GOCO Grants Will Conserve More than 40,000 Acres for Public Use, Wildlife Habitat

Elk on Trail Ridge Road August 2011
Elk on Trail Ridge Road August 2011

Here’s the release from Great Outdoors Colorado (Todd Cohen):

COUNTIES AND CITIES: Basalt, Chaffee, Colorado Springs, Creede, Dolores, Eagle, El Paso, Grand, Kremmling, Las Animas, La Junta, Meeker, Mesa, Mineral, Palisade, Pitkin, Poncha Springs, Rio Blanco, Salida.

The Great Outdoors Colorado Board has approved $8.8 million in grants to preserve more than 40,000 acres of land in nine counties to establish new public open spaces, protect scenic landscapes and river corridors and protect vital habitat for big game and protected species.

One grant will also conserve a working ranch that contains the site of the historic 1879 “Meeker Massacre,” the incident that resulted in the Ute’s forced removal to reservations in Utah. Another will conserve more than 33,000 acres in southern Colorado that offer refuge for a variety of wildlife including sensitive native species populations.

The land trusts and local governments receiving these grants plan to leverage the money for more than $21 million in matching funds and land donations. Fund requests in this grant cycle outstripped available funds by more than $2 million.

The grants will:

  • establish new public open spaces in El Paso, Eagle and Mesa counties;
  • create new public access for hunting in Mineral County, and enhance existing public fishing opportunities in Rio Blanco County;
  • conserve more than 4,100 acres of lands on scenic byways and nearly 300 acres visible from major interstates and U.S. highways;
  • conserve more than 2,600 acres of wildlife habitat and linkage corridors for federally designated threatened and endangered species; and
  • conserve more than 20 miles of riparian habitat and river corridors.

Great Outdoors Colorado (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 by voters in 1992, GOCO has funded more than 3,500 projects in all 64 counties without any tax dollar support. The grants are funded by GOCO’s share of Colorado Lottery revenues, which are divided between GOCO, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Conservation Trust Fund and school construction.

Download the complete list of December 2013 grant awards.


South Arkansas River Corridor: Hoover/Roberts Ranch and Scanga Ranch
Applicant: The Trust for Public Land
Grant: $550,000

The Trust for Public Land will purchase, and Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust will hold, a conservation easement on the 183-acre Hoover/Roberts Ranch and the 160-acre Scanga Ranch near Poncha Springs. As two of the last working cattle ranches in the area, the properties provide a scenic backdrop for tourists and residents who travel U.S. Highway 50. They also provide valuable wildlife habitat for big game species. Protecting the ranches may lead to additional conservation success in the region, and they are located adjacent to a ranch that is under conservation easement with CCALT. The properties are in a priority area for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Colorado Conservation Partnership, Chaffee County, and Poncha Springs.

Boxcar Ranch Conservation Easement
Applicant: Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas
Grant: $175,000

The Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas will purchase a conservation easement on the 90-acre Boxcar Ranch north of Salida. The property sits at the mouth of Browns Canyon Wilderness Study Area between Bureau of Land Management and Colorado Parks and Wildlife lands along the Collegiate Peaks Scenic and Historic Byway. Boxcar Ranch contains important habitat for bighorn sheep, bald eagles, and big game species. Protection of the property is a priority of the Colorado Conservation Partnership, LTUA, and Collegiate Peaks Scenic and Historic Byway.

Upper Groundhog Proposal: RN Musgrave Ranch and Burke & Barnett
Applicant: Montezuma Land Conservancy
Grant: $507,000

Montezuma Land Conservancy will purchase conservation easements on the 960-acre Burke and Barnett Ranch and the 640-acre RN Musgrave Ranch in the Groundhog Glade region. The properties sit strategically between the San Juan National Forest, the 4,199-acre Groundhog Ranch (protected by a GOCO-funded conservation easement), and the Lone Mesa State Wildlife Area. The properties contain a large stretch of the Disappointment Creek headwaters and over a mile and a half of Nash Creek; they provide an important migration corridor for the Disappointment elk herd. Burke and Barnett contains habitat for the federally threatened Canada lynx. MLC, the Colorado Natural Heritage Program, the Colorado Conservation Partnership, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife have all prioritized these properties for protection.

Glassier Ranch
Applicant: Pitkin County
Grant: $1,000,000

Pitkin County will purchase, and Eagle County will hold a conservation easement on, the 137-acre Glassier (GLAY-zure) Ranch near Basalt in Eagle County. The property provides 512 feet of Roaring Fork River frontage and is adjacent to the GOCO-funded Red Ridge/Saltonstall Ranch Open Space, which connects to the 9,600-acre Crown BLM area. The Rio Grande Regional Trail bisects the Glassier Ranch, and Pitkin and Eagle Counties will develop additional public access, including trails, on the property after a public planning process. The conservation easement will tie significant water rights to the property to ensure that 100 acres of productive agricultural land will continue to be irrigated. The Glassier Ranch makes up a portion of the foreground of Mount Sopris as seen from Colorado Highway 82, the main thoroughfare between Glenwood Springs and Aspen.

