DENVER — On Dec. 13, 2023, Beth LaShell, Director of the Old Fort at Ft. Lewis College, received the Bloom Award from the Colorado State Land Board at the agency’s annual awards ceremony in Denver.
Created at statehood, the Colorado State Land Board stewards three million acres of trust land for the benefit of Colorado schools. In the past five years the agency has generated more than $1 billion for public schools by issuing surface leases for assorted uses. The State Land Board partners with more than 3,400 customers and grants four awards to exemplary lessees or partners annually.
This award is granted to a State Land Board lessee who has demonstrated exceptional stewardship practices. Award winners are recognized for their commitment to protecting the environment while maintaining profitable operations. The Bloom Stewardship Award winner is notable for their desire to leave the land in better shape for future generations. This award is named in recognition of former State Land Board Commissioner Mike Bloom for her tireless dedication to sound stewardship practices in support of the agency's beneficiaries.
“Stewardship matters to the Land Board because, frankly, it is our constitutional mandate,” said William Woolston, Field Operations Supervisor for the State Land Board. “We must steward the land we hold in trust so that it can earn money not only for today's beneficiaries, but also for future generations of beneficiaries.”
LaShell is the Director of the Old Fort at Hesperus and has worked there for nearly 40 years. The Old Fort is the original site of Fort Lewis College, located 16 miles southwest of Durango and just south of Hesperus. The land is now owned by the State Land Board but managed directly by Fort Lewis College.
LaShell’s responsibilities include oversight of day-to-day operations; financial management of the site, which includes cattle, hay and sustainable agriculture enterprises; and coordinating Fort Lewis College and community uses of the land. Among many programs at the Old Fort, LaShell created and leads a farmer training program that grows vegetables on three acres for the local community and raises grass-fed beef. She started in 2012 and her work is now being used as a model at other places.
“Our Board was able to see the fruits of her efforts when we visited the Old Fort last summer, meeting with some of the students and touring the gardens and greenhouses where some of the activities take place. It is a remarkable site,” said Woolston. “To say the trust land that Beth manages is well stewarded is an understatement.”
About the Colorado State Board of Land Commissioners: The Colorado State Land Board is a constitutionally created agency that manages a $4.4 billion endowment of assets for the intergenerational benefit of Colorado’s K-12 schoolchildren and public institutions. The agency is the second-largest landowner in Colorado and generates revenue on behalf of beneficiaries by leasing nearly three million surface acres and four million subsurface acres for agriculture, grazing, recreation, commercial real estate, rights-of-way, renewable energy, oil, gas, and solid minerals. The agency is entirely self-funded and receives no tax dollars.