Photos & map: https://bit.ly/3YZZ1SY
The once-in-a-generation, $25 million investment will support wildlife and catalyze future outdoor recreation opportunities near Denver
On April 11, The Conservation Fund, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), Jefferson County Open Space (JCOS) and Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) announced an exciting milestone in their joint effort to protect approximately 2,000 acres within the Mount Tom Conservation Corridor area, located adjacent to Ralston Creek State Wildlife Area (SWA) just northwest of Denver. The conservation area connects other previously conserved landscapes and protects natural resources for wildlife and Colorado communities. The area is not yet open to the public, but future access for outdoor recreation is planned for a portion of the publicly owned land.
In 2022 and 2023, The Conservation Fund, a national nonprofit and leader in U.S. land conservation, purchased several adjacent, private properties within the Mount Tom Conservation Corridor and has worked with its partners to find permanent conservation solutions for the land. Today, thanks to a Centennial Program grant from GOCO, and funding from JCOS and CPW, a significant portion of those solutions have been completed, including:
- CPW’s acquisition of 1,180 acres which will enlarge the Ralston Creek SWA by 50%;
- JCOS’s acquisition of 740 acres, including the summit of Mount Tom (9,741 feet), which will become new county open space;
- A conservation easement held by JCOS on 400 acres, which will prevent development while the property remains privately owned ranchland.
“Rarely do we see opportunities to secure landscape connectivity at this scale, especially so close to a growing metro region like Denver,” said Justin Spring, Colorado state director and southwest regional director at The Conservation Fund. “We and our partners knew that we would not get this chance again, and the dedication and investments made from CPW, JCOS and GOCO demonstrate just how critical these lands are for wildlife, people and our larger efforts to mitigate climate change impacts. The Conservation Fund is elated with the progress thus far and will continue to seek permanent conservation solutions for the remaining vulnerable land in this area.”
“We are delighted and grateful to be a part of this incredible conservation partnership between multiple private landowners, and our friends at CPW, GOCO, MALT and The Conservation Fund. Without all of us working together this impressive conservation effort and legacy would not be possible,” said Tom Hoby, director of Jefferson County Open Space.
“Colorado Parks and Wildlife is excited to manage Mount Tom and the wildlife who call it home,” said Area Wildlife Manager Mark Lamb. “We look forward to the benefits the expansion will bring to Ralston Creek SWA and the surrounding open space. While this was one of the most complicated projects I’ve seen, the partners and landowners deserve credit for their dedication to our shared goal of conservation. We appreciate the public’s patience while we make sure the property is up to CPW standards for wildlife and wildlife recreation, as that process may take significant time.”
These conservation outcomes were all made possible with funding from GOCO’s Centennial Program grants, a new grant program that invests in high-value, once-in-a-generation visions and projects that will creating lasting impact on Colorado and future generations.
“The Mount Tom Conservation Corridor effort is the result of deep collaboration and a willingness to think big about the future of our natural resources, wildlife and outdoor access — values that GOCO, its partners and Coloradans at large hold close to our hearts,” said GOCO Executive Director Jackie Miller. “We’re incredibly proud of the work that’s already been done to protect this important landscape and look forward to the long-lasting impact it will have for our state and future generations.”
The commitment to conservation and land stewardship from the previous landowners, the Baughman and Cappello families, as well as support from the Mountain Area Land Trust (MALT) — which holds a 404-acre conservation easement at the top of Mount Tom — were instrumental in this effort’s success.
The Mount Tom Conservation Area is surrounded by more than 20,000 acres of other protected land, including the Ralston Creek SWA, the JCOS Douglas Mountain Study Area and White Ranch Park. Some of Colorado’s most iconic wildlife species call this landscape home, including moose, elk, mule deer, black bear and mountain lions. The top of Mount Tom is known to be a ladybug breeding area, a species that symbolizes good luck and new beginnings. This effort protects a critical watershed — the headwaters of Van Bibber Creek, which flows through Van Bibber Park, Arvada and into Clear Creek and ultimately the South Platte River.
The properties now owned by CPW and JCOS have immense future recreation potential, including a new trail to the summit of Mount Tom — one of the top 10 tallest peaks in Jefferson County which has never been available for the public to climb — on the Jefferson County portion, and expanded opportunities for big game hunting on CPW’s Ralston Creek SWA expansion. JCOS and CPW will spend the next one to five years evaluating the ecological and recreational values of both sites and will develop long-term recreation access plans accordingly. The sites have historically seen incredibly low levels of human disturbance and will need to be thoroughly monitored and studied before an access plan can be implemented.
About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect more than 8.8 million acres, including 288,500 acres in Colorado. conservationfund.org
CPW is an enterprise agency, relying primarily on license sales, state parks fees and registration fees to support its operations, including: 42 state parks and more than 350 wildlife areas covering approximately 900,000 acres, management of fishing and hunting, wildlife watching, camping, motorized and non-motorized trails, boating and outdoor education. CPW's work contributes approximately $6 billion in total economic impact annually throughout Colorado. https://cpw.state.co.us/
Jeffco Open Space was founded as a land conservation organization in 1972. Our mission is to preserve open space and parkland, protect park and natural resources, and provide healthy, nature-based experiences. Funded with a one-half of one percent sales tax, our organization contributes to city and park district projects, has preserved more than 60,000 acres, and manages 27 open space parks and more than 265 miles of trails in Jefferson County, Colorado. jeffco.us/open-space
Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers, and open spaces. GOCO’s independent board 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 any tax dollar support. Visit GOCO.org for more information.
Jeffco Open Space was founded as a land conservation organization in 1972. Our mission is to preserve open space and parkland, protect park and natural resources, and provide healthy, nature-based experiences. Funded with a one-half of one percent sales tax, our organization contributes to city and park district projects, has preserved more than 56,000 acres, and manages 27 open space parks, and more than 265 miles of trails in Jefferson County, Colorado.