GOCO board selects Chris Castillian for Executive Director position

Tuesday, February 7, 2017 -- GOCO

To our partners and friends,

On behalf of the GOCO Board of Trustees, I’m pleased to share that we have selected Chris Castilian for the GOCO executive director position.

A native of Colorado, Chris has worked in both the private and public sectors. He brings a lengthy history of public service, including serving as deputy chief of staff for Gov. Bill Owens, as well as director of the Colorado State Board of Land Commissioners. Most recently, Chris was director of strategy and engagement for Anadarko Petroleum Corp., where he led government affairs, social investment, employee engagement, and stakeholder outreach for the Rockies region. He currently serves as a commissioner for Colorado Parks and Wildlife and is on several other boards of nonprofit organizations throughout the Denver metro area.

We’re confident Chris will bring his expertise in strategic management, government relations, and community building to GOCO and lead this organization through the implementation of our strategic plan—Protect, Connect, and Inspire. Throughout Chris’s life and work he has continued to carry a passion for the outdoors and conservation. With his combined skills and passion, he’ll be a strong leader for GOCO, and we’re excited to see how his innovative approach will help shape the organization’s future.

Please join us in welcoming Chris into the GOCO community. As always, thank you for your partnership and support and for doing the great work you do for our state.

Jason Brinkley
Chairman of the Board of Trustees
Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO)

Please contact GOCO at info@goco.org with questions.

Denver Post Op-Ed: Conservation tax credit program too critical not to fix

Rob Bleiberg, Executive Director of Mesa Land Trust since 1996, penned an eloquent opinion column published in the Denver Post on Colorado's conservation easement tax credit program. 

Rob's long history in this community gives him a powerful voice to our community's issues. Rob has served on the CCLT board of directors, the Conservation Easement Oversight Commission, and the Colorado Board of Real Estate Appraisers. Thank you, Rob, for sharing your unique perspective

This Colorado legislative session, CCLT is working with our conservation partners to effect positive change for the conservation easement tax credit program. I look forward to sharing more details as the session unfolds. 

Photo courtesy of John Fielder.

Photo courtesy of John Fielder.

via Denver Post
January 28, 2017 at 5:00 pm

Maxine Aubert spent her honeymoon as the camp cook for the family sheep ranching operation atop Pinyon Mesa, southwest of Grand Junction. In the following decades, she returned each summer with her husband, Auggie, a crew of relatives and hired help. Children soon joined the mix, and later grandchildren. Summers with her family among aspen forests and wildflower-filled meadows were an annual ritual that Maxine repeated for 52 years.

Perched on the rim of Unaweep Canyon, the Aubert Ranch is a strategically located wildlife mecca. It provides critical habitat for deer, mountain lions and bears, and is a migration corridor for one of Colorado’s premiere elk herds.

After her husband passed away, Maxine became determined to conserve the place that held so many memories. Because of its incredible wildlife and scenic values, my organization, the Mesa Land Trust, was delighted to help.

Colorado’s conservation easement tax credit offered the perfect tool to make Maxine’s dream a reality. In 2006, Maxine donated a conservation easement, safeguarding a family legacy and protecting a remarkable piece of state.

Unfortunately, problems in the state’s management of the conservation easement program may make success stories like this less common.

Read More

USDA Announces $252 Million Available for Regional Conservation Partnership Program

Kaveh Sadeghzadeh

Applications requested for innovative partner-driven projects

WASHINGTON, Jan. 12, 2017 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today invited potential conservation partners, including private industry, non-government organizations, Indian tribes, state and local governments, water districts, and universities to submit project applications for federal funding through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).

Through this fourth RCPP Announcement for Program Funding (APF), USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will award up to $252 million dollars to locally driven, public-private partnerships that improve the nation’s water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat, and protect agricultural viability.  Applicants must match or exceed the federal award with private or local funds.

“Through unprecedented collaboration, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program has established a new paradigm for working lands conservation that yields unparalleled results,” Vilsack said. “Working together, RCPP projects in every state are demonstrating the ways in which locally-led initiatives can meet some of our most pressing natural resource concerns.”

Created by the 2014 Farm Bill, RCPP connects partners with producers and private landowners to design and implement voluntary conservation solutions that benefit natural resources, agriculture, and the economy.  By 2018, NRCS and its more than 2,000 conservation partners will have invested at least $2.4 billion in high-impact RCPP projects nationwide.

