By Matt Kroschel

VAIL, Colo. (CBS4)– The honor of being the first certified sustainable mountain resort destination in the world goes to Vail.

Vail is the first destination certified to the Mountain IDEAL sustainable destination standard.

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Additionally, Vail’s adherence to the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s (GSTC) destination criteria makes it the first Certified Sustainable Destination in the United States certified by a GSTC-Accredited certifying body, Green Destinations.

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The conditional Green Destinations certification is the result of a multi-year partnership between the Town of Vail, Walking Mountains Science Center, Sustainable Travel International, Vail Resorts, U.S. Forest Service and others.

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“Recognizing that mountain destinations are acutely threatened by climate change, waning freshwater resources and seasonal tourism peaks, Vail has made important strides in balancing the needs of its delicate ecosystem with the wants of travelers and the local community,” said Geoff Bolan, CEO of Sustainable Travel International.

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Like many mountain resort destinations, Vail’s economy is highly dependent on tourism. While the town is home to just under 5,500 local residents, it welcomes 2.8 million guests annually.

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Since the ski area’s founding in 1962, and the Town’s incorporation in 1966, Vail has focused on balancing tourism growth with local environmental and community needs.

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It has taken many years to work towards the sustainable destination certification, which builds upon Vail’s long history of environmental conservation. Notable past achievements include the protection of open space being written into the Town Charter in 1972, creation of the Vail Nature Center and Preserve in 1975, creation of the 1 percent Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) in 1979 which improves parks and open space for recreation opportunities and further supports environmentally sustainable practices, and adoption of the Comprehensive Open Lands Plan in 1994.

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More recent achievements include its proactive approach to restoring the water quality of Gore Creek and Vail Resort’s ambitious commitment to a zero net operating footprint by 2030.

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“Over the years, the Town of Vail and community partners have taken steps to embed sustainability into the destination’s operations and throughout the entire visitor experience,” said Kristen Bertuglia, environmental sustainability manager for the Town of Vail. “As a result, tourism development in Vail happens in a manner that protects nature, improves residents’ well-being and preserves cultural heritage.”

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“Alongside the tremendous leadership displayed by our community, Vail Resorts is well on our way to carry out our ambitious Commitment to Zero by 2030,” said Doug Lovell, chief operating officer for Vail Mountain. “We look forward to working alongside our fellow sustainability leaders to achieve both our company and community goals and are proud of the accomplishments that we’ve achieved so far through our partnership, including this prestigious certification.”

Matt Kroschel covers news throughout Colorado working from the CBS4 Mountain Newsroom. Send story ideas to mrkroschel@cbs.com and connect with him on Twitter @Matt_Kroschel.

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