DENVER – The Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Board awarded $307,232 in conservation easement transaction costs grants on Thursday. Transaction costs grants facilitate land conservation projects that might not otherwise be possible in light of prohibitive transaction costs.
A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a conservation organization that permanently conserves an important piece of property, removing the threat of future development. Transaction costs associated with placing an easement on a property often range from $20,000 to $50,000 or more.
Launched earlier in 2016, GOCO’s transaction costs grant program leverages Colorado Lottery dollars 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.
In this grant round, the conservation easement transaction costs program funded seven projects in six counties. The projects will protect 1,625 acres of land of statewide significance and approximately three miles of habitat along creeks, streams, and rivers. In all of these projects, landowners are donating the full value of the conservation easements.
Funded projects are as follows:
Badger Creek Conservation Easement, $39,800 grant to Central Colorado Conservancy (CCC), formerly Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas (LTUA)
The Badger Creek Conservation Easement will conserve the 150-acre Badger Creek Ranch, an inholding surrounded by BLM lands in western Fremont County. The property includes a quarter-mile of Badger Creek and provides an essential water source and habitat for fish, songbirds, bald eagles, and hawks. It is also an important wildlife migration corridor and winter habitat for big game species and provides cattle-grazing land for a local rancher.
The ranch adds to the scenic character of the rural area and preserves views from the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA) and surrounding public lands.
Barr Farm Conservation Easement, $27,500 grant to Colorado Open Lands (COL)
Colorado Open Lands will amend an existing conservation easement on Barr Farm in Pueblo County, increasing the total acreage of protected land on the farm to almost 850 acres.
The 270-acre addition will buffer Fountain Creek, a centerpiece of the original easement, keeping water that drains into the stream clean and providing flood and erosion control benefits. Fountain Creek and surrounding shortgrass prairie provide rich wildlife habitat and migration corridors. The property buffers existing protected land and preserves scenic, panoramic views in an area of the state experiencing a significant rise in population.
McLeod Conservation Easement, $39,000 grant to Mesa Land Trust (MLT)
In the top-ranked project from this round of the transaction costs program, Mesa Land Trust will acquire a conservation easement on 377 acres of the McLeod Ranch on the north rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. This project will add to the approximately 1,686 acres the landowner conserved between 2003 and 2011. The ranch fills a gap between the Curecanti National Recreation Area and existing conserved land and national forest lands. It also serves as a buffer to nearby wilderness areas and protects views from neighboring scenic landscapes along the West Elk Scenic Byway.
Menoken Farm Conservation Easement, $47,600 grant to Mesa Land Trust (MLT)
Mesa Land Trust will acquire a conservation easement on 176 acres of the Menoken Farm in Montrose County. Located at the south end of the Uncompahgre River, 30 miles from its headwaters in the San Juan Mountains, the property contains more than one mile of river, as well as critical wetlands, providing habitat for many wildlife species.
The conservation easement will tie senior water rights dating from the 1880s to the farm. The water irrigates pastures the landowners use for hay to support the largest Thoroughbred racehorse breeding operation in the state, which has been in the business for 40 years.
Ranch on the Uncompahgre River, $38,700 grant to Gunnison Ranchland Conservation Legacy (GRCL) in partnership with Colorado Open Lands (COL)
Gunnison Ranchland Conservation Legacy received a transaction costs grant to assist with a conservation easement on a 201-acre family ranch in Montrose County. Colorado Open Lands will manage the easement, which will protect one mile of the Uncompahgre River as well as 161 acres of irrigated hay ground and the associated water rights. The property hosts a great blue heron colony along with many other species of wildlife. In addition, the landowner intends to open a learning center to promote sustainable agriculture practices to the public.
Ranch on the Yampa River, $38,700 grant to Colorado Open Lands (COL)
Colorado Open Lands will assist with a conservation easement on a 165-acre family ranch located east of Craig in Moffat County. The project will protect productive agricultural lands, significant natural habitat for a variety of wildlife species, and one half-mile of the Yampa River.
The ranch provides scenic views for local residents and travelers along US Highway 40, State Highway 394, and Moffat County roads, adding to the character of the rural landscape and protecting regional resources that attract tourism and bring economic development to the area.
Schultz Elk & Cattle Ranch, $50,000 grant to Montezuma Land Conservancy (MLC)
Montezuma Land Conservancy will acquire a conservation easement on 225 acres of Schultz Elk & Cattle Ranch in Montezuma County. The ranch will connect nearly 10,000 acres of conserved lands, including other properties under conservation easement and the Menefee Mountain Wilderness Study Area (BLM).
The property is also an important migration corridor for wild elk and deer herds in summer and winter, and on a portion of the property the landowners run a cattle and certified elk operation. The project will also conserve scenic views from the San Juan Skyway National Scenic Byway.
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 4,800 projects in urban and rural areas in all 64 counties without any tax dollar support. Visit GOCO.org for more information.