Colorado landowners could play a major role in President Joe Biden’s effort to keep 30% of the country’s land undeveloped by 2030, and make money at the same time.
Jay Fetcher’s family has been raising cattle since 1994. He said when his family considered the idea of a conservation easement for their property near Steamboat Springs, his father was immediately sold.
He did not want to see the land developed for the service industry; he wanted it to remain a land that produced food.
“Because there are properties here that could be developed into condominiums, into golf courses,” Fetcher said. “But we, as a family, had a passion to keep it forever in the form of 2,000 acres of undeveloped land.”
The family’s decision to save the land for ranching caught on and led Fetcher to found the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust.
The America the Beautiful project challenges local communities to find the best ways to conserve, connect and restore the lands, waters and wildlife on which local economies depend.
Conservation efforts are also considered essential to protect drinking water supplies, especially during times of severe drought. Melissa Daruna, executive director of the Keep it Colorado group, said some strategies already underway could pave the way for communities in the West.
She highlighted local actors in the Eastern Plains outside of Pueblo who are taking the initiative to consider the current and future impacts of global warming.
“So what are the opportunities to work collectively across the community and conserve the most precious landscapes?” Daruna asked. “Making sure we don’t have a situation where the local agricultural economy collapses or collapses because the water resources are gone.”
About 60% of all land in Colorado is privately owned, and landowners who opt for easements could see significant payouts given rising land values across the state.
In 2008, lawmakers allowed the donated value of land set aside for conservation to be treated as a state tax credit that can be resold to Colorado taxpayers with unpaid tax liabilities.
“So all of a sudden I’m doing an easement, I can sell the value of that easement to a Colorado taxpayer,” Fetcher said. “And I get a check in my pocket. You know, we’re not going to develop the land anyway, but all of a sudden I’m getting paid not to.”
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