GOCo shifting some funding to help wildlife

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— State officials are shifting some priority of lottery funds from land preservation to protecting endangered species, which could impact "legacy projects" around the state.

Since 1996, Great Outdoors Colorado, which allocates lottery funds for outdoors projects, has granted $125 million toward legacy projects to preserve open spaces. Of that, $10 million has gone to the Yampa River System Legacy Project to help preserve local lands. Recently, the group donated money to buy development rights on 1,590 acres of the Warren Ranch in north Routt County. That deal was finalized in November.

Now, GOCo money from one of its funding quadrants will be focused on preserving endangered species rather than legacy projects.

"They do not foresee having any of the GOCo funds (from wildlife) available for legacy," said Lise Aangeenbrug, acting GOCo director.

Lottery funds available through GOCo is split equally into four quadrants: wildlife programs, outdoor recreational programs, open space programs and local government programs.

Legacy projects are so big, they require the ability to be funded by multiple quadrants, Aangeenbrug said.

GOCo money in the wildlife programs quadrant is allocated by the Colorado Division of Wildlife. In August, the DOW finalized its 2001 budget, indicating it would use the GOCo funds for legacy projects for endangered species programs.

"It's a concern. Legacy projects have relied on those funds," Aangeenbrug said.

The money could be made up through the other three quadrants of funding.

"I don't know if that will happen. The board won't be having that conversation for a while," Aangeenbrug said.

Linda Kakela, of the Yampa River System Legacy Project, said the move wasn't a surprise.

"They've had to fund projects equaling about $10 million," Kakela said.

The group, which works to preserve agricultural and recreational spaces in Moffat and Routt counties, gets 50 percent of its funding from GOCo.

"It's been a tremendous help in leveraging other resources," Kakela said.

Incoming GOCo Director John Hereford said legacy groups around the state, particularly the Yampa River System Legacy Project, shouldn't be too concerned. Of the $10 million that GOCo has funded to the Yampa project, $1 million came from the wildlife quadrant. If need be, that money can be made up.

"There is no risk of being left out of our radar screen," Hereford said.

However, shifting the funding structure within the quadrants, as well as GOCo recently announcing it will use lottery funds to help pay for management in the DOW, has raised a concern that other benefactors of GOCo will be left in the cold.

"It's an important source of funding for us," Steamboat Springs grants analyst Winnie DelliQuadri said.

Most of the extensions of Steamboat's core trail on the Yampa River, a land purchase in Hayden for ball fields and improvements on an ice rink in Oak Creek are a few projects that have received GOCo funding.

Less GOCo funding would be a big blow on completing those types of community projects, DelliQuadri said.

Plus, GOCo officials are expecting not to have the March round for local governments to apply for grants, which makes it initially appear that funding for local projects is being downsized.

However, Wally Piccone, GOCo program manager for the local government quadrant, said if the March round is canceled, it has nothing to do with shifting funds. Instead, it's more related to lottery funds being down and many grantees finishing their projects and cashing in on their grants not money being allocated for other things.

"I don't see that happening," he said.

GOCo officials will decide for sure if the round is canceled at a meeting in February, Piccone said.

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