Keep It Colorado
Keep It Colorado
DENVER – The nonprofit conservation coalition Keep It Colorado has received $500,000 in grant funding from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO)’s Resilient Communities Program, which funds one-time, immediate needs or opportunities that have emerged in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The investment will enable Keep It Colorado to develop and administer a program to assist land trusts and landowners in covering the costs of transactions associated with conservation easements in 2021. This assistance will enable landowners who have urgent opportunities to conserve their properties, but who face financial barriers to facilitating the transaction, to conserve more land more quickly.
GOCO’s investment enables Keep It Colorado to re-grant up to $50,000 per transaction for 10 to 12 land trusts that have identified urgent conservation projects. In a survey conducted in late 2020, half of Colorado land trusts reported that conservation easement transaction costs exceed $60,000.
Keep It Colorado will use a portion of the funding to develop and administer the program and two rounds of regrants through a competitive regrant cycle in spring and fall 2021. The types of projects land trusts could complete this year with transaction assistance include those that protect or enhance public access; conserve critical wildlife habitat; support local agriculture and food systems; preserve open space and scenic vistas; and protect wetlands and river corridors.
Keep It Colorado created the transaction cost assistance program partly in response to COVID-19. Local farmers and ranchers have had more financial difficulty keeping their working lands in production due to the rising costs of their operations. Simultaneously, the pandemic has seen record numbers of people purchasing rural properties, seeking refuge in the outdoors and becoming more reliant on local food systems. In addition, 2020 saw many rural and mountain communities reeling from a devastating wildfire season. Conservation solutions address or alleviate these pressures and can help communities and landscapes be more resilient and adaptable to challenges, but conservation can be cost-prohibitive.
“Assistance paying for transaction costs will make a number of conservation activities possible, protecting thousands of acres of land that would otherwise be at imminent risk of being sold, subdivided or converted to other uses,” said Melissa Daruna, executive director of Keep It Colorado. “By increasing the number of conservation opportunities, this program will help keep open space open, keep working farm and ranch lands in production, and lead our communities to economic recovery.”
Studies conducted by Colorado State University indicate that every $1 invested in conserved lands results in up to $12 in public benefit, and that increased in investments in identified working lands conservation projects alone could generate an additional $195 million in economic activity across multiple sectors in Colorado.
GOCO has administered a conservation easement transaction costs program for years, with aims to remove financial barriers associated with transaction costs and expand the amount of land conserved statewide. Keep It Colorado’s program will create an accessible pool of funding and a process to select the projects with the greatest urgency and conservation outcomes. This will support more land trusts and landowners across the state, better leverage more of the conservation easement tax credit, and assist GOCO in efficiently advancing its mission.
Keep It Colorado estimates that conservation projects that get completed as a result of this assistance will have the capacity to leverage an additional $3.25 million in tax credits through the state’s conservation easement tax credit program.
Keep It Colorado received additional GOCO Resilient Communities Program funding for its Statewide Private Lands Conservation Plan, announced in a separate news release. Several Keep It Colorado coalition members also received Resilient Communities Program funding for a variety of open space initiatives, including Aspen Valley Land Trust, Central Colorado Conservancy, Colorado West Land Trust, La Plata Open Space Conservancy, Montezuma Land Conservancy, Trust for Public Land, City of Boulder, City of Loveland and Eagle County. A complete list of awarded projects is available on GOCO’s website.
About Keep It Colorado
Keep It Colorado serves as a unified voice for conservation organizations focused on private lands conservation, and does so by bringing together land trusts, public agencies and conservation champions around a vision to create a Colorado where people, lands, waters and wildlife thrive. Keep It Colorado advocates for sound public policy; provides connection and collaboration opportunities for conservation partners; offers a forum to address emerging conservation issues and opportunities; pursues sustainable funding and programmatic tools and solutions; and works to advance a culture of conservation in Colorado. Learn more at www.keepitco.org.