It's no mystery why Colorado remains one of the fastest growing states in the nation. Breathtaking mountains, wide open spaces, bountiful wildlife, and weather that lets us play outdoors all year-long. What's not to like? Very little, apparently, as the state's exponentially-increasing population illustrates.

Colorado is home to more than five million people today, and three million more are expected by 2040. That means a lot more people on your favorite bike trail and in your neighborhood park, and a lot more ranches and farms disappearing to make way for new homes.

As Coloradans have increased in number, so has the need to protect what we love about Colorado's great outdoors. Fortunately, GOCO was created specifically to preserve, enhance and manage Colorado's parks, rivers, trails, open spaces and wildlife. In other words, we exist to help Colorado grow gracefully, something we've been doing for more than 20 years.

More local governments and land trusts are applying for GOCO grants than ever before as their community and conservation projects pile up. Our grant cycles have become increasingly competitive over the years, with funding requests far exceeding available funds. Requests for funding from our Local Government grant program alone this fall totaled $12.2 million, a figure that eclipses the $2.8 million we have available for grant awards to local governments.

While some applicants may find these numbers disheartening, we work hard to make your applications as competitive as possible, from offering free workshops and Q&A sessions, to one-on-one critiques of draft applications. And we work with applicants to resubmit projects that aren't awarded funding the first time around. Ten of the 18 local government projects recommended for funding this December are resubmittals; fourteen of the18 applicants sent GOCO staff draft applications for review and feedback prior to submitting their final applications.

If nothing else, the ever-rising number of requests for funding demonstrates a consistent need for GOCO and lottery dollars. We're fortunate to live in a state where a portion of lottery proceeds are used by GOCO, the Conservation Trust Fund, and the Division of Parks and Wildlife to help preserve what we love best about Colorado.

Grant awards for our fall 2013 cycle will be decided and announced on December 10 at the GOCO Board meeting. A complete list of grant awards will be available online.