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GOCO awards $5.9 million in grants to conserve land, restore habitat, and create jobs for young adults

Wednesday, December 5, 2018 -- GOCO
December 6, 2018

DENVER - The Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Board of Trustees awarded $5,943,751 million in grants to conservation and habitat restoration projects across Colorado on Thursday.

In total, this round of grants will:

  • Invest in 28 projects in 22 counties
  • Conserve 8,591 acres of land
  • Provide public recreation access on 7,565 acres in seven counties
  • Protect 21.2 miles of rivers and streams
  • Conserve habitat for 14 rare and imperiled species
  • Plant more than 8,600 trees, shrubs, and flowering plants
  • Engage youth and volunteers in providing thousands of hours of in-kind labor

GOCO’s Board awarded $4,943,751 in funding through the open space grant program. These grants fund 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.

In addition, the board awarded $500,000 in funding through GOCO’s habitat restoration grant program to improve and restore Colorado's rivers, streams, wetlands, and critical habitat on conserved lands and open spaces. The projects in this round of grants will engage youth and volunteers in providing thousands of hours in labor and leverage more than $416,000 in cash and in-kind match.

Finally, the board awarded a total of $500,000 in Youth Corps grants to 15 projects that will reduce wildfire risk, protect water resources, improve wildlife habitat, repair parks and trails, build new trails, and improve safety for river recreationists.

GOCO awards Youth Corps funding through the Colorado Youth Corps Association (CYCA), which represents a statewide coalition of eight accredited corps that train youth, young adults, and veterans (ages 14-25) to work on land and water conservation projects. Corps members earn a stipend for their service and an AmeriCorps education award to use toward college or reducing existing student loans. CYCA serves more than 1,500 participants annually.

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.


Bear Creek Greenback Cutthroat Trout Restoration Initiative, $52,725 grant to City of Colorado Springs

The City of Colorado Springs will design improvements and restore over three-quarters of a mile of in-stream habitat. Recent scientific analysis revealed that the greenback cutthroat trout population in Bear Creek is the sole remaining, naturally reproducing, and genetically pure population of the fish anywhere in the world. This project will protect and enhance the greenback cutthroat trouts’ habitat, reduce harmful sediment, and increase species resiliency to ensure the population’s survival.

Little Bijou Ranch Cheatgrass Control, $10,032 grant to Bird Conservancy of the Rockies

The Bird Conservancy of the Rockies will partner with Ducks Unlimited, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the owner of a conserved ranch in Morgan County to manage invasive grasses and restore native sandsage prairie habitat at Little Bijou Ranch, which is located roughly three miles south of the South Platte River. The project will eradicate cheatgrass and restore native vegetation across approximately 230 acres of land.

East Plum Creek Restoration Partnership, $150,000 grant to Douglas County Conservation District

Douglas County, Douglas County Conservation District, and the Colorado Agricultural Leadership Foundation (CALF) will complete an extensive habitat improvement project along a nearly one-mile stretch of East Plum Creek, a central wildlife corridor, as it passes through Lowell Ranch, a private, protected property. The project includes stabilization of eroding stream banks and the use of natural elements such as rocks, logs, sod mats, and native riparian vegetation to prevent the stream from widening. The work will help protect habitat for the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse and numerous other native species.

Yust Ranch, Blue River Restoration, $60,373 grant to Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT)

CCALT will manage a river restoration project on one-third of a mile of the Blue River on Yust Ranch, a property conserved with the assistance of previous GOCO investments. The nonprofit land trust will work with the landowner to improve natural water flows. The effort will improve habitat for native species of plants and animals and is part of a larger effort known as the Colorado River Headwaters Project.

Big Thompson River Habitat Restoration Project, $84,309 grant to City of Loveland

The City of Loveland will restore seven acres of riverside land and floodplain bench on Medina’s Crossing Natural Area. The project’s first step is to discontinue the intensive cattle grazing that has contributed to the slow pace of the 2013 flood recovery effort. Then, the city will work with community volunteers and partners to re-establish native vegetation through community planting events.

Lower South Platte Wetlands Partnership, $142,561 grant to Colorado Open Lands

Statewide, Colorado has lost over 50 percent of its wetlands since settlement. This project will provide high-quality marsh and wet-meadow habitat for wildlife on conserved private lands. Restoration activities will focus on the development of shallow-water, seasonal wetlands that provide food and water for thousands of ducks, geese, and other wetland-dependent birds in the region every spring and fall.


City of Thornton Big Dry Creek Russian Olive Phase 2, $32,000 grant to City of Thornton

The city will employ chainsaw crews from Mile High Youth Corps to continue Russian olive removal on eight open space parcels at Big Dry Creek. Russian olive trees outcompete native plants, interfere with natural plant succession and nutrient cycling, and are heavy water users, taxing water reserves.

Thornton and Adams County previously received funding for four weeks of work to remove invasives from 293 acres of open space. Phase two will allow the crews to continue eradicating the invasive species on remaining properties.

Alamosa Trails Network, $33,200 grant to City of Alamosa Parks and Recreation

With its funding, Alamosa will hire youth corps crews from Southwest Conservation Corps to build approximately one mile of ADA-accessible trail in Blanca Vista Park and treat approximately 10 miles of trail near the Alamosa Disc Golf Course for noxious weeds and overgrown brush.

Urban Single Track Trail Initiative Phase 1 and 2 and Reservoir Hill, $30,400 grant to Town of Pagosa Springs Parks and Recreation

Pagosa Springs’ parks and recreation department will hire youth corps crews from Southwest Conservation Corps for a trail-building project on Reservoir Hill, which is part of the greater Urban Single-Track Trail Initiative system in downtown Pagosa Springs. Crews will build 5,280 linear feet of trail, reroute 240 linear feet of trail, and install signage and rock crossings for a better user experience.