For example, three existing RCPP projects bring together more than 40 partners, including USA Rice, Ducks Unlimited, California Rice Commission, the Walmart Foundation and The Mosaic Company, to accelerate conservation on rice lands in six states facing water quality and quantity challenges. These projects, collectively called the USA Rice-Ducks Unlimited Rice Stewardship Partnership, aim to conserve water and wildlife habitat while sustaining the future of rice farming in the United States. With unique technical expertise and needs, each state is leading a partner-driven, local approach to conservation in rice agriculture.

In its most recent RCPP awards, NRCS last month announced that 88 high-impact projects across the country will receive $225 million in federal funding, with more than double that investment from partners.  The new Gulf of Mexico – Forest to Sea RCPP project will conserve Florida’s pristine “Big Bend” area along the northeastern Gulf by implementing innovative conservation solutions with private working forest owners. Using an impact investment approach, The Conservation Fund and 12 partners will implement an easement and restoration plan on large forested tracts to address the natural resource concerns while allowing sustainable timber harvesting and maintaining local jobs. The project will serve as a model for further conservation and impact investing in the region and beyond.

NRCS Chief Jason Weller encourages partners to consider conservation finance and environmental markets as they develop RCPP project applications. “The growing field of conservation finance provides opportunities to inject significant investment capital into projects that protect, restore and maintain our natural ecosystems,” says Weller.

USDA is now accepting proposals for Fiscal Year 2018 RCPP funding. Pre-proposals are due April 21. For more information on applying, visit the RCPP website.

Since 2009, USDA has invested more than $29 billion to help producers make conservation improvements, working with as many as 500,000 farmers, ranchers and landowners to protect over 400 million acres nationwide, boosting soil and air quality, cleaning and conserving water and enhancing wildlife habitat. For an interactive look at USDA's work in conservation and forestry over the course of this Administration, visit  http://medium.com/usda-results.

Fellowship Opportunity with Western State

Western State Colorado University offers a Master in Environmental Management degree from its campus in Gunnison, Colorado or from any global location.  Residential students can benefit from the learning laboratories of the central Rockies, while distance students can earn their masters from their job and use their job as their masters project. This year, they are offering a $5,000 fellowship ($10,000 if matched) that is tailored to current working professionals in the land trust community.  

Please consider applying before January 10 to be considered for all fellowships. For more information, visit: http://www.western.edu/mem, or contact Integrative Land Management Coordinator, Corrie Knapp at cknapp@western.edu. Please also see the program information sheet and list of fellowship opportunities offered through the Integrative Land Management program.

NRCS grant funding cycle: ACEP-ALE FY17 applications

The Natural Resources Conservation Service announced application materials for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP-ALE) in FY17. There are two (2) ranking tools this year, one for General ALE applications and the other is for Sage Grouse and Lesser Prairie Chicken as they had last year. This ranking tool has “At-Risk Species” at the top of it.  The General ALE applications will be ranked against each other and the At-Risk Species applications will be ranked against each other as well, make sure you use the correct ranking tool for your application. Click here for more information about the ACEP-ALE program and to get all your application materials. The deadline for submission is Friday, January 20th. 

Conservation Easements: Keeping Colorado, Colorado

Photo courtesy of the Trinchera Blanca Foundation.

Photo courtesy of the Trinchera Blanca Foundation.

Blog post by Amanda Barker, Executive Director, Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts

Colorado has a rich, proud heritage of working landscapes. Our productive farms, ranches, and abundant natural resources stretch from our prairie vistas to our mountain peaks. Coloradans – natives and newcomers, alike – are proud of our lands and we overwhelmingly support protecting them.

These working lands have drawn people to Colorado for hundreds of years and they will continue to do so for many years to come. But our state’s continued growth has led to an important balancing act between development and maintaining what makes Colorado, Colorado.

As Coloradans know, our state continues to grow. By 2050, the population is expected to exceed 9 million, nearly doubling the current number of residents and putting more pressure on our land and water. These pressures threaten the viability of our farms and ranches as well as iconic landscapes and scenic places. We see those threats becoming realities as family farms and ranches are sold into development, or lost due to financial hardships. 

There are, however, tools to protect our lands and our heritage. One of those tools is the conservation easement. It is an important tool for some, not all, landowners interested in preserving their private property rights and continuing a family legacy, or to protect natural areas. Private property rights mean that all landowners have the ability to do with their land and water as they wish, subject to applicable laws. As the Executive Director of the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts, we and the entire land trust community, are thrilled that private landowners across Colorado have generously conserved their properties for continued agriculture, wildlife habitat, and signature views using conservation easements. Members of CCLT have worked to protect nearly 2 million acres of land, keeping these lands productive and intact.

