DENVER – Keep It Colorado, a nonprofit coalition of land trusts, public agencies and champions for conservation, has received $166,666 in funding from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) and $125,000 from the Gates Family Foundation. GOCO’s investment is the first of three installments scheduled over three years, with total funds reaching $500,000. With these gifts, Keep It Colorado will be able to sustain the coalition’s legacy conservation of private and public lands statewide, and at the same time expand its vision for a future that prioritizes conservation of our state’s natural outdoor spaces and places.
A primary role of Keep It Colorado is to serve as a unifying voice and advocate for public policy on behalf of its members, enabling them to conserve more land. “Our members have a long history of on-the-ground conservation projects that prioritize and honor the identity and uniqueness of local Colorado communities. These funds from GOCO and the Gates Family Foundation will be instrumental in helping us move that work forward,” said Melissa Daruna, Keep It Colorado’s executive director.
“GOCO has been a proud supporter of Colorado’s conservation community since its inception in 1992,” said Chris Castilian, GOCO’s executive director. “Nonprofit land trusts and open space agencies across the state fulfill a shared mission of protecting our state’s open space heritage. And it’s important for Colorado to have an organization to work on behalf of and serve as a voice for these organizations, leading on policy and creating space for ongoing, shared learning.”
“For over four decades, Gates Family Foundation has partnered with the land trust members of Keep It Colorado to conserve hundreds of thousands of acres of land, protecting precious wildlife habitat and water resources, preserving the state’s iconic landscapes and vistas, and contributing to the sustainability of Colorado’s family farms and ranches,” said Tom Gougeon, president, Gates Family Foundation. “Community-supported land trusts across Colorado are charged with protecting these incredibly valuable assets in perpetuity. We are excited about Keep It Colorado’s expanded mission and vision, and the role it will play in supporting the continued success of the land trust community in Colorado.”
Keep It Colorado is the state’s only convening force for land trusts, open space agencies and conservation professionals tackling land, water and wildlife conservation. The funds enable the coalition to open the door for these and other conservation-minded groups to connect and collaborate with one another, advancing the movement at a statewide level.
The coalition intends to engage a broader population on the subject of conservation and its benefits, both ecological and economic. According to a study conducted by Colorado State University, for every $1 invested in conserved land, the public receives between $4 and $12 of benefit. Conservation also maintains a way of life Coloradans deeply value. “When people go hiking in a state park that sits next to a conserved private ranch, they get a wide-open, unobstructed view of the prairie or mountain or stream next to them – and in many cases, are able to recreate on that property. These are huge public benefits that must be protected,” said Daruna.
Keep It Colorado is a revival of Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts, which operated from 1991 to 2017. Officially relaunched under a new name in January 2019, Keep It Colorado leverages a membership of 60 organizations.
An increasing number of Keep It Colorado members have expanded their focus beyond traditional conservation. They are improving public access to recreational opportunities, such as multi-use trails on public and private lands; directly engaging their local communities in conservation initiatives, such as habitat restoration; and exploring innovative tools that enhance conservation while combating the climate crisis, such as carbon offset programs.
Colorado’s 30+ land trusts are responsible for the stewardship of nearly 80 percent of the more than 2.2 million acres of conserved private land in the state. Since 2005 the state’s conserved acreage has tripled, thanks largely to the creation of GOCO and the state conservation easement tax credit, which together have invested more than $1 billion in conservation. Today, Colorado ranks fourth in the nation for conserved private lands.
The coalition’s string of advocacy and legislative successes have strengthened conservation and brought uniformity to the practice and standards of conservation in Colorado. In 2018 the coalition’s members and partners formed a leading voice in collaborative efforts to reauthorize the Colorado Lottery, protecting it as an important funding source for conservation. The Lottery’s proceeds beneficiaries include GOCO, the Conservation Trust Fund managed by the state’s Department of Local Affairs, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and Colorado Department of Education’s school capital construction fund Building Excellent Schools Today.
The coalition also led efforts for the passage of legislation that reauthorized Colorado’s conservation easement program. That legislation created a working group to address operational challenges of the program, strengthen future conservation efforts and protect the investments Colorado communities have made in conservation.
About Keep It Colorado
Keep It Colorado is a nonprofit coalition of land trusts, public agencies and conservation champions that is driving a new conservation movement in Colorado. The members’ on-the-ground initiatives in local communities are working to ensure that Colorado’s people, lands, waters and wildlife thrive – and that our natural outdoor spaces and places stay beautiful and protected forever. To support coalition members in their work, Keep It Colorado serves as a unified voice that advocates for sound public policy; provides connection and collaboration opportunities; offers a forum to address emerging issues and opportunities around conservation; and engages communities on the importance of conservation for our state’s future. Learn more at www.keepitco.org.