Report — ‘Land & Water: A Quantitative Analysis of Land Conservation’s Impact on Water in Colorado’

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Here’s a link to the report. Here’s the introduction:

Water has been a prominent concern for agricultural, municipal, and industrial sectors in Colorado for quite some time, and its significance will only continue to increase. Over the last couple of years, conservation proponents have been placing a higher priority on water projects and organizations working with water. After several discussions with various conservation advocates, the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts (CCLT) realized that, although land trusts and open space programs are associated with land preservation and recreation, we, as a community, are not as strongly inked with water and watershed protection as we can be. The fact is when conservation organizations conserve land, they also protect water. Conserving land around rivers and streams protects valuable habitat and riparian zones that are crucial to a river’s health and water quality. Until now, the impact of Colorado land conservation efforts on water and watersheds was not quantified. Though undocumented, Colorado land conservation programs have been protecting water all along. This report quantifies how much water has already been protected by land conservation in Colorado. As funders increasingly focus on water, this knowledge will provide a platform for further protecting Colorado’s water through land conservation.

This report quantifies the miles of river corridor protected by conservation easements in the state. The research was performed by CCLT, in collaboration with the Colorado Water Trust, (CWT), and in cooperation with Great Outdoors Colorado, (GOCO). Even though water rights encumbered by easements and in-stream flows held by the state are not included in this report, protecting the land surrounding streams and rivers is a major step in protecting water in Colorado. Land and water are intrinsically linked habitats and environmental systems. Similarly, the land and water communities are intrinsically linked, and connecting their work can only strengthen the efforts of each. Land conservation already has a broad impact on water protection: this report recognizes what has already been done and provides knowledge to allow that impact to continue to grow. Highlighting land conservation’s affect on water is another way for land trusts to be strategic about obtaining funds and also to determine how those funds are used. The Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust has shown the potential of tying land conservation to water with the success of their “Rio Grand Initiative”to protect the Rio Grande River corridor. From local land trusts to GOCO, up to the national level, with the Land Trust Alliance and the Department of the Interior, the information in this report is a valuable tool for prioritizing land conservation on all levels.

More coverage from Jeannie McGinnis writing for The Pagosa Daily Post. From the article:

The study, carried out by Matt Ashley for CCLT, focuses on protection of river and stream corridors and is the only report of its kind. The bulk of the research for the project was performed using the Colorado Ownership, Management, and Protection project (COMap) a detailed map of all protected areas in the state of Colorado.

The results show that over 2000 miles of 2nd and 3rd order stream and river corridors are protected by conservation easements in Colorado. The study omits 1st order streams which are intermittent. This represents a significant portion of valuable habitat and riparian zones that directly affect river health and water quality in Colorado.

Amy Beatie, Executive Director for the Colorado Water Trust said the report shows that land trusts target riparian lands for conservation because of their scenic, open space, and wildlife benefits. “For years, the Colorado conservation community has had to guess at the effect of private land conservation on the health of Colorado rivers,” stated Beatie. “Land and Water has succeeded in providing the groundwork to find a concrete answer. Rivers and streams are often the centerpiece of communities in this state – rural and urban alike – and their protection is widely supported.”

More conservation coverage here.

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