Trust Our Land: Colorado Lottery funds Great Outdoors Colorado, Conservation Trust Fund, which help our land (column) | VailDaily.com

Trust Our Land: Colorado Lottery funds Great Outdoors Colorado, Conservation Trust Fund, which help our land (column)

Bergen Tjossem
Trust Our Land

Courtesy of the Eagle Valley Land Trust Hikers on the Buffehr Creek Trail, forever protected by the Eagle Valley Land Trust.

Colorado's landscape and natural resources are diverse and exceptional. The jagged mountains, vast arid mesas, dense aspen stands and towering conifer forests are the foundation of why many of us have come to Eagle County, stayed or returned. They make our agricultural heritage richer and our identity stronger.

This state, and especially this county, could take lifetimes to explore. Thanks to forward thinking by Colorado voters nearly four decades ago, many of our most-loved lands will remain protected permanently.

A new report by the Trust for Public Land examines the economic benefits of Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) and the Conservation Trust Fund, both funded by the Colorado Lottery. Created in 1980 and reaffirmed in 1992, the Colorado Lottery funds Colorado Parks and Wildlife, GOCO and the Conservation Trust Fund's operations, projects and grant programs.

Today, 50 percent of the lottery's proceeds go to GOCO, which awards competitive grants to land trusts, including the Eagle Valley Land Trust, and local governments like Eagle County. By requiring a funding match in most of its grants, GOCO leverages other funds from federal, local, nonprofit and private sources (in 2017, every $1 invested by GOCO was matched by at least $2.50 from other sources).

Since its inception in 1992, GOCO has helped protect more than 1 million acres (1,562 square miles) in Colorado.

The Conservation Trust Fund receives up to 40 percent of lottery proceeds, which are distributed to local governments for acquisition and maintenance of open space, conservation sites, parks, trails and other recreational facilities. CPW receives the remaining 10 percent of annual lottery proceeds, which it uses to fund projects and educational programming surrounding nongame wildlife species.

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The Trust for Public Land study, which measured the economic benefits of Great Outdoors Colorado and the Conservation Trust Fund, was the first to quantify the positive impact of public investment in the two programs. It found the following:

• By investing in Colorado's scenic beauty, natural resources and outdoor recreation, GOCO and the Conservation Trust Fund help bring visitors to the state who spent $1.21 billion annually, which generated $45 million in state tax revenue and $66 million in local tax revenue each year.

• GOCO supports Colorado's ranching and agriculture by keeping working lands open and active. Colorado's ranches and farms generated $8.6 billion in products each year.

• Ninety percent of Colorado residents enjoy the state's recreational opportunities. By investing in recreation, open space and land conservation, GOCO helped create $399 million in recreation benefits annually.

• Over the past decade, the Conservation Trust Fund and GOCO funding provided $507 million in labor income, which supported 11,800 jobs in the state.

• GOCO and Conservation Trust Fund investments helped generate $392 million in sporting good spending by Colorado residents annually, which supports 1,510 Colorado businesses (14,800 employees), which produce $4.3 billion in sales each year.

The Eagle Valley Land Trust, in collaboration with Eagle County and local towns, has helped bring funding and associated benefits from GOCO and the Conservation Trust Fund to our community.

Bergen Tjossem is the communications and fundraising coordinator of the Eagle Valley Land Trust. He can be reached at bergen@evlt.org. For more about the Eagle Valley Land Trust and how it is conserving land and benefiting the community, visit http://www.evlt.org.