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Colorado Headwaters Land Trust

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Fraser & Colorado River Initiatives

Class

Environment 

Beneficiaries

General Public
General Public/Unspecified
Outdoor Recreationists
Wildlife Enthusiasts

Description

Colorado Headwaters Land Trust protects and preserves for the public's benefit and enjoyment the scenic Grand County landscapes of the headwaters of the Colorado River and its headwaters tributaries, including the Fraser River. The land trust is focusing its conservation work on the Colorado and Fraser Rivers, two of the most endangered rivers in the nation. Trans-mountain diversions of water to Front Range cities and the Denver Metropolitan Area are threatening the health of the Upper Colorado River. Large private properties with significant senior water rights are the land trust's highest priority for conservation in its effort to protect the Upper Colorado River watershed. The land trust's conservation tool is the conservation easement, a voluntary legal document between the landowner and the land trust that identifies the conservation values on a qualified conservation property and permanently protects those values by restricting development, subdivision and other non-compatible uses. The land trust holds those extinguished rights in perpetuity. Colorado Headwaters Land Trust is the easement holder for 60 conservation easements on over 7,500 acres. These easement properties will be protected in perpetuity, keeping the best of Grand County's open spaces open for the benefit of everyone who lives and works in or visits Grand County. The county has no public funding mechanism (such as an open space tax) so the land trust's funding comes from individual donors, easement donors and a supportive community.

The fact that the Colorado River begins in Grand County-as do several of its headwater tributaries, including the Fraser, the Troublesome, the Williams Form and the Muddy-in many ways defines Grand County. These rivers and streams have created the scenic valleys that are such a critical component of the landscapes that draw tourists and residents to visit and recreate in the county. These are the landscapes the Colorado Headwaters Land Trust is working so hard to protect. Several large historic ranches are located along the Colorado River and its tributaries and are owned by 4th or 5th generation families, who own senior water rights for use on their ranch. The land trust's unique conservation focus is to encumber these water rights into the Deed of Conservation Easement, thus tying the water rights to the land in perpetuity and keeping return flows in the rivers and not diverted from the river. Large private properties with significant senior water rights are the land trust's highest priority for conservation in the Colorado River Headwaters Corridor Priority Landscape, identified by the Colorado Conservation Partnership as the top priority landscape for conservation purposes in Colorado.

Photos

Evidence of Program's Success

The evidence is in the numbers of key properties encumbered with conservation easements, actual acres protected and the numbers of willing landowners working with Colorado Headwaters Land Trust to conserve their lands.

This 622-acre conservation easement was purchased by The Conservation Fund with funds from Great Outdoors Colorado, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Gates Family Foundation on December 21, 2016. The Conservation Fund immediately assigned the conservation easement to the Colorado Headwaters Land Trust.

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