GOCO awards $230,000 grant to Colorado Open Lands

By Lauren Lecy
Great Outdoors Colorado

The Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) board awarded a $230,000 grant to Colorado Open Lands (COL) to merge with two land trusts and deepen its partnerships with two additional organizations. Small land trusts have seen a decrease in charitable contributions in light of COVID-19, resulting in the need to streamline operations and form new partnerships. 

This grant is part of GOCO’s Resilient Communities program, which helps grantee partners advance outdoor recreation, stewardship and land protection work. Funded projects will respond to onetime immediate needs or opportunities that have emerged in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic all within the context of GOCO’s five program values: resource conservation, outdoor stewardship, community vitality, equitable access and youth connections to the outdoors.

With this funding, COL will merge with Clear Creek Land Conservancy (CCLC) and Southwest Land Alliance (SLA), absorbing both organizations’ conservation easements and operations. The two land trusts have been working to protect Colorado’s natural areas since the 1980s and have collectively conserved more than 13,000 acres of land. Once the mergers are complete, COL will be tasked with monitoring these conserved properties with the help of dedicated stewardship funding of approximately $700,000 from CCLC and SLA. 

COL will also use GOCO funding to enhance its partnerships with additional land trusts, including the Animas Conservancy in Durango, which faces financial constraints and is no longer able to operate. COL will monitor and steward its properties to avoid its easements becoming orphaned, or not held under a land trust, and evaluate options regarding the land trust’s future. 

Key to these efforts are ongoing and intentional engagement with landowners and stakeholders in each community, with the goal of preserving the knowledge and relationships that have facilitated land conservation in that area and to move those community efforts into the next phase. Streamlining organizations and operations will provide added professional conservation capacity in those communities, and through developing new partnerships will continue with COL’s mission of preserving Colorado’s natural heritage. 

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 5,300 projects in all 64 counties of Colorado without any tax dollar support. Visit GOCO.org for more information.

This story was posted on August 17, 2020.