The state's nonprofit land trusts are responsible for the stewardship of nearly 80% of the 2.2 million acres of private land conserved in Colorado.
Building the capacity, vibrancy, and resiliency of Colorado’s land conservation community is of vital importance to all Coloradans. The state’s nonprofit land trusts are responsible for the stewardship of nearly 80% of the 2.2 million acres of private land conserved in Colorado. These open lands provide residents and visitors with majestic views, world-class outdoor recreation, and robust working farms and ranches – all of which provide huge economic benefits to our state and contribute to our shared identity as Coloradans.
Yet land trusts nationwide are facing challenges ahead that can’t be solved by any one organization alone. These charitable organizations have operated for decades with land and conservation easement acquisition as a key part of their business model – yet as their daily operations shift more toward land stewardship, many land trusts are exploring new ways of doing business, fundraising, and building partnerships. Long-term sustainability is of primary importance, as land trusts seek to ensure their endowments are well-positioned for land stewardship in perpetuity, and resilient enough to handle risks and change.
What We've Achieved
In 2017, the Gates Family Foundation hosted leaders from Colorado’s land trust community for a series of five full-day, open-ended conversations to explore issues of sustainability and stewardship. The series resulted in a number of tangible results, including:
- A Colorado State University study which found that each dollar invested by the state for land conservation produced economic benefits of between $4 and $12 for Coloradans.
- Regional meetings that allowed local land trusts to explore opportunities for collaboration around business models and programming. In 2018, the CFP will host follow-up meetings for local land trusts to continue these regional conversations.
- Beginning to design a financial sustainability calculator tool and best practices for estimating the optimal size and overall health of stewardship endowments. In 2018, the CFP aims to share a beta version of this calculator, in order to gain feedback and improvements from land trust partners.
- Public policy ideas to address current bottlenecks with land appraisals and tax credit decisions.
Through the 2017 convening series, a consensus also emerged that a strong, statewide coalition would be vital to advance these critical issues of sustainability, partnership, and leadership into the future.
The Conservation Futures Project is endorsed by the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts Board of Directors to shepherd the next phase of all of this work. Throughout 2018, the project will engage an expanded coalition of partners and forge a common vision and path forward for the land conservation community, ensuring perpetual stewardship of the state’s conserved private lands.