Since 1977 a large group of Southern Coloradans have worked together to conserve land for future generations.
Today the Palmer Land Trust is nationally accredited, one of the 15 largest land trusts in the U.S. creating or assisting in land or conservation easement acquisition or serving as stewards.
Their efforts have preserved 105,000 acres to date: "working farms and ranches, signature landscapes and scenic corridors, and public recreation open spaces in a 10-county region."
The 2017 Southern Colorado Conservation Awards were presented during a farm-to-table dinner Sept. 27 at The Antlers hotel.
The Stuart P. Dodge Award for lifetime achievement in conservation went to Randy and Claricy Rusk of Westcliffe, honored as "conservation pioneers" in the Wet Mountain Valley, leading the way "to conserve the rich ranching and open space heritage in that area. "I think there will always be an agricultural presence in the valley," Randy said. The self-described "cow puncher" said they strive to find what is best for the land." And, said Claricy, they believe in "integrity over money."
Receiving the Environmental Stewartship Award was Kalem Lenard of Canon City, for his "vision, passion and expertise" helping develop the Oil Well Flats trail system.
Colorado Water Trust, led by Amy Beatie and board president Michael Sayler, is helping save and protect streamflow, "meeting the agricultural partners while providing water for rivers," the award said.
A special honoree was Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), the only state lottery going to land conservation, wildlife, parks, rivers, trails and open spaces. That has amounted to $917 million to 4,800 projects since 1992, the award said.
See videos of the winners: Palmer Land Trust on Facebook.