Sustainable Settings, a research organization dedicated to environmental sustainability practices, recently received a $2.1 million gift from Aspen resident Adam Lewis and his father, Peter B. Lewis.
The Lewis family’s generosity doesn’t end there. The father-and-son philanthropists have promised to kick in an additional $900,000 "challenge gift" if Sustainable Settings can raise another $2.7 million from outside donors.
"With their willingness to contribute one dollar for every three dollars that we are able to raise, they want to encourage others to participate and help Sustainable Settings reach all of our campaign goals," said organization co-founder Brook Le Van.
The Lewis family’s initial grant will help Sustainable Settings – founded by Brook and Rose Le Van in 1997 – establish its headquarters at the 245-acre Thompson Creek Ranch south of Carbondale. The ranch, currently under the supervision of The Conservation Fund and Pitkin County Open Space and Trails, will be turned over to Sustainable Settings in March.
The Lewis’ gift will also allow the organization to create a $1 million endowment fund for continued care of the ranch land, which is nestled in the Crystal River Valley and offers sweeping vistas of Mount Sopris.
"I told Adam and Peter that this is also a huge gift to the county, and to the people who know that this is going to be locked up and protected. It’s a huge deal for us," Brook Le Van said.
Sustainable Settings’ quest to teach sustainability practices extends to experiential education opportunities for children as well as adult workshops. The organization also enlists the help of other local eco-groups to research renewable energy sources and "green development" – both practices that will be demonstrated at the ranch.
The ranch will become a home base for a number of Sustainable Settings projects, including a model of what Le Van has dubbed "the new American farm." The organization’s belief in ecologically balanced agricultural practices, such as alternative forms of crops and livestock, will be demonstrated on the ranch property.
"We will establish perennial farming arrangements in search of viable high-altitude semi-arid food, herb and fiber crops," boasts a Sustainable Settings brochure outlining plans for the ranch. "The entire ranch will be used as a teaching laboratory and as a model of green development."
The Lewis grant will also help Sustainable Settings protect the critical wildlife corridor provided by the ranch, Le Van said. Animals such as bald eagles, owls, hawks, bear, elk, mule deer, bobcat and fox call the Thompson Creek Ranch their home.
The Lewis family is known for its numerous generous contributions, Le Van said. Peter B. Lewis, chairman of The Progressive Corp., has granted multimillion-dollar gifts to Princeton University, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the American Civil Liberties Union.
[Jennifer Davoren’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]