Gunnison Valley Land Preservation Board
Since its beginning in 1998, the Gunnison Valley Land Preservation Fund ("Fund") has been assisting local land trusts with conservation easement projects throughout Gunnison County. As of November 2011, the Fund has contributed to 48 projects protecting >16,000 acres or about 4% of the private land in Gunnison County. Six of the projects include public access trails and another three are solely trail projects. One is a public park. Here's a list of accomplishments and a slideshow created in 2012.
The Land Preservation Fund was originally established by voters in 1997 and was then reauthorized in 2012 by voters with an overwhelming majority of over 80%. The Fund is created by a small redistribution of monies from the existing County 1% sales tax (note: half of this 1% sales tax generated by a municipality goes directly to that municipality). The Fund's annual amount gets adjusted up or down annually based on the total revenue derived from the 1% tax. In 2011, the amounts were $106,056 from the County and $66,264 from each town for a total of $308,268.
The Fund is designated for open space, agricultural preservation, wildlife habitat, wetland preservation, access to public lands, trails, and watershed protection in the county. It can be used in connection with any of the foregoing as a match for public and private grants or to acquire interests or easements in land and water rights. It has proven extremely valuable for land trusts and other entities to have a secured local match in-hand when applying for Great Outdoors Colorado and other funding sources. Overall monies from the Fund have impressively leveraged about $12 for every $1 given, not counting landowner donation value. In real dollars as of 2012, the Fund has given about $3.6 million and leveraged $44 million, most of which came from out-of-county sources, such as Great Outdoors Colorado (state lottery funds). By this measure, the Fund has been one of very best conservation performers in the state. Due to this leveraging and landowner donations, on average it has cost the Land Preservation Fund only $355 per acre for the conservation easements.
The Fund benefits economic development by bringing significant dollars into the county. At the same time, the fund provides important wildlife protections and scenic views that benefit tourism and hunting economies. In short, it helps protect what brings people here to live or visit.
As of 2012, approximately 60% of all private lands in Gunnison County are agriculturally assessed, greater than 70 acres in size, and are without conservation easements. These are properties that have high potential for 35-acre development in the future. The vast majority of these lands are not near population centers and lend themselves to a more efficient and effective long-term land use pattern if largely conserved.
This desired land use pattern is reflected in the results of the County's bi-annual community survey, which shows the rating for preservation of natural areas in the county increased from 70% in 2009 to 81% in 2011. The survey is conducted nationally, allowing comparison with similar communities within and outside Colorado. Our 2011 rating is categorized as "much above" the national average as well as from a subset of jurisdictions under 40,000 people in the western region. The Board of County Commissioners continues to highly prioritize land conservation in their strategic goals. This reflects the community's desire as well as studies that have shown the importance of land conservation for our tourism and second-home based economy. Also important is land conservation's role in providing wildlife habitat, aquifer recharge, agricultural products, and minimizing traffic congestion.
The Fund is administered by Gunnison County staff through direction of an eight-member board of citizens appointed (two each plus an alternate) by the county and the municipalities. This distribution of tax revenues to the Fund will terminate December 31, 2033 unless extended by a vote of the people.
If you have a project deserving Land Preservation funds, please submit this application form (PDF) and contact:
GIS Manager, Gunnison County
Email Mike Pelletier
Gunnison Valley Land Preservation Board Members
City of Gunnison
Mt. Crested Butte
Les White (alternate)