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$3 million GOCO grant funds conservation efforts

Mountains in Colorado. © Chris Sorensen /
Eric Galatas

(Colorado News Connection) Keep it Colorado has received $3 million in grants from Great Outdoors Colorado

According to Melissa Daruna, the group's executive director, some of that money will help fund a new round of conservation projects to protect more critical watersheds and wildlife habitat and support local food systems. 

She pointed to a recent easement at Edgerton Creek Ranch, part of a larger wildlife corridor in the Roaring Fork Valley. Daruna said the voluntary agreement allows family ranchers to continue working the land.

"And then provide perpetual habitat protection for the wildlife that live there as well," said Daruna, "including bald eagles, cutthroat trout, and a lot of big game species including elk and moose, black bear, mule deer."

Last year, the group's Transaction Cost Assistance Program helped eight Colorado land trusts complete 14 conservation projects protecting more than 5,600 acres. The projects also helped landowners leverage more than $8 million in state tax credits. 

Landowners interested in exploring conservation are encouraged to contact their local land trust. More information is available at ''

Conservation of the Weaselskin Institute, located near Durango and overlooking the Animas River, is expected to close this summer in partnership with La Plata Open Space Conservancy. 

The site features irrigated agricultural land, a small equestrian center, and pinon-juniper uplands that are home to wildlife and undisturbed archaeological sites.

"The conservation of this area is going to protect not only those agricultural resources and wildlife resources," said Daruna, "but the cultural resources as well. It's preserving the past culture from that community."

Mount Harris is a former coal-production site along the Yampa River. It's now an important wetland and riparian habitat corridor. 

Conservation of the highly sought-after real estate completed this year removes all subdivision rights, and limits the total number of permitted residences and residential square footage.

"There is immense pressure in that area for development for anything from housing to commercial," said Daruna. "So with this easement, now this beautiful landscape that has been restored from coal production will be protected forever."