Gates Joins with Land Trust Leaders to Launch Conservation Futures Project

This essay by Beth Conover (Senior VP for Natural Resources and Community Development, Gates Family Foundation ) and Peter Ericson (Chief Operating Officer, Great Outdoors Colorado) was originally published by the Conservation Futures Project, a 2018 initiative that is helping to envision and launch a new, statewide coalition to support Colorado's land trust community as it evolves to meet current and future challenges.

Dear Colorado Conservationist,

Our state’s open lands are among Colorado’s most treasured assets, providing 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.

Land trusts serve as vital partners in the conservation and stewardship of these open lands in communities across the state. These nonprofit, charitable organizations work with local landowners who wish to voluntarily restrict development of their private lands, in order to protect iconic vistas, preserve working farms and ranches, and safeguard waterways and ecosystems. In return, land trusts guarantee to protect and steward the open space under their watch – in perpetuity. Altogether, nonprofit land trusts are responsible for the stewardship of nearly 80% of the 2.2 million acres of private land conserved in Colorado.

Because of this, the capacity, vibrancy, and sustainability of the state’s land trusts should be of vital importance to all Coloradans. Many of them are fixtures in their communities, raising thousands to millions of dollars in donations each year from local residents who understand and value their work. The people of Colorado are also deeply supportive of land conservation, through tax credits and open space grants provided by Great Outdoors Colorado – created by voters in 1992 and funded by Colorado Lottery proceeds. And, since GOCO’s inception, the Gates Family Foundation has been Colorado’s largest private match source for GOCO-funded land conservation, statewide.

With so much invested in Colorado’s land trusts, we are proud to support the launch of the Conservation Futures Project – and we invite you to join us. The yearlong project will build on a series of conversations held in 2017, where land conservation leaders and funders from across the state came together to explore big-picture challenges that can’t be solved by any single organization. By the end of 2018, the Conservation Futures Project will engage an expanded coalition of partners to forge a common vision and path forward for the land conservation community, ensuring perpetual stewardship of the state’s conserved private lands.

To get from here to there, the Conservation Futures Project has two primary objectives. First, it will shepherd a collaborative effort to research, design, and launch a new, statewide organization with the structure and capacity to lead Colorado’s land conservation community into the future. And second, the project will help beta test and launch some new, useful tools for navigating our common path forward – such as alternative valuation models for conservation easements, a stewardship endowment calculator, and models for supporting regional land trust collaboration.

We invite you to visit the Conservation Futures Project website to learn more. Our goal is to be as transparent and inclusive as possible. The steering committee includes board members from the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts, which has endorsed the project; leaders from other local, statewide, and nationally operating land trusts; and partners from GOCO and the Gates Family Foundation, which are providing financial support for the project. The Land Trust Alliance is also a supportive and integral partner in the initiative.

We hope that you, too, will find value in engaging with the Conservation Futures Project and receiving monthly updates as our work unfolds. To subscribe to the CFP newsletter and read more about the history and milestones for the project, please visit the CFP website.

On behalf of the Conservation Futures Project steering committee, we are excited to be embarking upon this yearlong journey with each of you.  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the steering committee at info@conservationfutures.org.

Sincerely,

Beth Conover                                                                                Peter Ericson
Senior Vice President                                                                     Chief Operating Officer
Gates Family Foundation                                                               Great Outdoors Colorado

Conservation Futures Project