La Plata Open Space celebrates 25 years of land conservancy, 30,000 preserved acres in seven counties
La Plata Open Space Conservancy turns 25 in March.
Because of it, more than 30,000 acres of land in seven counties are to remain untouched by development.
The land trust manages about 20,100 acres within 176 conservation easements, and has helped protect an additional 900 acres for other organizations. In December, two additional properties totaling more than 470 acres were placed in conservation easements in La Plata County.
These lands typically are open to hunting, agriculture and fishing. They preserve family legacies, and some, such as Overend Mountain Park and Horse Gulch, are popular places for public recreation. They exist in La Plata, Archuleta, Montezuma, Hinsdale and Ouray counties as well as San Juan counties in Colorado and New Mexico.
“Land trusts bridge the gap between government and the private landowner,” said Executive Director Amy Schwarzbach. “We have kitchen table conversations with a lot of these people.”
Protecting open lands on the local level began in the mid-1980s with a county governmental committee, formed at a time when a parks program and related policy didn’t exist in Durango. Kathy Roser was asked to lead the program in 1987.
The group was unlike other county committees in that it was semi-autonomous. Committee members would negotiate deals with landowners, then approach county commissioners for approval.
“There was not a lot of public support, mainly because people felt it was a government organization,” Roser said. “And there wasn’t a lot of support from the government. They didn’t stand behind it.”