DENVER – Today the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Board awarded $1,200,000 in funding for five stewardship projects. Funding was awarded to complete critical stewardship work and create community-centered stewardship programs for current and future projects.

The grants are part of the inaugural round of GOCO’s Stewardship Impact Grants, which aim to increase on-the-ground stewardship outcomes statewide through funding for collaborative, targeted stewardship projects. This program is the culmination of a multi-year effort by GOCO and the Colorado Outdoor Stewardship Coalition to create a foundational framework for advancing volunteer-based stewardship in Colorado communities. Grantees will use GOCO funds to address immediate stewardship needs, as well as develop partner-focused stewardship programs to build a community stewardship ethic.

Grant details are as follows:

Engaging Private Landowners of Conserved Properties to Create Resilient Landscapes, $111,854 grant to Colorado West Land Trust

Wildfire mitigation is often heavily focused on public lands, and private landowners sometimes lack the technical expertise and financial resources to protect their properties from fire. To address this problem, Colorado West Land Trust, in partnership with the West Region Wildfire Council, has designed a program to educate and equip private landowners with resources to protect their lands. The first step in this process will be to identify specific private, conserved properties in high wildfire risk areas. Landowners will be advised about forest treatment options as well as technical and financial resources to improve forest health and fire resilience.

Gunnison County Stewardship Program, $350,000 grant to Gunnison County

Gunnison County boasts over 75,000 acres of conserved open space property managed by local municipalities and land conservancies. The development of a county-wide stewardship program will address issues associated with the recent influx of visitors to the area’s publicly accessible properties through a new and collaborative stewardship model. The program will target several immediate stewardship needs, including restoring key habitat for the Gunnison sage grouse, decommissioning hundreds of illegal campsites and designating new spaces with appropriate infrastructure, and installing sanitation facilities at key trailheads.

Mount Elbert Collaborative Stewardship Project, $300,000 grant to Lake County

Mount Elbert is the highest peak in Colorado and is among the top five most-visited 14ers in the state with over 25,000 annual use days. In partnership with the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative (CFI), Get Outdoors Leadville! (GOL!), the National Forest Foundation, and the U.S. Forest Service, the County plans to address significant trail sustainability issues and alpine tundra restoration needs caused by overuse. Anticipated outcomes include restoring or rerouting more than one and a half miles of high-elevation trails, including two of the main routes to the mountain’s summit, as well as restoring areas where runoff from poor trail construction has led to significant erosion of sensitive alpine tundra soil and vegetation.

North Cheyenne Cañon Park and Stratton Open Space Conservation Stewardship Program, $151,850 grant to the City of Colorado Springs

In partnership with Rocky Mountain Field Institute and Friends of Cheyenne Cañon, the City plans to restore several hundred acres of open space and parkland at North Cheyenne Cañon Park and Stratton Open Space; decommission several miles of unofficial, user-made “social trails”; and build a more sustainable connector trail to discourage the development of future social trails. The City will engage community volunteers and youth to accomplish the work, with the goal of maintaining this volunteer base for future stewardship projects.

Purgatoire Watershed Restoration and Recreation Enhancement Project, $286,296 grant to the City of Trinidad

The City of Trinidad will invest its GOCO funding in developing the Purgatoire Watershed Outdoor Stewardship Program, designed by a coalition of statewide and local partners with the goal of prioritizing stewardship projects in the Trinidad area. The program aims to engage the local community, including people of all ages, backgrounds, and skill levels, and convey the importance of stewardship, reinforcing the idea of stewardship as a community effort and expanding the pool of available stewards for future projects. Immediate stewardship needs include enhancing 150 acres of the Fisher’s Peak and Crazy French Ranch area and facilitating habitat restoration and recreational trail stewardship on city-owned park spaces along the Purgatoire River.