Conservation easements appeals to many of Colorado’s landowners with a voluntary and non-regulatory approach to keeping working lands working. Yet, conservation easements protect more than just the land – they help keep water on the land and in the region, too. This is an incredibly significant benefit as Colorado’s growth puts increasing demands on our water supply that is becoming scarcer. In addition to protecting water supplies, conservation easements provide tremendous economic value by supporting local economies, preserving important wildlife habitat for thousands of game and non-game species, and attracting tourists year-round.

Iconic properties with conservation easements like Greenland Ranch, Trinchera Blanca Ranch and the Hutchinson Ranch help balance urban sprawl, protect entire landscapes and enable farmers and ranchers to pass down their operations to the next generation. These conserved lands have worked to keep Colorado, Colorado ­– and these lands will be forever protected regardless of future growth. Conservation easements play an important role in shaping Colorado’s future.

GOCO awards $33.2 million to get kids outside, build trails, and conserve and restore land

DENVER – The Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Board awarded $33.2 million in grants across the state of Colorado, $13.5 million of which is part of the Inspire Initiative to get kids outside.

Six Inspire pilots were awarded funding to community- and youth-led coalitions to invest in places, programs, and pathways to that will make the outdoors more accessible for Colorado families.

All three pillars of GOCO’s five-year strategic plan awarded funding this round, with the Protect and Connect initiatives also announcing grants.

The Protect Initiative invests in large-scale, once-in-a-lifetime land conservation opportunities in Colorado and funded four more projects this grant cycle. The Connect Initiative, which aims to close trail gaps and increase foot and bike access for Coloradans, awarded its first round of planning grants to help municipalities navigate the complicated design and engineering process of trail building.

The open space grant program awarded funding to 10 projects that will sustain local agriculture and economies, give outdoor recreationists a place to play (or simply enjoy the view), protect wildlife habitat, and safeguard the state’s water supply.

The transaction costs grant program also awarded funding to help landowners place conservation easements on their land. To be eligible for the program, landowners are required to donate the entire value of the conservation easement for the project.

GOCO funded grants through its habitat restoration grant program, which funds projects that manage invasive species, protect Colorado’s water supply, mitigate fire fuels, and perform other critical restoration work.

GOCO also awarded Youth Corps funding through the Colorado Youth Corps Association (CYCA), a statewide coalition of nine accredited youth corps groups that engage and train youth, young adults, and veterans (ages 16-25) to work on land, water, and energy conservation projects.

Corps members earn a stipend for their full-time service and an AmeriCorps education award to use toward college or trade school. The organization serves 1,700 young people annually.

In total, GOCO funding will:

  • Fund 63 projects in 35 counties

  • Help nearly 42,000 kids get outside in six Inspire Initiative pilot communities

  • Employ 175 youth through the Colorado Youth Corps Association

  • Restore 663 acres of habitat

  • Conserve 97,289 acres of land, including critical wildlife habitat, productive agricultural land, scenic views, and outdoor recreation access

  • Leverage $47 million in local match dollars and $17 million in donated land value

Funded projects are listed in alphabetical order by grant program. Click here to read the full press release>>


Carbondale to Crested Butte Trail Plan, $100,000 grant to Pitkin County

City of Fort Morgan Trail Master Plan, $100,000 grant to the City of Fort Morgan

Clear Creek Greenway: East Idaho Springs Planning, $100,000 grant to the City of Idaho Springs in partnership with the Clear Creek Greenway Authority (CCGA)

Complete the Ring Planning Project: $100,000 grant to the City of Colorado Springs in partnership with the Trails and Open Space Coalition (TOSC)

Delta County Trails Master Plan, $100,000 grant to Delta County

Evergreen North Lake Trail Planning Project, $100,000 grant to Evergreen Park and Recreation District (EVPRD)

Greenhorn Valley Trails Master Plan, $73,000 grant to Colorado City Metro District

LoVa Trail Phase III, $75,000 grant to the City of Glenwood Springs

Namaqua Trail Underpass, $97,000 grant to the City of Loveland

Palisade Plunge, $90,000 grant to the Town of Palisade

Wildcat Trail, $65,000 grant to Thompson Rivers Parks and Recreation District (TRPRD)


