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Grant awarded to La Plata Open Space Conservancy to protect over 500 acres of land

Parcel has not been specified; funding will go toward upfront costs on conservation easement
GOCO has invested about $12.6 million into La Plata County projects. La Plata Open Space Conservancy couldn’t specify the property or exact location that will be an area of focus, but indicated it was near the Edgemont Ranch area, seen here. (Durango Herald file)

The Great Outdoors Colorado board awarded a $45,000 grant to La Plata Open Space Conservancy, which will permanently protect 502 acres of a property located within the Florida River Valley.

The grant will be awarded through the nonprofit Keep It Colorado.

The property is set within a 4,000-acre area of relatively undeveloped land featuring large ranches, federal lands and state lands, with direct connectivity to San Juan National Forest to the north and an existing conservation easement property to the east.

“When we’re reviewing grant applications, we look at how well they increase the scale of high-quality conservation, create connectivity/adjacency across critical landscapes, expand conservation across diverse geographic areas and leverage the conservation easement tax credit,” Keep It Colorado spokeswoman Linda Lidov said in an email. “We also look at how well they align with the strategic pillars in our Conserving Colorado Roadmap (two of which focus on creating climate-resilient landscapes and resilient agriculture).”

With increased development to the east and west, the property is considered a key migration corridor used by a wide variety of wildlife, including elk and deer, GOCO officials said in a news release.

The board has invested more than $12.6 million in projects in La Plata County and partnered to conserve 3,688 acres of land there. GOCO funding has supported the Animas River greenway within the city of Durango, Horse Gulch and the city’s Parks, Open Space, Trails and Recreation master plan, among other projects.

“The property LPOSC is conserving with this grant was particularly interesting to our review team because it has long been an important migration corridor for a wide variety of wildlife, including deer and elk,” Lidov said. “That connectivity between the lower winter climates of the nearby Bureau of Land Management land and the National Forest is essential for the wildlife who rely on the ability to move safely through these lands. This corridor has become even more important by increased development on either side of it. The property also includes irrigated pasture land for agricultural purposes, including hay production and livestock, which is critical to protect.”

LPOSC Executive Director Adrienne Dorsey said the organization could not specify the name of the property or the exact location. However, she did indicate that it was near the Edgemont Ranch area, the site of substantial growth over the last decade.

By placing a conservation easement on the property, it will permanently protect the property from any future development.

Dorsey said that any time a parcel of land is divided into smaller acreages to build housing, it has a great impact on wildlife ecosystems.

She also said development has been a concern for the group, as is trying maintain wildlife habitats. Most of the funding will go toward the transaction costs of the conservation easement.

“Conservation easements do require upfront capital to cover the costs such as completing an appraisal, completing a baseline report, completing the research that demonstrate that you’re capturing the existing status of the land,” Dorsey said. “So the transaction assistance cost grants will help cover those upfront costs for the landowner, which can sometimes be cost prohibitive for folks.”


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