(Colorado News Connection) As Colorado faces mounting challenges associated with a changing climate - record-breaking wildfires, extreme drought and dwindling water supplies, the loss of habitat for native plants and animals - a new roadmap aims to help secure the state's most critical natural resources by doubling the footprint of conserved lands over the next ten years.
Linda Lidov - interim executive director of the group Keep It Colorado - said people who have lived in the area for centuries, along with recent transplants, share a lot of the same values about the place they call home.
"The wide open scenic vistas, the strong agricultural heritage and way of life, the outdoor recreation economy, the wildlife here," said Lidov. "This plan is really about finding ways to protect those things."
About 60 percent of lands in Colorado are privately owned, and the roadmap aims to help landowners ensure that their life's work - producing food, protecting waterways, wildlife habitat and plant biodiversity - can continue long after they retire.
Conserving key parcels now is important - Lidov said - because while there will always be opportunities to build more, we can never get back natural spaces once they're partitioned and sold off for development.
The roadmap offers guidance to engage all of the state's communities in conservation, and emphasizes the need to protect lands that carry Colorado's most valuable natural asset.
Lidov said the work will require creating partnerships with a host of stakeholders, including the Colorado Water Conservation Board, basin roundtables, watershed councils and other groups focused on water.
"Working with water conservation partners on different solutions and opportunities that protect water for nature and people," said Lidov. "Because land is connected to water, and water is connected to land, and we really need both."
Water is one of five strategic focus areas in the plan. Lidov said all Coloradans stand to benefit if the effort to boost the number of conserved privately-owned lands from 3.3 million acres to 6.6 million acres is successful.
She added that there are many ways people can help conserve lands that puts food on our tables, protects wildlife and protects a way of life.
"We encourage people to vote with their values," said Lidov, "advocating for good policy, writing to their legislators, volunteering with their local land trusts."