Elkhorn Creek Forest Restoration, $75,584 grant to The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in partnership with the Elkhorn Creek Forest Health Initiative

Jones Park Bear Creek Greenback Cutthroat Trout Habitat Restoration Project, $75,000 grant to El Paso County

Las Colonias Park Riparian Restoration, $29,400 grant to the City of Grand Junction

North St. Vrain Creek Restoration in Button Rock Preserve, $60,000 grant to the City of Longmont

Poudre River and Floodplain Habitat Restoration at Kingfisher Point, $100,000 grant to the City of Fort Collins

Prewitt Wetlands Enhancement, $109,658 grant to Colorado Open Lands in partnership with Ducks Unlimited

Rio Grande State Wildlife Area Restoration and Protection Project: Phase 1, $25,000 grant to Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Swift Ponds Russian Olive Removal and Noxious Weed Eradication, $24,890 grant to Colorado Open Lands in partnership with Colorado Youth Outdoors


Get Outdoors Leadville, $3 million grant to Lake County

Nature Kids/Jovenes de la Naturaleza, $2.8 million grant to the City of Lafayette

My Outdoor Colorado, $2.7 million grant to the City and County of Denver

Go Wild NE Metro, $2.7 million grant to the cities of Aurora, Commerce City, and the City and County of Denver

Inspire Lamar, $1.3 million grant to the City of Lamar

San Luis Valley Inspire, $1 million grant to the towns of Antonito, Crestone, and Saguache


Baker’s Peak Ranch Conservation Easement Project, $625,000 to Colorado Open Lands in partnership with Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Doig Homestead Open Space, $675,000 grant to Summit County

Farmland Acquisition, $487,690 grant to the City of Brighton (partial award)

Johnson Ranch - Glade Park, $308,500 grant to Mesa Land Trust

La Garita Creek Ranch Conservation Easement, $376,500 grant to Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT)

Maverick Ranch, $1,056,000 grant to The Trust for Public Land (TPL)

North Floyd Hill, $545,000 grant to The Trust for Public Land (TPL), in partnership with Mountain Area Land Trust (MALT)

Poudre Valley Community Farms: A Pilot Project for Community Investment in Local Food, $639,750 grant to Colorado Open Lands (COL)

Sunfire Ranch, $1 million grant to Pitkin County

The Nature Center at Butler Corner, $264,560 grant to Montezuma Land Conservancy

Yust Ranch, $697,000 grant to The Conservation Fund


Agate Prairie Conservation Legacy, $2.14 million grant to Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust in partnership with The Trust for Public Land and The Nature Conservancy

Buckley Air Force Base (AFB) Compatible Use Buffer, $3 million grant to The Trust for Public Land in partnership with the City of Aurora and Arapahoe County

Southeast Colorado Prairie Canyonlands Conservation Project, $2.647 million grant to Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust in partnership with The Nature Conservancy

Willow Bay Acquisition, $3 million grant to Adams County


Badger Creek Conservation Easement, $39,800 grant to Central Colorado Conservancy (CCC), formerly Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas (LTUA)

Barr Farm Conservation Easement, $27,500 grant to Colorado Open Lands (COL)

McLeod Conservation Easement, $39,000 grant to Mesa Land Trust (MLT)

Menoken Farm Conservation Easement, $47,600 grant to Mesa Land Trust (MLT)

Ranch on the Uncompahgre River, $38,700 grant to Gunnison Ranchland Conservation Legacy (GRCL) in partnership with Colorado Open Lands (COL)

Ranch on the Yampa River, $31,468 grant to Colorado Open Lands (COL)

Schultz Elk & Cattle Ranch, $50,000 grant to Montezuma Land Conservancy (MLC)


Baxter Gulch Trail and Crested Butte Open Space Stewardship, $25,200 to the Town of Crested Butte

Black Forest Area Trails and Forest Restoration, $45,000 to El Paso County

Cerise Park Open Space Invasive Weed Management, $13,800 to the City of Montrose

City of Greeley Natural Area Improvement, $41,700 to the City of Greeley

Duckett Creek Ranch Fire Mitigation and Wildlife Habitat Enhancement, $22,500 to San Isabel Land Protection Trust

Hermit Park Open Space New Trail Construction, $40,200 to Larimer County Dept. of Natural Resources

Intemann Trail Fire Mitigation Project, $30,000 to City of Manitou Springs

John Griffin Regional Park Tamarisk and Russian Olive Abatement, $30,000 to Canon City Area Rec and Park District

