Grand funds added staff for land trust

Rob Bleiberg

The Colorado West Land Trust based in Grand Junction will add staff to its expanding Western Colorado operations thanks to a nearly $134,000 grant.

The Great Outdoors Colorado board awarded a $133,700 grant to the land trust as part of a program to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ron Bleiberg, the executive director of the land trust, said the West Slope has seen an increase in population as people have relocated to the region in the midst of the pandemic. That in turn has increased development pressure he hopes to mitigate through conservation efforts.

“This support from GOCO will enable the land trust to better serve communities across the West Slope as they experience unprecedented use of public lands, financial distress and the unanticipated pandemic-fueled real estate boom,” Bleiberg said. “We are grateful for this investment that will benefit our region today and for generations to come.”

The GOGO Resilient Communities Program funds efforts to respond to the pandemic in terms of land protection, outdoor recreation and stewardship.

A merger expanded CWLT operations to include not only Mesa County, but also Delta, Gunnison, Montrose, Ouray and San Miguel counties.

A new regional conservationist position will be filled to pursue conversation opportunities in Delta, Montrose and Ouray counties. The conservationist also will develop a stewardship plan to address climate resiliency, ecological health and sustainability as well as gather data for a water strategy.

The land trust also expects to hire a new regional director in the second half of 2021. The regional director will work out of Montrose to advance conservation projects and partnerships in Delta, Gunnison, Montrose, Ouray and San Miguel counties.

Over the past 40 years, the land trust has conserved a total of 125,000 acres of agricultural lands, open spaces and wildlife habitat in Mesa County and five other West Slope counties.

Great Outdoors Colorado uses a portion of proceeds from the Colorado Lottery to preserve and enhance parks, wildlife areas and open spaces. Since 1992, GOCO has funded a total of more than 5,300 projects in all 64 counties of Colorado. 

To date, GOCO has invested nearly $46 million in projects in Mesa County and conserved 18,000 acres. GOGO funding has supported Las Colonias Park, the Lunch Loops trail system and Palisade Plunge, among other projects.