DENVER – Keep It Colorado, a nonprofit coalition of conservation partners including land trusts, public agencies and conservation professionals, has received $205,000 in grants from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) and the Gates Family Foundation. The grant allows Keep It Colorado to launch a program that will help 12 land trusts use remote technologies – such as satellite and aerial imagery – to monitor conservation properties across the state. Remote monitoring is being used as an alternative to in-person methods, which have been complicated by COVID-19.
GOCO’s investment of $155,000 through its Resilient Communities program, and Gates Family Foundation’s investment of $50,000, enable Keep It Colorado to disburse funds to land trusts that requested funds through an RFP process. Land trusts may use the funds at their discretion to purchase satellite and aerial imagery of properties where they hold conservation easements, purchase imagery analysis software, hire a geographic information systems consultant for technical support, and pay for staff time to design and implement their remote monitoring approach.
Keep It Colorado received grant requests totaling more than $185,000, and has awarded $155,000 in grants to nine organizations representing 12 land trusts. Keep It Colorado will use the remaining $50,000 in funds to administer the regrant program and analyze the effectiveness and efficiency of the program as a longer-term solution to property monitoring.
Award recipients are:
The program’s launch is a direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has forced land trusts to rethink the way in which they steward conservation easements while keeping rural communities, landowners and staff safe.
“Many conserved properties are located in communities with limited resources to combat the pandemic, and land trusts heard almost immediately from landowners who were concerned about in-person monitoring this summer,” said Melissa Daruna, executive director of Keep It Colorado. A survey of the coalition’s members indicated that 80 percent of land trusts ranging in size and geographic service area reported impact of COVID-19 to monitoring practices.
“Many land trusts are innovating and shifting to widespread use of satellite or aerial imagery to fulfill annual monitoring requirements efficiently and safely,” Daruna said. “Our partners GOCO and the Gates Family Foundation stepped in and prioritized an investment when they recognized a need for immediate support.”
While the program addresses an urgent short-term need by providing immediate relief to multiple organizations, Keep It Colorado has long had a goal of making greater use of technology to create more efficient monitoring practices. The remote monitoring program enables it to fulfill that goal and create an innovative path forward. Driving down the expense of monitoring is a critical strategy for improving land trust sustainability; every dollar saved in monitoring costs reduces stewardship fund capital requirements by $20 or more, Keep It Colorado estimates.
Land trusts are responsible for visiting their conservation easement properties every year. Visits involve evaluating the condition of the property to determine compliance with the terms of the easement, and ensure that landowners are upholding the conservation values of each property.
The Land Trust Accreditation Commission requires land trusts to monitor on the ground at least one out of five years.
To learn more about conservation easements and the conservation easement tax credit program, read The Conservation Easement Tax Credit: 20 Years of Conservation Success in Colorado.
About Keep It Colorado
Keep It Colorado is a nonprofit coalition of land trusts, public agencies and conservation champions that is driving a new conservation movement in Colorado. The members’ on-the-ground initiatives in local communities are working to ensure that Colorado’s people, lands, waters and wildlife thrive – and that our natural outdoor spaces and places stay beautiful and protected forever. To support coalition members in their work, Keep It Colorado serves as a unified voice that advocates for sound public policy; provides connection and collaboration opportunities; offers a forum to address emerging issues and opportunities around conservation; and engages communities on the importance of conservation for our state’s future. Learn more at www.keepitco.org