Ecosystem Learning Center, $23,600 grant to Central Colorado Conservancy (CCC)

CCC will employ youth corps crews from Southwest Conservation Corps to build one-eighth mile of trail, control noxious weeds, plant native species to increase plant diversity, and enhance wildlife habitat at the site of the future Ecosystem Learning Center in Salida.

Floyd Hill Open Space Noxious Weed Mitigation and Trail Building, $21,000 grant to Mountain Area Land Trust (MALT)

MALT will hire youth corps crews from Mile High Youth Corps to spend two weeks removing noxious weeds from 100 acres at Floyd Hill Open Space, which MALT conserved with a GOCO open space grant in March 2017. Additionally, crews will assist in constructing 4,600 linear feet of trail on the newly developed trail system. The new trail will provide access to a previously inaccessible public open space.

Pineries Open Space Trails & Forest Restoration Project, $21,000 grant to El Paso County

With its funding, El Paso County will employ youth corps crews from Mile High Youth Corps for three weeks to complete trail tread maintenance, trail construction, noxious weed removal, and forest management activities in a nine-acre area of the open space. This work will help improve the overall trail corridor, result in healthier ground cover, and reduce soil erosion.

John Griffin Regional Park Tamarisk and Russian Olive Abatement Phase III, $36,000 grant to Cañon City Area Metropolitan Recreation and Park District

With the help of GOCO funding, the city will employ youth corps crews from Mile High Youth Corps for four weeks to remove invasive trees from a 10-acre portion of the highly trafficked John Griffin Regional Park. The popular Arkansas River Riverwalk trail system winds its way through the property, immersing visitors in the natural landscape. The tamarisk and Russian olive trees not only negatively impact visitors’ experience, but also have negative effects on the habitat of native plants and wildlife.

Russian Olive Removal Project, $54,000 grant to City of Lakewood

The City of Lakewood will hire crews from Mile High Youth Corps for six weeks to remove 220 Russian olive trees on six acres of the Bear Creek Greenbelt. The 350-acre property has had continued problems with Russian olive infestation. After this phase of the project is complete, the entire area of the greenbelt will be free of the invasive species. The tree removal will improve the Bear Creek corridor and its wildlife habitat.

Elkhorn Creek Forest Health Initiative-Ben Delatour Scout Ranch, $54,000 grant to Colorado State Forest Service

Colorado State Forest Service will use its GOCO funding to support Larimer County’s Elkhorn Creek Forest Health Initiative at Ben Delatour Scout Ranch. The 3,200-acre property has heavy fire fuel loads, putting it at high risk for wildfire. The Forest Service will employ youth corps crews from Larimer County Conservation Corps for six weeks to reduce forest density and hazardous fuels, and restore forest structure and composition at the site. This work is necessary to improve watershed health, enhance resilience, and protect water resources.

Willow Bend Natural Area Invasive Species Removal and Mitigation, $18,000 grant to City of Loveland

The City of Loveland will hire crews from Larimer County Conservation Corps to work for two weeks at Willow Bend Natural Area, an 81-acre property along the east Big Thompson River. It is estimated that the property contains 650 invasive Russian olive, Siberian elm, and tamarisk trees. Crews will remove and treat the non‐native trees, enhancing the site for wildlife and visitors and allowing native vegetation to recover.

Cerise Park Invasive Species Removal, $27,000 grant to City of Montrose

The City of Montrose will employ youth corps crews from Western Colorado Conservation Corps for three weeks to cut and stack brush, chip wood, and spray pesticides on 11 acres of Cerise Park located along the west bank of the Uncompahgre River. This work will build off of similar work done in 2017 and 2018 at Cerise, Riverbottom, and Taviwatch Parks.

Removal of invasives along the river will improve safety for river users where trees overhang and create hazards for recreationists floating close to shore. Additionally, by reducing the number of invasive plants, native species can thrive, benefiting the diverse populations of wildlife found at Cerise Park.

Box Canyon Falls Native Plant Loop Improvement, $8,400 grant to City of Ouray

The City of Ouray will hire youth corps crews from Southwest Conservation Corps for one and a half weeks to improve the accessibility of trails and address erosion and vegetation issues at Box Canyon Falls. Corps members will widen 1,000 linear feet of trail to a minimum of 36 inches, remove rocks and vegetation, grade the path, and install fencing to reduce erosion.

Alma Riverwalk, $47,000 grant to Town of Alma

For more than 20 years, the Town of Alma and the Alma Foundation have been working to develop the Riverwalk project, an accessible trail and park. With the help of GOCO funding, the Town of Alma will employ youth corps crews from Southwest Conservation Corps for six weeks to assist with trail design and to fully construct one half-mile of trail, including boardwalks and retaining walls. A chainsaw crew will clear portions of the trail that pass through forested portions of the property.

The development of the Riverwalk trail will help protect 21 acres of wetland and river corridor by reducing the creation of social trails and will provide better access to the town’s centrally located property.

Spring Creek Bridge Replacement, $15,200 grant to City of Steamboat Springs

Youth corps crews from Rocky Mountain Youth Corps will work for two weeks to replace outdated bridges along Spring Creek. The bridges are both over 25 years old and have surpassed their useful lives. Their replacements will provide safer passage for trail users.

Wet Meadow and Riparian Restoration in Gunnison Sage-Grouse Habitats of Western Colorado, $15,200 grant to Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District

The Youth Corps grant to the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District will improve habitat for the federally listed Gunnison sage-grouse at Mountain Island Ranch in Mesa County and New Beginnings Ranch in San Miguel County. Youth corps crews from Western Colorado Conservation Corps will work for two weeks to build rock structures in critical habitat of the sage-grouse. The project will also improve the properties’ drought resiliency.