Collaboration effort receives grant

The Gates Family Foundation recently awarded nearly $400,000 in grant money to a collaborative effort to preserve the southeastern Colorado landscape and revitalize its communities. The grant was awarded to four project applicants: Canyons & Plains of Southeast Colorado, Palmer Land Trust, Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory and Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. Together these four groups share a vision to build upon the unparalleled array of natural, historical and agricultural resources in southeastern Colorado and forge a sustainable economic future for the region. The project spans eight counties: Baca, Bent, Crowley, Kiowa, Las Animas, Otero, Prowers and Pueblo. Working with these four main organizations will be three implementation partners: the National Park Service, the Nature Conservancy, and the Pinon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition. All seven organizations have already accomplished much in the region, but this grant will fund a powerful, coordinated effort to achieve results. Goals of the effort are for cooperative planning to drive overall efforts in the region; to energize rural communities by a rich overlay of tourism and business infrastructure; and to promote conservation by private landowners to preserve local control of land and water resources, protect future prosperity, and create one of the largest protected landscapes of its kind in the country. Working toward these goals over the next few years, the partners seek to build core conservation and tourism development capacity, expand land stewardship and agricultural infrastructure for long-term economic impact, and establish a national heritage area in southeastern Colorado. Overall, the partners were granted funding in the amount of $390,000. Canyons & Plains, the southeastern Colorado regional heritage tourism group, received $200,000. Palmer Land Trust received $110,000. Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory received $30,000. Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, and their subcontractor, Guidestone Colorado, received $50,000. All are moving forward with hiring staff and coordinating efforts to build on their shared vision. Canyons & Plains and Palmer Land Trust have now opened offices at the Idea Center, 408 N. Main St., in Rocky Ford. Both have also hired new staff: Rick Manzanares, as executive director for Canyons & Plains, and Ginger Davison, as Palmer Land Trust Lower Arkansas Valley Conservation director. The Gates Grant partners will be hosting an open house at the Idea Center in Rocky Ford on Wednesday, Dec. 18 from 2 to 4 p.m. All are invited to come and meet the partners’ new staff members and learn more about this exciting project for southeastern Colorado.