Trust our Land: Lottery extension means more protection for open space, wildlife | CraigDailyPress.com

Trust our Land: Lottery extension means more protection for open space, wildlife

Bergen Tjossem
Eagle Valley Land Trust

At the beginning of this month, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed SB18-066 into law, which extends the operation of the Colorado Lottery another 25 years past the original termination date of July 1, 2024. That means the benefits to our open space, wildlife, and conserved areas will continue far into the future.

It may seem ironic that a form of gambling can have such positive impacts on our state, but Colorado lawmakers originally crafted the lottery with the interests of Coloradans in mind. Proceeds from the lottery go directly to three important organizations: Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), the Conservation Trust Fund, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

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 including Eagle County. By requiring a funding match in most of its grants, GOCO leverages other funds from federal, local, nonprofit, and private sources. Since inception in 1992, GOCO has helped protect over 1 million acres (1,562 square miles) in Colorado and has invested over $3 billion in Colorado’s wilderness areas, trails, and recreation facilities.

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

Keep It Colorado, a statewide alliance of hundreds of nonprofit organizations, individuals, local businesses, towns, cities, and counties, helped propel the bill throughout the legislative process. The bill was sponsored by state senators Leroy Garcia and Jerry Sonnenberg as well as Rep. Cole Wist and Rep. Jeni James Arndt in the Colorado House of Representatives. The bill passed by a strong margin of 30-5 in the Senate and 48-16 in the House.

Funds generated by the Colorado Lottery help protect land in Eagle County. In 2017, GOCO granted Eagle County $3.1 million of the of the $15.5 million required to purchase Hardscrabble Ranch in Eagle, whose management plan is currently being created with input from the community. Hardscrabble Ranch is permanently protected by a conservation easement held by the Eagle Valley Land Trust, which means that it will remain open space forever.

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We are fortunate to have such forward thinking Colorado Lawmakers who continue to embrace conservation, open space, and our state’s outdoor industry. “Extending the Colorado Lottery another 25 years is an outstanding example of bipartisan collaboration in our state’s government, and a clear reminder that our state representatives have our best interests in mind,” said Jim Daus, Eagle Valley Land Trust Executive Director.

Bergen Tjossem is the communications and fundraising coordinator of 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, go to http://www.evlt.org.