© Mike Norton (Colorado)

Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund Grant Programs

from Endangered by Sprawl

In 1992, Colorado voters approved the creation of the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Trust Fund, to be funded by proceeds from the Colorado Lottery.  Since its creation, the fund has distributed almost $290 million for 1,700 projects. Almost 390,000 acres are being preserved in perpetuity; 47,401 acres have been acquired for future state parks and a state wildlife area.  Forty-three threatened or endangered wildlife species are the focus of protection efforts though grants awarded to the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

Programs include:

Open Space Grants
: Protecting open space - river corridors, wildlife habitats, agricultural lands, community separators, and mountain valleys - is one of GOCO's central aims.

Grants for Local Governments
: To date, the Board has awarded funds to local governments for 611 outdoor recreation and community parks.

Trail Grants
: GOCO has provided funding for building or restoring over 557 miles of trail.

Planning & Capacity Building Grants: Since September 1994, awards of around $9.5 million have been awarded for 231 planning and capacity building projects.

Legacy Project Grants
: Legacy grants are multi-year commitments for regional projects that integrate GOCO's funding priorities of outdoor recreation, wildlife, open space, and local government projects. Legacy grants have helped create new state parks, preserve delicate wetlands, critical agricultural lands and rich river corridors.

Conservation Successes Through GOCO Partnerships and Planning Grants with CNHP

GOCO funded county surveys of biological resources have been the cornerstone for biodiversity conservation in Colorado since 1995. The focus on private lands and the comprehensive nature of county-level surveys conducted with Planning Grant Funds makes them unique, and they have supported successful conservation far beyond the scope of the original project in every case. For each project, CNHP creates a stakeholders group that brings landowners, federal, state, and local parties to the table for discussion of common goals as well as next steps in planning. CNHP data have played a key role in some of Colorado’s biggest conservation successes recently, including the Mountains-to-Plains project in Larimer County and the enlargement of Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. In both cases, county surveys funded by GOCO formed the basis for these celebrated successes. GOCO funds have been leveraged many-fold throughout the state and elsewhere. All planning grants are matched with federal and state dollars to magnify their impact. Countless natural areas, conservation easements, development plans, and management plans use CNHP data as their foundation, and CNHP’s staff has been intimately involved in many of these activities. GOCO Planning Grants supported the efforts to acquire much of this data.

The use of CNHP data in the decision making process ensures that the impact of every GOCO dollar spent on easements and acquisition is maximized. The effectiveness of conservation easements funded by GOCO is clearly exemplified by a quick review of summary statistics.

Although GOCO easements represent 1% of Colorado’s land area, more than one fifth (22%) of the acreage of well-documented imperiled species and plant communities in Colorado occur on these easements. The acreage of well-documented imperiled species and plant communities on GOCO funded easements exceeds that of any single landowner of any type in Colorado. This could not have been achieved without planning grant funds that supported inventories in which the locations of these species were discovered, verified, and assessed. CNHP has helped to guide the process of survey prioritization by working closely with counties known to support a wealth of biodiversity resources.

A GOCO-funded county inventory marks the beginning of comprehensive conservation planning in which biodiversity can be rolled up and taken into account in all planning, management, and development activities. Within counties, GOCO support for biological surveys has led to a “renaissance” in their ability to manage natural resources in perpetuity for the benefit of their constituencies. Statewide and globally, GOCO dollars have had an enormous impact on our recognition of Colorado’s biodiversity riches and have facilitated the development of models, planning tools, and other resources that would be impossible otherwise.

Twenty-five county biological assessments have been conducted in Colorado through Planning Grant funds. These projects have supported historic and unprecedented conservation successes in Colorado, but there remains much work to be done. Twenty-five counties in Colorado have never had a comprehensive survey of critical biological resources, and another 11 have only been partially surveyed. Moffat, Montezuma, Teller, Weld, and Baca Counties are known to support a wealth of biodiversity riches that remain poorly documented.

GOCO has created a legacy of conservation success that will be celebrated by many generations to come. We have the foresight and wisdom of the staff and board of GOCO to thank for this gift. We hope GOCO will continue to support efforts to obtain the information needed to make this happen.

Testimonials From GOCO’s Partners

“It was a fantastic opportunity to work with CNHP on this project, and the work has been incredibly valuable to the County in all our environmental protection efforts. I believe it is critically important for Great Outdoors Colorado to support this kind of program for monitoring our biological resources, and I think CNHP does outstanding work on a very tight budget.” -Art Goodtimes, San Miguel County Commissioner

“The program was a complete success. The information is useful now for land use decisions and will be used by the public in a beneficial manner as well.” - Saguache County Board of Commissioners

“El Paso County and several organizations and entities with which we work have utilized the work of the Colorado Natural Heritage Program in the past and we look forward to a continuing relationship in the future” - Carl Schueler, AD El Paso County Planning Department

“CNHP, in my opinion, is effective for two reasons. First, the data are unbiased and scientific. Although it is technical in nature, the data are presented in a way that the average person on the street can understand. This is important, because it ensures that the data will be utilized. CNHP is also effective because their staff is accessible to their clients and the public. We have found CNHP staff helpful and supportive” - Steve Anthony, Pitkin County Land Management Director

“This turned out to be valuable information and has helped to develop a sense of pride and respect for some of the rare and imperiled species that we have in Delta County and are an important part of our heritage. This type of research and appreciation for natural resources helps to persuade people of the importance of resource conservation when considering new development proposals.” - Board of Delta County Commissioners

“CNHP’s contribution towards conservation of Mesa County has already significantly influenced future management plans. We refer to the Mesa County study on a regular basis. We have found all of CNHP’s staff to be extremely knowledgeable, helpful, and responsive when called upon.” -Gregory Trainor, City of Grand Junction Utility Manager

“This document has become a valuable resource for assessing lands under consideration for purchase, as well as creating management plans for lands currently in our jurisdiction.” – Greg Pickett, Director Larimer County Parks and Open Lands Department

“This information is used to evaluate new acquisition proposals for inclusion into the Open Space Program.” –Frank Kunze, Jefferson County Environmental Planner

“The results of the Conservation Inventory will allow Summit County to effectively implement open space and regulatory efforts to protect Summit County’s natural heritage.” - Stephen Hill, Community Development Director, Summit County

“Through the work of CNHP we are able to definitively know what areas have biological significance and what plants and animals are being threatened. This information has made an informed community dialogue about resource decisions possible.” –Matt Sura, Western Colorado Congress

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