DENVER – On Friday, the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Board awarded $4,943,751 million in grants to seven critical land conservation projects across the state, permanently conserving 8,591 acres of land.
GOCO’s open space grant program funds private and public land conservation projects that give outdoor recreationists a place to play (or simply enjoy the view), protect wildlife habitat, safeguard the state’s water supply and watersheds, and sustain local agriculture.
This round of GOCO-funded open space projects will leverage $11.3 million in matching funds, with landowners donating more than $8.2 million of their land’s value to ensure its protection from development.
Funded projects will protect approximately 21.2 miles of rivers and streams, provide public recreation access on 7,565 acres in seven counties, preserve significant senior water rights, and conserve 7,363 acres of habitat for 14 rare and imperiled species.
Funded projects are as follows:
Alamosa Riparian Park Fee Acquisition, $695,000 grant to Western Rivers Conservancy (WRC)
The City of Alamosa, in partnership with WRC, will acquire 206 acres of land along a 1.5-mile stretch of the Upper Rio Grande River, which will help meet community demand for more outdoor trails and recreation opportunities. The property includes 170 acres of narrowleaf cottonwood riverside woodlands, which provide habitat for rare species and are recognized by the Colorado Natural Heritage Program as a priority conservation area.
Acequia Conservation Initiative-Protecting Colorado’s Oldest Agricultural Communities Phase II, $612,702 grant to Colorado Open Lands (COL)
As part of its second phase of the Acequia Conservation Initiative in the San Luis Valley, COL will permanently protect four properties, covering roughly 1,190 acres, and their acequias, which are communal irrigation canals and ditches that predate Colorado’s statehood. In addition, the easements will protect three miles of the Rio Culebra, which provides important habitat for rare and endangered species, including the Rio Grande cutthroat trout, the Southwestern willow flycatcher, and the bald eagle.
Conservation Easement in Chaffee County, $650,000 grant to The Trust for Public Land (TPL)
TPL will place a conservation easement on 408 acres of a working cattle ranch and its water rights, protecting them in perpetuity. Protecting the property, which includes 2.5 miles of streams and 98 acres of wetlands, will add to an existing corridor of conservation easements and public land, safeguarding an important migratory corridor for wildlife and preventing subdivision and habitat fragmentation. It will also help sustain a viable agricultural operation into the future and contribute to the health of the Arkansas River Watershed. The ranch is part of the scenic foreground for many of the 12 “14ers” found in Chaffee County, viewable from the Collegiate Peaks Scenic and Historic Byway.
Welborn Ranch, $555,000 grant to Douglas Land Conservancy
The Trust for Public Land, together with the Colorado Cattlemen's Agricultural Land Trust and the Douglas Land Conservancy, will acquire a conservation easement on 830 acres of Welborn Ranch, one of the last remaining, large working ranches in Douglas County. Among other things, this easement will ensure that the ranch’s water rights continue to provide a healthy and diverse wildlife forage and migration corridor. Welborn Ranch features three miles of Russell Gulch, a unique canyon habitat, and 114.5 acres of wetland and waterside areas that support over 50 bird species, eight threatened and endangered species, and more than 14 species of Greatest Conservation Need, as well as various big game species. This collaborative conservation effort will also provide additional programmed public recreation opportunities.
Jefferson County Open Space and City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks Lippincott Ranch Joint Land Acquisition, $1,000,000 grant to Jefferson County
Jefferson County Open Space (JCOS) and City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) are collaborating on the joint acquisition of the 424-acre Lippincott Ranch. Lippincott Ranch is part of the federally designated Front Range Mountain Backdrop-Foreground Preservation Area and is considered by the Colorado Natural Heritage Program to be a high biodiversity area. It includes a range of habitats from wetlands and waterside habitat to sagebrush and tallgrass prairie and is home to various rare and sensitive plant and animal species.
The land provides buffer to and scenic views from public roads and existing open space, adding to an existing 86,000 acres of locally conserved and public lands. Project partners will work together to determine future uses, including the potential for public trail recreation.
Knorr Ranch Conservation Easement, $866,049 grant to Summit County
Summit County and Colorado Cattlemen's Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT) partnered with two neighboring landowners to form the Knorr Ranch Conservation Partnership and place 1,123 acres of lakefront ranchland into conservation easement. Knorr Ranch is located in the Lower Blue River Valley at the northern end of Summit County, adjacent to Green Mountain Reservoir. The property includes irrigated hay meadows and sagebrush uplands, as well as 50 acres of wetlands, and makes up a significant part of the visible shoreline of the reservoir. It is the foreground of the Eagles Nest Wilderness and the Gore Range and is visible to travelers on State Highway 9. Its potential for future public access and recreation is to be determined.
Saguache and San Luis Creeks Conservation Legacy, $565,000 grant to Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT)
CCALT will place conservation easements on Pheasant Valley Ranch and Saguache Creek Ranch, protecting 1.4 miles of San Luis Creek and 5.8 miles of Saguache Creek and contributing to watershed conservation efforts across the valley. The conserved properties will add on to 17 miles of existing conservation along the Saguache Creek corridor, and will connect to 415,000 acres of conserved and public lands, including BLM lands, National Forest, Wilderness Area, and the Great Sand Dunes National Park.
Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers, and open spaces. GOCO’s independent board awards competitive grants to local governments and land trusts, and makes investments through Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Created when voters approved a Constitutional Amendment in 1992, GOCO has since funded more than 5,000 projects in all 64 counties of Colorado without any tax dollar support. Visit GOCO.org for more information.