The year’s best conservation gifts |

The year’s best conservation gifts

Charles E. Bedford
Aspen, CO Colorado

People say that Colorado has everything: a great climate, roaring rivers, majestic mountains and stunning plains. So, at this time of year, the question becomes: What do you give the state that has everything? We think it is the gift of conservation: preserving those things that make this state so special and unique. And, fortunately for all of us, there are people and organizations that have been doing just that this last year.

Every year at the Nature Conservancy we create a list ” a Green List ” celebrating the projects, people and accomplishments advancing conservation across our state.

So, here it is, in no particular order, our Green List.

1) Great Outdoors Colorado for awarding $57 million to 15 projects preserving 138,000 acres across the state. Many of these projects provide critical wildlife habitat, protect scenic viewsheds and prevent communities from growing together. The GOCO board and staff truly give us the gift of conservation every year.

2) A coalition of sportsmen and conservationists for working with the state legislature and the governor to pass the Habitat Stewardship Act. This new law makes protection of wildlife an explicit part of the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s mission and ensures that the Division of Wildlife will play a more prominent role in protecting wildlife in the face of oil and gas development.

3) The Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program for providing more water for four spectacular large species of western river fish. By expanding Elkhead Reservoir, the program will be able to provide additional water during the late summer when low flows can cause die-offs and predation by non-native fish. This collaborative project counts conservationists, state and federal agencies, and water and power users among its partners. Together they have demonstrated that conservation challenges can be solved when the right people come together in good faith with good science.

4) Gov. Bill Ritter for the release of a climate change strategy and the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization for their comprehensive report on recommendations to reduce emissions. Gov. Ritter demonstrated strong leadership and vision in presenting Colorado with its first Climate Agenda, an ambitious call to action that establishes goals and clear strategies to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

5) The Colorado General Assembly for authorizing $1 million in funding for a new Community Forest Restoration Grant Program. The passage of HB 1130 gives diverse locally based partners new motivation to work together in addressing their mutual forest health and watershed concerns and builds important connections between the state’s forestry and water agencies.

6) Gov. Bill Ritter for signing into law SB 98 allowing local communities to fund open space programs through a voter approved half-cent sales tax increase. SB 98 is a powerful and much needed tool for county governments who want to create effective conservation programs.

7) The State Land Board for the purchase of the Smith Ranch in Lincoln County. In partnership with The Nature Conservancy, the State Land Board has protected nearly 50,000 acres of Colorado’s awe-inspiring prairie landscapes, while maintaining a working ranch operation.

This year, I’d like to add a resolution to our list, a resolution to make our work even more effective. In the coming year, the Nature Conservancy and the conservation community vow to make the state’s conservation easement tax credit program as strong as possible. We want to thank State House Majority Leader Alice Madden and Sen. Jim Isgar for establishing a task force and pursuing legislation to stem abuses of this critically important tool. Conservation easements have conserved Colorado’s farms and ranch land, scenic and historic areas, wildlife habitat and unique natural areas that could have been lost forever to development.

I continue to believe that the greatest gift one can give is the gift of conservation. These people, organizations and projects are gifts in and of themselves and give us and future generations many reasons to celebrate.

Charles E. Bedford is the state director of the Nature Conservancy, a leading conservation organization working in Colorado and around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people.

Editor’s note: Soapbox runs weekly on the Sunday opinion page. f you’d like to contribute, contact Naomi Havlen at The Aspen Times at 925-3414, ext. 17624, or e-mail

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