DENVER – The Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Board awarded funding on Thursday for its Protect Initiative, conservation easement transaction costs, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) Director’s Innovation Fund.
Over a three-year period, the Protect Initiative will invest $47 million in once-in-a-lifetime conservation opportunities in rural and urban areas of Colorado. Projects are evaluated on conservation values, urgency, amount of matching funds raised, and the potential to serve as a catalyst for future conservation projects. Read our releases from the June 2016 and June 2017 Protect grant award rounds.
GOCO’s conservation easement transaction costs grant program aims to remove the financial barrier and expand the amount of land preserved statewide, especially through projects that further efforts toward landscape-scale conservation and conservation on properties along waterways or containing water resources.
The CPW Director’s Innovation Fund is a partnership between GOCO and CPW to create a funding source for one-time, innovative projects that would not otherwise receive funding from either organization. CPW receives half of GOCO’s funding each year for statewide programs, wildlife, and state parks through an annual investment proposal, however many innovative, small-dollar projects fall outside current funding parameters.
Funded projects are listed in alphabetical order by grant program:
Sandstone Ranch Open Space Acquisition, $3.5 million grant to Douglas County
Sandstone Ranch is a 2,038-acre property that has long been on the county’s wish list for a new public open space area. The property borders Pike National Forest, has water rights dating back to the 1860s, and provides sweeping views of red rock formations, sloping meadows, and pine forests.
The county competed with developers and affluent private buyers eyeing the ranch for homesites, jumping at the chance to buy Sandstone to protect it for the public. The county had to act quickly at the beginning of 2018 to do this, using its entire open space acquisition budget and borrowing from the county’s general fund with the approval from the Board of Douglas County Commissioners. Now that Sandstone’s future is secure, the GOCO grant will allow Douglas County to replenish its funds for future conservation work.
CONSERVATION EASEMENT TRANSACTION COSTS
Elk Meadows Conservation Easement, $46,200 grant to Central Colorado Conservancy
Central Colorado Conservancy will acquire a conservation easement on the 300-acre Elk Meadows Ranch, located along the Collegiate Peaks Scenic Byway. Wildlife welfare is deeply important to the landowner, who wants to ensure the wildlife habitat on the ranch remains intact. The ranch provides critical habitat for deer, elk, and numerous other species. With increasing development in the surrounding area, working ranchland is becoming increasingly more valuable.
Estes Valley Land Trust Conservation Easement, $37,300 grant to Estes Valley Land Trust
With the help of GOCO funding, pending approval by the Estes Valley Land Trust Board of Directors and the Harmony Foundation Board of Directors, the land trust will acquire a conservation easement on a 28-acre property owned by the nonprofit. The property borders Rocky Mountain National Park near the Fall River Visitor Center and Entrance, where more than one million visitors entered the park last year. Protecting this land allows the surrounding views to remain unobstructed.
Merritt Ranch Conservation Legacy, $45,000 grant to Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT)
CCALT will invest GOCO funding to cover transaction costs associated with the conservation of the 2,600-acre Merritt Ranch, located in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. CCALT has already protected more than 2,255 acres of land on surrounding properties to make sure that the entire area will remain in productive agriculture, which greatly benefits the local economy.
The property also provides important habitat for mule deer, elk, and several other species. With the increase of subdivision development north of the ranch, conservation is essential to ensure the property stays in agriculture and maintains wildlife migration routes.
Minturn Boneyard, $33,399 grant to Eagle Valley Land Trust
EVLT will acquire a conservation easement on the 4.39-acre Minturn Boneyard Open Space, which is owned by the Town of Minturn. One quarter-mile of the property is located along the Eagle River, which is some of the last remaining riverfront land with public access in the town. It also has several walking trails and a fishing access point for public use. The town purchased the land with financial assistance from Eagle County in 2013 in order to protect public access to the river and other resources.
CPW DIRECTOR’S INNOVATION FUND
Area 14 Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), $18,054.37 grant to CPW’s Southeast Region
In southern Colorado, Area 14 will invest GOCO funding to purchase and install thermal and zooming cameras on an unmanned aerial system (UAS), or drone. The new camera system will be used for wildlife surveys and search and rescue, among other wildlife and recreation management tasks. The project is part of a test program to evaluate the effectiveness of UAS in assisting Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) with its ever-growing responsibilities.