Ute Valley Gateway Phase II
Applicant: City of Colorado Springs
Grant: $1,008,500

The City of Colorado Springs will purchase, and Palmer Land Trust will hold a conservation easement on, approximately 110 acres of land in northern Colorado Springs just west of I-25 in El Paso County. The Phase II acquisition fulfills open space planning goals from 1997 when the city first identified the property as a priority park acquisition in its Trails and Open Space Master Plan. The entire property consists of 203 acres of relatively natural habitat that is also used for passive recreation. The Trust for Public Land purchased the 203-acre property from Hewlett Packard in August 2013 and already conveyed approximately 93 acres to Colorado Springs (Phase I). GOCO supported the 93-acre acquisition through an open space grant awarded in June 2013. Ute Valley Phase II will complete the project and provide legal public access to a property currently used by hundreds of community members daily, most of whom unknowingly trespass on what they perceive to be part of the adjacent, city-owned Ute Valley Park. The city’s acquisition will allow for the completion of the Ute Valley Trail, an important east-west recreation corridor.

Upper Colorado River Corridor: McElroy Ranch
Applicant: Colorado Headwaters Land Trust
Grant: $472,400

Colorado Headwaters Land Trust and The Conservation Fund have partnered to purchase two conservation easements on the 662-acre McElroy Ranch next to Kremmling. Colorado Highway 9 divides the 114-acre East Parcel (phase I) from the 548-acre West Parcel (phase II). Situated at the confluence of the Colorado River, Blue River, and Muddy Creek, the fourth generation ranch contains over 4.5 river miles and associated riparian habitat. The McElroy Ranch is highly visible from the Colorado River Headwaters National Scenic and Historic Byway (U.S. Highway 40) and CO Highway 9.

Maverick Ranch
Applicant: The Nature Conservancy
Grant: $2,100,000

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) will purchase a conservation easement on the 33,300-acre Maverick Ranch south of La Junta. The property is composed of shortgrass prairie, rock outcrops, cliffs and pinyon-juniper woodlands. It contains at least 25 seeps, springs, and pools, which are extremely rare in this part of southeastern Colorado. The ranch provides an important refuge for big game, bighorn sheep, bird species, and numerous Species of Greatest Conservation Need as designated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. This includes Townsend’s big-eared bats, Texas horned lizards, plains leopard frogs and triploid checkered whiptails.

Once conserved, the Maverick Ranch will be part of a protected landscape which currently comprises 443,000 acres of national grasslands, 50,000 acres owned by the State Land Board in Stewardship Trust, and more than 50,000 acres of privately conserved lands.

Meens/Files Property Acquisition
Applicant: Mesa Land Trust
Grant: $393,250

Mesa Land Trust (MLT) will purchase two properties in Mesa County (totaling nearly 64 acres) and transfer them to the City of Grand Junction while reserving a conservation easement on each property. The properties bookend the popular Lunch Loop/Three Sisters open space and recreation area and will provide additional passive recreation opportunities for the public, including the possibility to build an off-road, multi-use path connecting downtown Grand Junction to the Colorado National Monument. The properties are adjacent to, and visible from, the main entrance into the Colorado National Monument. Conserving the properties will protect a portion of No-Thoroughfare Wash, which drains from Glade Park and Colorado National Monument.

4UR Ranch Phase II
Applicant: Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust
Grant: $715,000

Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) will purchase a conservation easement on 1,000 acres of the 2,625-acre 4UR Ranch near Creede. RiGHT and the landowners placed an additional 377 acres under conservation easement in 2011. Conserving the property will protect a significant inholding in the Rio Grande National Forest that offers 200 acres of wetlands and more than 4.5 creek miles. The project provides important habitat and severe winter range for big game species, linkage corridors for lynx, and habitat for the endangered Southwestern Willow Flycatcher. This project is part of the Rio Grande Initiative, a partnership between RiGHT, Ducks Unlimited, and The Nature Conservancy, which has protected over 22,000 acres of the project area. 4UR Ranch is located in a region prioritized by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Colorado Conservation Partnership, the Colorado Natural Heritage Program, and the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative.

White River Valley Ranchland Conservation Initiative
Applicant: Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust
Grant: $1,850,000

Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust will purchase conservation easements on four ranches near Meeker, protecting 3,098 acres. The properties will conserve five miles of riparian corridor along the White River. The acquisitions build on two other GOCO-funded conservation easements. The Cross L Ranch contains the site of the infamous 1879 “Meeker Massacre.” Additionally, the properties provide significant bald eagle, big game, Greater Sage Grouse, and Columbian Sharp Tail Grouse habitat. The Sheridan and Wakara Ranches are highly visible from the Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway. The Wakara Ranch currently provides public fishing access through an agreement with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

More conservation coverage here.

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