Colorado Buys Open Space With $60 Million In Lottery Funds
Governor Bill Owens and members of the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Board have announcedan investment of $60 million of state lottery proceeds for conservation.
The state will spend $48 million to preserve 80,000 acres including dramatic landscapes in Northern Colorado’s Laramie Foothills, Jefferson County’s Front Range Mountain Backdrop, and southwest Colorado’s San Juan Skyway.
The remaining $12 million will advance work on two new state parks, trails, and regional outdoor recreation areas.
“With broad support from communities across the state, large expanses of open space that define the rich beauty of Colorado will now be preserved. This unprecedented investment by the GOCO Board to protect open space is good for Colorado’s wildlife, our citizens and economy,” Owens said.
The $60 million will go to 18 projects that have been competing for the money since June. The large-scale land preservation needs were brought forward by local governments, land trusts and state agencies as part of a stakeholder process the GOCO Board conducted when it was deciding whether to exercise bonding authority granted to it by the voters in 2001.
“The approach the GOCO Board has chosen fulfills the voters intent without going into debt,” said GOCO Board chairman, T. Wright Dickinson of Maybell. “These grants meet the most urgent land preservation needs at this time. And, if additional projects of the same urgency come forward in the future, GOCO still has preserved its option to bond.”
Governor Owens, who supported the effort to give GOCO bonding authority, said the Board had taken a “common sense approach” by using lottery proceeds to fund the projects. “In this case, I believe the decision to fund projects from lottery proceeds, instead of incurring debt, was a common sense approach that is good for the state.”
Grants awarded for land preservation include $11.6 million to the Laramie Foothills/Mountain to Plains Project sponsored by Larimer County, Fort Collins, The Nature Conservancy, and the Legacy Land Trust.
The project will protect 55,400 acres north of Fort Collins creating a mountain to plains conservation zone of approximately 140,000 acres extending 22 miles across, from native grasslands along I-25 to the foothills and lower reaches of the Roosevelt National Forest.
It is rich in wildlife and working landscapes. The landscape, where sweeping grasslands merge with red buttes, remains as it was when early settlers first arrived. Sponsors will construct 30 miles of trail in an area that has previously been inaccessible to the public.
The governor has earmarked $5 million for Jefferson County’s South Table Mountain Acquisitions. Four million dollars will be used by the County toward the purchase of the 730 acre Coors property that was negotiated in November. The remaining $1 million can be used for future purchases in the same area.
The preservation of South Table Mountain, one of the most recognizable landmarks on the Front Range, has been a priority for the county since voters approved an open space sales tax in 1972. Inhabited by many species of wildlife, the area will also be open for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.
Provided by the Environmental News Service.