CEW Paint, $9,995.58 grant to CPW’s Area 5
In Area 5, encompassing the Denver metro area, wildlife officers will pilot non-lethal hazing tactics for nuisance wildlife in an effort to reduce conflicts with people. CPW is eager to evaluate new, non-lethal methods that could be more effective in hazing wildlife and preventing them from becoming habituated nuisances to neighborhoods and people. Conductive Electronic Weapons (CEWs), or TASERs, have shown great promise in this area, and GOCO funding will help wildlife managers evaluate how effective they are by identifying and tracking nuisance animals.
Creede Youth Fishing Pond, $18,683 grant to Creede State Wildlife Area
Creede State Wildlife Area will invest GOCO funding to convert overgrown ponds to a youth-only fishing pond. The nearest public fishing lake is more than 20 miles away, and the newly funded project at the state wildlife area will build a kid-friendly pond within walking distance of the local public school. GOCO funding will help CPW rehabilitate a well that has not been used for at least 30 years. The agency owns water rights to the well, but it needs a new pump and water supply line to become operational again.
Durango MAPS, $20,000 grant to CPW Southwest Field Operations
GOCO funding will ensure that the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) program will continue for the full five years of the study of bird populations at Oxbow Park and Preserve in Durango. Bird counts have been occuring at Oxbow since 2014, and GOCO funding will make sure it continues through 2020, meeting the full five years MAPS requires to have statistically reliable information. Operating the MAPS station after construction has begun on a boat ramp and extending the Animas River Trail will also help gauge the impact on birds, which will be used to guide further management and construction decisions.
Jackson Lake State Park - Dark Skies, $20,000 grant to Jackson Lake State Park
With the help of GOCO funding, Jackson Lake will become the first state park in Colorado, and the only area east of I-25, to become certified by the International Dark Sky Association. Becoming Dark Sky-certified will benefit Jackson Lake State Park’s visitors, nearby residents, and the wildlife that calls the area home. The project will reduce utility costs, provide new outdoor recreation opportunities to better serve the public, and improve wildlife’s quality of life by reducing artificial light.
Meeker Fishing Pond - Circle Park, $20,000 grant to CPW Area 6
In northwestern Colorado, Area 6 will invest GOCO funds to transform a portion of the Meeker Power Ditch into a new fishing pond at Circle Park. The project will open up one acre of land and provide a consistent water supply to Circle Park Pond for public fishing access. Currently, the pond suffers from irregular waterflow, making for low-quality fish habitat. It also has limited public access around it, making it difficult for the public to fish and for CPW to host youth fishing clinics in the summer.
Ouray Bear Hazing Study, $1,639.60 grant to CPW Southwest Field Operations
CPW Field Operations will pilot non-lethal bear deterrence project in Ouray County with the help of GOCO funding. CPW is undertaking new research in hopes of reducing the need to take lethal action against bears that could turn into public safety risks. The research project will help CPW determine the most effective way to respond to public complaints about nuisance bears, testing new Conductive Electronic Weapons (CEWs), or TASERs, against current techniques. Wildlife officers will ultimately be able to tell whether hazing keeps bears from repeating nuisance behavior, and which kind of hazing is most effective.
Steamboat Lake State Park Groomer, $13,400 grant to Steamboat Lake State Park
Steamboat will invest GOCO funds in purchasing a new groomer to use on multi-use trails during the winter, making more trails more consistently accessible to the public for Nordic skiing. The state park currently shares grooming equipment with the Steamboat Lake Snow Club. Often trails go ungroomed because there is not enough snow for the heavy equipment, or it is tied up grooming motorized trails with the snow club. With the help of GOCO funding, the state park will purchase smaller, less expensive equipment to make trail grooming more efficient.
Sylvan Lake Schoolhouse, $20,000 grant to Sylvan Lake State Park
Sylvan Lake is partnering with the Eagle County Historical Society and HistoriCorps to stabilize the Upper Brush Creek Schoolhouse, which is on the verge of collapse. The schoolhouse was originally built in the early 1900s and is one of the only remaining one-room schoolhouses in Colorado on public land. A grassroots, community-driven effort succeeded in getting the schoolhouse listed with the National Register of Historic Places in 2015, but the structure is in dire need of repairs before it can no longer be part of educational programs and guided hikes.