negotiations.
“Five Years is a Long Time”
I have two key memories with Courtney, and I wanted to share them both. The first: One year ago while Courtney and I were checking a boundary of a conserved ranch with a sketchy subdivision, we almost got attacked by an angry Akita. I was 4 months pregnant at the time and was not worried at all. I told Courtney I would simply kick it in the head if it came at us. Courtney had a more reasonable approach to the situation, which was to get the heck out of there!
My second memory is of Courtney’s project work with CCALT. Five years is a long time and Courtney saw quite a bit of conservation successes in her five years with CCALT. Her two biggest achievements in my mind are the closing of two conservation easements along the Yampa River just outside of Steamboat, and the closing of three conservation easements along Poncha Pass. Her heart was always with the families she was helping. She was a tireless advocate for them and worked hard to make sure conservation solutions worked for their operations.
“From Ski Slopes to Bartending”
Despite the many hours spent in the office and at meetings with Courtney over the past several years, many of my most memorable moments with her are from out of the office. Hours spent driving around the state and one flight down to Trinidad for two easement closings. We always managed to squeeze at least one ski day a season in, sometimes under the guise of monitoring the conservation easement that overlaps with Sunlight Ski Area. Regardless of where you were or the task at hand, Courtney was always enthusiastic and willing to help. One year at a small event, Courtney opened every bottle of wine we served, so I didn’t have to showcase my poor corkscrew skills. The next year at the same event, we were both flummoxed by the rabbit (a more advanced wine opener).
“You’ll need the Bad Elf”
Since I had not monitored a conservation easement in nearly 25 years, Courtney happily agreed to show me the ropes. I knew I was facing a steep curve when she said I would need the Bad Elf. She smiled at my perplexed look and went on to explain that the elf was a GPS unit that connects to the iPad mapping function via Bluetooth. Steep curve indeed. After a day in the field with Courtney, monitoring a few easements and getting the hang of the technology, I was off and rolling, albeit slowly, on my own. Thanks Courtney for wearing a smile and showing lots of patience while you taught this old dog some new technology tricks. I’ll miss you!
As one of the Fellows for CCA and CCALT, I am partly responsible for filing monitoring reports after they are completed. Although this isn’t the most glamorous task, I always appreciated the extra time and care Courtney took as we sorted through the database and filing systems. Courtney made treasure-hunting through these files enjoyable and never hesitated to help! Thanks Courtney for everything and cheers to your new adventure!
In 2017, Maggie, Molly, Courtney and myself signed up for “Adventure School” at The Bluffs east of Denver. The goal was to build upon our shooting skills (or lack thereof) and go upland bird hunting. Several of us had firearm experience, but none of us had any experience actually hunting, or even shooting a moving target for that matter. To everyone’s surprise, Courtney who had the least gun experience of everyone, was the first one to hit a clay pigeon! Not a single bird was shot that day, but even in the cold it was a ton of fun and the never ending laughs kept us warm.
In 2014, Courtney and I road-tripped to Salida for the annual CCALT BBQ – the first for both of us! Courtney drove (she loves to drive) and we talked during the entire trip there and back, getting to know one another and solving the world’s problems. It was a fun trip with a fun traveling companion!
CCALT has a small and humble fleet of work vehicles. Staff is able to use these vehicles to conduct our work in the field and to travel to and from industry meetings. A person could always tell when Courtney had been in the field or out to meetings, because when you would climb into the work vehicle you’d find the seat so close to the steering wheel you’d be in danger of smashing both of your knees! We will all miss those seat adjustments!
“Junk Food King”
Courtney always tried to be a healthy eater, but being the “junk food king” I was always able to get her to eat the extra glazed donut holes at the bottom of my bag of regular donuts.
I joined the CCALT team this past July, fresh out of graduate school and eager to start a new position with CCALT. During my onboarding process I gained a better understanding for just how much there is to learn about conservation easements in the state of Colorado. Needless to say, I slowly began to feel overwhelmed. Courtney was responsible for orienting me to the tasks and responsibilities of the Project and Stewardship team and ended up fielding no less than one hundred questions from me that day. Thank you Courtney for your patience and knowledge. It is apparent that you will be missed in the CCALT office, but we wish you the best on your next adventure!
Here’s to your new adventure, Courtney. Good luck!