@PalmerLandTrust awards ceremony and farm-to-table dinner recap

Photos by Allen Tian, The Colorado Independent, and courtesy of Dark Skies Inc of the Wet Mountain Valley.

From the Palmer Land Trust via The Wet Mountain Tribune:

The Palmer Land Trust in Colorado Springs has announced the names of the three award winners, and a prestigious honorary recognition, for the 2017 Southern Colorado Conservation Awards (SCCA). Among the winners were Valley ranchers Randy and Claricy Rusk. The event recognizes individuals and organizations that are dedicated to stewardship, education and innovation in conservation impacting southern Colorado. The winners were honored at The Antlers Hotel in Colorado Springs on Wednesday, September 27, with an awards ceremony and farm-to-table dinner.

“SCCA showcases the exemplary conservation work being done in southern Colorado. This year’s slate of award winners highlights inspiring stories from an incredibly diverse range of people and projects, including ranching in Westcliffe, recreation in Canon City, and water and land conservation on a statewide scale. We are excited to tell these stories at what has become the premiere conservation event in southern Colorado,” said Rebecca Jewett, Executive Director of Palmer.

Award winners were nominated by the community at large and underwent a rigorous selection process by a Blue Ribbon Panel. The Stuart P. Dodge Award honors a lifetime achievement in conservation.

The winners, Randy and Claricy Rusk of rural Westcliffe, are conservation pioneers. Their vision, leadership, and influence within the ranching community has largely been credited for the conservation success achieved in the Wet Mountain Valley and beyond over the last two-and-a-half decades. Working alongside The Trust for Public Land, San Isabel Land Protection Trust, and the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, the Rusks have inspired their community to band together to conserve the rich ranching and open space heritage that has long defined the Wet Mountain Valley.

The Environmental Stewardship Award recognizes an individual or organization that has positively impacted the land and the way members of our communities understand and respect their relationship to it.

This year’s winner is Kalem Lenard of Canon City. Since 2012, Lenard has improved more than 17 miles of trails enjoyed by hundreds of bikers, hikers, trail runners, and horsemen every year. Without Lenard’s vision, passion, and expertise, the Oil Well Flats trail system might never have come to fruition.

The Innovation in Conservation Award honors an individual, group, project, or program that has advanced the cause of conservation by developing new conservation models, creating new conservation funding mechanisms, or implementing unique partnerships that protect our natural heritage. The winner this year was the Colorado Water Trust.

The Colorado Water Trust was formed in 2001 to partner with Colorado’s Instream Flow Program and amplify its work by supporting and promoting voluntary, market-based efforts to protect and restore Colorado’s streamflows. Today, the Colorado Water Trust is the only nonprofit organization solely dedicated to restoring flows on Colorado’s rivers using market based transactions. The Water Trust has revealed water-sharing possibilities that have never been done before, helping meet the needs of agricultural partners while providing water for rivers.

Also honored was Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) with the Distinction in Conservation award, a prestigious discretionary award recognizing catalytic excellence and influence in conservation in southern Colorado. Since its inception in 1992, GOCO has committed more than $917 million in state lottery proceeds to more than 4,800 projects in all 64 counties in Colorado without any tax dollar support. Through their efforts they have helped protect more than one million acres of land.

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