FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Earlier this month, Larimer County and the City of Fort Collins closed on the last in a series of land acquisitions south and west of Horsetooth Reservoir, conserving 2,492 acres of land.
Over the course of nearly a year, Larimer County and Fort Collins closed on four deals with separate, private landowners, all part of a larger effort to protect land in this conservation priority area. All the newly conserved land is adjacent to existing protected areas, including Coyote Ridge Natural Area, Horsetooth Mountain Open Space and Devil’s Backbone Open Space. (Please see the accompanying map for location details.) The future of these properties, including any outdoor recreation or public access, will be determined through public planning processes by Larimer County and Fort Collins over the coming years.
“Conserving land in the iconic foothills just outside of the city, next to some of the most treasured and popular natural areas and open spaces, means that they will be here for us, wildlife and future generations,” said Mark Sears, Fort Collins Natural Areas Manager and Acting Director. “The opportunity to conserve such a large area is increasingly rare, and we are thrilled to be part of the project.”
While each possesses its unique characteristics, the new open spaces include rolling grasslands, mountain mahogany shrublands, hillsides forested with ponderosa pine and rocky ridgelines. Larimer County and Fort Collins conserved this land to protect its agricultural, scenic, community buffer, historic, recreational and educational values. The land also provides significant habitat for wildlife, such as bear, elk, deer, mountain lion, bobcat, turkey and grouse; key migration corridors for large mammals; and habitat for rare butterfly species and imperiled plants.
The land was acquired in both fee and conservation easements. Fee means the property is purchased outright, while conservation easement (CE) means only the development rights are purchased; the land remains in private ownership. Of the 2,492 acres conserved, 1,359 acres were fee and 1,133 acres were CE only.
The land was purchased, in total, for $11,570,200. Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) provided $4,853,500, or about 42% of the cost. Larimer County and Fort Collins split the difference of $6,716,700 roughly 50/50. (For a breakdown of costs, acres, type of acres [fee vs. CE] and ownership, see the accompanying fact sheet.) Funding for these acquisitions comes from the Larimer County Help Preserve Open Spaces sales and use tax and the City of Fort Collins Open Space Yes! sales tax.
Kerri Rollins, Open Lands Program Manager for Larimer County, said staff has discussed land conservation with several of these willing landowners for years. The pieces all came together over the last 11 months.
“Some of these deals have been a long time in the making,” Rollins said. “We’re grateful that these people have such a strong conservation ethic and desire to ensure their land will continue to provide a myriad of values to the people and wildlife that call Larimer County home. We’re also thankful for the support of our partners at Fort Collins and GOCO for turning this larger conservation vision into reality, as well as the citizens of Fort Collins and Larimer County for continually supporting sales tax initiatives that make local conservation possible.”