Las Colonias Park Riparian Area, $17,550 to the City of Grand Junction

Montezuma School to Farm Manaugh Garden Project and Ohana Kuleana Community Garden, $25,200 to the City of Cortez

Phantom Canyon Preserve River Trail, $37,800 to The Nature Conservancy (TNC)

Spring Creek Park Maintenance and Mitigation, $26,400 to the Town of Brookside

Spring Creek Trail Restoration, $12,150 to the City of Steamboat Springs

Swallowtail and Ringtail Trail Corridor, $27,600 grant to Douglas County Open Space

Swift Ponds Russian Olive Removal and Noxious Weed Management, $41,700 to Colorado Open Lands (COL)

Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers, and open spaces. GOCO’s independent board awards competitive grants to local governments and land trusts, and makes investments through Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Created when voters approved a Constitutional Amendment in 1992, GOCO has since funded more than 4,700 projects in urban and rural areas in all 64 counties without any tax dollar support. Visit GOCO.org for more information.

USFS - RFP for Forest and Open Space Program

The USFS is soliciting proposals once again for the community forest and open space program.  Mark Martin is the regional point of contact (mlmartin@fs.fed.us). These grants go directly to communities, counties, non-profits and tribes. This program funds the acquisition of forests for community education, recreation, and demonstration purposes.  Program information is hyperlinked below. The deadline for Colorado State Forester endorsement (Colorado State Forest Service) is January 13th.  

Celebrate America's Byways 25th Anniversary with a Scenic Fall Drive

Photo by Cathy Edwards ~ Douglas Pass aspens on the Dinosaur Diamond National Scenic and Prehistoric Byway.

Photo by Cathy Edwards ~ Douglas Pass aspens on the Dinosaur Diamond National Scenic and Prehistoric Byway.

Denver, CO, August 29, 2016  -  September is a favorite time of year to head out on a scenic drive and admire the Rocky Mountain's quaking aspen fall colors. While enjoying your drive, also celebrate that 2016 marks the 25th anniversary of the National Scenic Byways Program created through the federal Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991. 

Our state offers an outstanding collection of 26 Colorado Scenic and Historic Byways, including 11 America's Byways®, 2 All-American Roads, 10 National Forest Scenic Byways, and 2 Bureau of Land Management National Back Country Byways. America's Byways® is the umbrella term used for the national collection of 150 distinct and diverse roads designated by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation. 

To make things a little easier, Colorado Byways is collaborating with MyScenicDrives to provide more information for travelers. MyScenicDrives includes a feature to showcase electrical vehicle charging stations and help people plan when they might need a pit stop. The company also offers a road-trip planner that allows users to create an itinerary which can be printed or exported to a GPS device. Recently, MyScenicDrives has uploaded Guanella Pass and Cache la Poudre-North Park Byway to Colorado’s collection of Scenic Drives. Additionally, the Colorado Department of Transportation furnishes a Bicycling and Scenic Byways map which can be ordered online or picked up at a Colorado Welcome Center.

And since the earliest days of the automobile, driving for pleasure has always been one of America's most popular outdoor recreational pursuits. In more recent history, Coloradans and visitors also pursue bicycling byways as part of their recreational pursuit. That’s important, because Colorado Byways take us to outstanding historic and recreation destinations throughout the State, get us up close and personal with our unique environments, and remind us of our heritage.

For more information about the Scenic and Historic Byways, visit www.ColoradoByways.org.


Colorado's breathtaking scenic landscape boasts 26 scenic and historic byways, 42 state parks, 12 national parks and monuments, 58 mountain peaks that top 14,000 feet, 20 main street communities, 18 creative districts, and 3 national heritage areas.

Great Outdoors Colorado - Habitat Restoration Grant Program

GOCO is pleased to announce our 2016 Habitat Restoration grant program which aims to improve and restore Colorado's rivers, streams, wetlands, and critical habitat, with $500,000 in available funding. Previous habitat restoration grants targeted riparian habitat, but the current program includes all types of ecosystem restoration and enhancement, from forests and grasslands to rivers and wetlands. If you are considering applying for one of these grants, please review the information provided here, including the application instructions linked on that page. Applications are available by request.

Please contact Chris Yuan-Farrell at cyuanfarrell@goco.org or 303-226-4511 to discuss your project and request an application. Applications are due September 23, 2016, and the GOCO Board will make award decisions on December 8, 2016.