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Montezuma Land Conservancy awarded funding for missions

Fozzie’s Farm teaches youths from Southwest Open School about irrigation skills. (Courtesy photo)
Grant awards from Great Outdoors Colorado and Gates Family Foundation

The Montezuma Land Conservancy has been awarded three grants totaling $747,000 that will support conservation easements, agriculture and outdoor education.

Great Outdoors Colorado awarded MLC $397,000 to support its conservation programs and education efforts.

The funding will go toward the Fozzie’s Farm center in Lewis used to teach youths and adults about sustainable horticulture and ranching. It also will be used to grow tribal engagement with the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.

“This is a critical time for MLC and for conservation. It is a time to weave together different perspectives and take action with our community at the center of our work,” MLC Executive Director Travis Custer said in the news release. “For MLC, conservation has become so much more than just protecting land. It’s also about changing lives and ensuring everyone in our community can connect to this work.”

Jay Loschert of the Montezuma Land Conservancy talks about irrigation methods at Fozzie’s Farm during the “Take a Boater Farming” event.
The 335-acre Cox Ranch south of Mancos is under a conservation easement with the Montezuma Land Conservancy. The land is a critical habitat corridor between Menefee and Weber Mountains, which are BLM wilderness study areas.

GOCO stated that MLC advances “unique, community-informed programs and builds staff capacity through a focus on diversity and inclusion.” The approach inspired programming at Fozzie’s Farm that educates youths about science and agriculture and generates new research.

Of the GOCO grant amount, $97,000 will go toward transactional cost assistance for landowners seeking conservation easements that will preserve two ranches on private land adjacent to Mesa Verde National Park. That funding is part of GOCO’s Keep It Colorado Transaction Cost Assistance Program.

The funding assistance “enables landowners who have urgent opportunities to conserve their properties but who face financial barriers to facilitating the transaction, to conserve land more quickly,” the news release states.

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Conservation easements on the two private ranches will protect 2,565 acres of land from development in perpetuity while also retaining ranching operations. Conservation easement agreements are attached to deeds.

The land easements will also preserve archaeological sites and maintain habitat for elk, deer, black bears, turkeys, mountain lions and other mammals, birds and native plants.

A benefit of the project is preserving viewsheds of Mesa Verde and the San Juan Scenic Byway, GOCO said.

Also, the Gates Family Foundation awarded MLC $300,000 to support its conservation mission, and an additional $50,000 to support the Mesa Verde area conservation easements.

Great Outdoors Colorado invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers and open spaces.

GOCO awards competitive grants to local governments and land trusts and makes investments through Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Created when voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1992, GOCO has since funded more than 5,600 projects in all 64 counties of Colorado without tax dollar support. Visit GOCO.org for more information.

To date, GOCO has invested more than $13.3 million in projects in Montezuma County and partnered to conserve 5,387 acres of land there. GOCO funding has supported the Joe Rowell Community Playground, Cortez South Neighborhood Park, and the Generation Wild coalition Montezuma Inspire, among other projects.