Happy New Year! 2017 was a remarkable year for the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT) and I am excited to share the highlights with you. In October, CCALT was awarded the prestigious Land Trust Excellence Award by the Land Trust Alliance for our transformational conservation work. This award was in recognition of tremendous conservation success over the past two decades. It was also a recognition of the foresight of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association to create a conservation organization dedicated to farmers and ranchers and the commitment of the many landowning families that have partnered with CCALT.
In 2017, CCALT partnered with eleven ranching families to permanently conserve 55,759 acres. These projects span six counties across the state and protect diverse resources from prairie grasslands to iconic river corridors. Most importantly of all though, these projects help continue long-standing family ranching traditions that date back in multiple instances to the 1800s. In the past 23 years, we have partnered with 270 families to conserve more than 555,000 acres. These families and this land on average feed close to 40,000 people each year. Moreover, these lands protect more than 870 miles of rivers and streams, provide important habitat to our state’s treasured wildlife, and deliver countless other environmental benefits to our communities.
In fulfilling our long-term obligations to ensure that the terms of the conservation easements held by CCALT are maintained, our staff visited each of the 299 farms and ranches that have partnered with CCALT. Financially, CCALT ended 2017 with a $28,000 surplus, grew net assets by 12%, and increased unrestricted contributions by individual donors by 8% year over year. Investments grew by 16% reflecting the generally strong market year. Legislatively, we began work on the reauthorization of the Farm Bill which is the single largest conservation funding source in Colorado and across the country. Work on the Farm Bill reauthorization will continue in 2018. We also worked to address lingering issues surrounding the administration of the conservation easement tax credit program, and analyzed the return on investment that Colorado receives for investments in conservation. Findings from a study conducted by economists at Colorado State University found up to a $12 return for every $1 invested in conservation efforts in Colorado.
While we are proud of our accomplishments in 2017, we are excited about the possibilities that 2018 offers. 2018 represents the beginning of a new strategic plan that will focus CCALT on four broad organizational priorities: (1) strengthening CCALT’s organizational capacity; (2) land conservation; (3) stewardship of new and existing easements, and (4) advocacy and education. Interest in conservation from landowners across Colorado has never been higher. We are actively working on 31 conservation projects across the state. Seven of those projects will be completed in 2018. We have hired two new staff members to help serve the needs of CCA members and producers and we will continue to work side by side with the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts, and the Land Trust Alliance to advocate for policies (local, state and federal) that advance the conservation of our agricultural land in ways that work for producers.
We greatly appreciate your involvement with CCALT – be that as a donor, landowner, partner, or supporter – and hope that you take pride in what we have accomplished and what we will accomplish in the future. Our work is important to all Coloradans and to the future of our state. It ensures that the western landscapes that define Colorado for its residents and for the world will remain our state’s iconic signature and that family agriculture and rural communities will continue to be an important element of Colorado.
Erik L. Glenn