Larimer County and Fort Collins awarded Open Space Grant
An $812,475 Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Special Opportunity Open Space grant will help to conserve four large working ranches through a combination of fee simple purchase and conservation easement acquisitions, totaling over 2,800 acres in the Laramie Foothills, situated 25 miles north of Fort Collins.
The Laramie Foothills is a significant regional conservation site due to its high ecological and cultural resources. Rich in biodiversity, the area has received a “very high biodiversity significance” ranking from the Colorado Natural Heritage Program.
Conservation efforts were catalyzed 15 years ago with the inception of the Laramie Foothills Mountains-to-Plains partnership and generous GOCO funding. At that time, over 50,000 acres of land were successfully conserved, which includes Soapstone Prairie Natural Area and Red Mountain Open Space.
GOCO’s recent support builds upon the Mountains-to-Plains Project by conserving four additional ranchland properties adjacent to other conserved lands. These working ranches serve as valuable wildlife migration corridors, offer spectacular vistas, and provide significant buffers to existing conserved lands. The intact native vegetation and wildlife diversity found on these properties is a testament to a legacy of stewardship by generations of Colorado ranching families. Native wildlife includes elk, pronghorn, mountain lion, deer, black bear, as well as grassland birds of conservation concern, large prairie dog colonies, nesting raptors, native plains fish, and a nearly pristine diversity of native aquatic insects.
“We are honored to be able to partner with each of these landowners to protect their ranches into perpetuity and are deeply appreciative for GOCO’s partnership to leverage local funds to continue the extraordinary vision of the Mountains to Plains Project,” said Daylan Figgs, director, Larimer County Department of Natural Resources. “Additionally, I would like to express my sincere thanks to the citizens of Fort Collins and Larimer County for their renewal of local open space initiatives that make projects like this possible.”
As identified in their respective open lands/natural area master plans, the Laramie Foothills region remains a high priority for Larimer County and the City of Fort Collins. The public’s investment in the Laramie Foothills will be further protected by weaving together these four additional conserved lands to create an unprecedented landscape-scale tapestry for current and future generations to enjoy.
“This project will add to a beloved and increasingly important landscape of conserved lands in the Laramie Foothills,” said Zoe Shark, interim director, Fort Collins Natural Areas Department. “These lands are critically important for both people and wildlife. As Fort Collins, Laramie and Cheyenne continue to grow, opportunities for conservation and recreation will become increasingly difficult and cost-prohibitive.”
For more information regarding conservation in Larimer County, visit larimer.org/naturalresources/openlands. ❖
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