For photographer, it’s all about protecting nature |

For photographer, it’s all about protecting nature

Scott CondonThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO, Colorado
John FielderColorado nature photographer John Fielder released a picture book as well as a separate guide book this year to celebrate the successes of the Great Outdoors Colorado program, which uses lottery funds to preserve open space and build recreational amenities. Fielder traveled 35,000 miles over a 18-month period to capture images in all 64 Colorado counties.

ASPEN – Famed nature photographer John Fielder played a key role 20 years ago in making sure Colorado lottery dollars were dedicated to open space purchases and recreation enhancements. Now, in these tough economic times, he aims to reinforce that move.Fielder is making a 40-stop tour around Colorado bringing attention to the hundreds of projects across the state that were funded through lottery proceeds. He will have a slideshow with images of the projects melded with music, and he will share his impressions of the Great Outdoors Colorado program.Fielder said in a recent interview that when the Colorado lottery was approved by voters in 1980, it was sold as a way to protect the state’s outdoor heritage. However, loopholes allowed the lottery dollars to be raided for use on other projects. Between 1983 and 1992, the majority of funds were used to build prisons.Supporters of the intent of the lottery – to raise funds to preserve open space and help Colorado towns build pedestrian trails and parks – floated a ballot question in 1992 to create a state constitutional amendment that spelled out how the funds will be used. The outdoors program was created to manage the funds and dole out grants.The lottery generates about $100 million per year after payouts, according to Fielder. About half of those funds go to the program for projects. Another 40 percent goes to a conservation trust fund, and the remaining 10 percent is distributed for park and recreation projects.Fielder said that during the Great Recession, at least one state legislator per year has raised the prospect of using lottery funds for something other than enhancing the outdoors. The effort hasn’t been successful, but it shows how those millions of dollars remain coveted.A couple of years ago, Fielder approached GOCO officials with an idea designed to educate Colorado residents on how valuable the program was for outdoor projects. He wanted to showcase GOCO’s efforts on its 20th anniversary, in 2012. They hired him to produce a guide book and a separate picture book featuring the properties purchased and facilities created with lottery funds.Fielder drove 35,000 miles in an 18-month period in 2010 and 2011 to take hundreds of photographs in all 64 Colorado counties. He took pictures at hundreds of county and city open spaces, state parks and wildlife areas, local and regional trails, community parks, ball fields and playgrounds and ranches that have been conserved.”I love sharing what I see with other people,” Fielder said.The results are the “Guide to Colorado’s Great Outdoors: Lottery-Funded Parks, Trails, Wildlife Areas & Open Spaces” and the picture book, “Colorado’s Great Outdoors: Celebrating 20 Years of Lottery-Funded Lands.” They are his 44th and 45th books, many showing the wild places and great outdoors of Colorado.Both books are available now for purchase at and at his presentations across the state. At the book-signing events, 30 percent of the sales will go to local organizations sponsoring Fielder’s presentation. Aspen Valley Land Trust and Pitkin County Open Space and Trails will be the beneficiaries at the Aspen event.Fielder said his presentations stress the point that Colorado is unique among the states for using its lottery funds to benefit “the out of doors.” At the Aspen show, his pictures will feature Sky Mountain Park at Snowmass Village, Filoha Meadows in the Crystal River Valley, the Grange family ranch near Basalt, the Redstone Park, Tom Blake Trail on lower Burnt Mountain and Snowmass Ski Area, and the Rio Grande Trail.At each of the properties and projects across the state where GOCO funds have been used, the agency places a green sign noting its involvement.”I’m trying to remind Coloradans what these green signs are,” Fielder said.And if he’s successful, that helps with his ultimate goal – to make sure GOCO’s lottery funds don’t get raided.”In the end, it’s politics to protect nature,” Fielder