What is a land trust?

A land trust is a non-profit organization organized as a charitable entity under the laws of the United States and Colorado.  Land trusts work with landowners to voluntarily conserve open lands located in the area the land trust serves. Land trusts in Colorado are located in communities across the State, and are run primarily by volunteer boards, some of whom have the assistance of paid staff.  Land trusts work with their neighbors to help voluntarily conserve Colorado lands without government regulation.

What is a public agency or local government open space program?

Some state agencies and many local governments including cities, counties, recreation districts and conservation districts have publicly funded local and regional open space programs that work to preserve urban and rural open space and natural areas by providing planning, management and maintenance of neighborhood parks and open space. Many hold conservation easements as well as acquiring land through methods such as direct purchase, transferred development rights, intergovernmental transfers, and others. Like land trusts, local governments work with their neighbors to help voluntarily conserve Colorado lands.  

What is a conservation easement?

A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement that a landowner can enter with a qualified conservation organization typically a land trust or a public agency. The conservation easement restricts particular development and uses on the land in order to protect conservation, agricultural, and scenic values of a property in perpetuity. The landowner still owns the land and can sell, transfer, and use the land. Conservation easements are flexible and tailored to meet the management needs of the landowner and their family

Why was the conservation futures project needed? What issues was the program trying to solve?

Protecting and stewarding Colorado's open lands for future generations involves big-picture challenges that no one organization can solve alone.

The state's nonprofit land trusts are responsible for the stewardship of nearly 80% of the 2.2 million acres of private land conserved in Colorado – so building the capacity, vibrancy, and resiliency of Colorado’s land conservation community is of vital importance to all Coloradans.

Land trusts nationwide have operated for decades with land and conservation easement acquisition as a key part of their business model – yet as daily operations shift more toward land stewardship, many land trusts are exploring new ways of doing business, fundraising, and building partnerships.

Long-term sustainability is also of primary importance, as land trusts seek to ensure their endowments are well-positioned for land stewardship in perpetuity, and resilient enough to handle risks and change.

Colorado’s land trust leaders have been exploring these and other challenges informally. Through those conversations, a consensus emerged that a strong statewide coalition will be vital to solving critical challenges of sustainability, partnership, and leadership faced by land trusts into the future. The Conservation Futures Project, a one-year project throughout the course of 2018, was the next phase of the work needed to create a vibrant new coalition.

How was the Gates Family Foundation involved in the creation of keep it colorado?

Over the last 25 years, the Gates Family Foundation has been Colorado’s largest private match source for GOCO-funded land conservation projects, statewide. So, like the people of Colorado, the foundation has a vested interest in the long-term sustainability of Colorado land trusts.

In 2017, Gates hosted a series of open-ended, exploratory meetings that resulted in key information that informed the creation of the Conservation Futures Project.

In 2018, the Conservation Futures Project engaged land conservation partners, initiated meetings and surveys, and researched statewide organizations whose models were most effective in serving constituents and advancing common conservation goals.

See the Resources page for a list of survey results, case studies and summit notes.