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Date: September 2011

Heritage Conservation Areas, the New Approach to Open Space

By John Litz

The 10-year Funding Plan, discussed in the OSAC Notes in the June 2011 PLAN Jeffco Update, identifies significantly fewer dollars available for land acquisition from 2011 to 2020. The flat economy, which is generating only slight increases in sales tax revenue, is mostly responsible for this change. Servicing of the bonds is now taking almost one-half of the County's share of sales tax revenue.

The Funding Plan emphasized several strategies to maximize acquisition and development potential, such as partnerships, the use of conservation tools, and alternative funding to make the best use of available dollars. Consequently, Open Space is looking at a targeted acquisition strategy that identifies large areas that have significant wildlife, natural resource, and scenic and outdoor recreation values. These areas are preliminarily being called “Heritage Conservation Areas.” It is hoped that this “landscape level' approach can generate more partnerships and funding for future projects.

Four areas have been identified including: the natural drainages known as Ralston Creek, Clear Creek, Bear Creek, and Deer Creek. General outlines of these areas are shown on the map on the opposite page. All of the shaded areas are either lands already preserved by Jefferson County (fee or conservation easement), State Parks, Forest Service, and Denver Water, or have active acquisition proposals ongoing at the time of this publication.

The concept still is in the formative stages, with ongoing discussion and refinements anticipated over the next several months. A few years ago, a similar strategy employed on the Clear Creek Corridor was successful in obtaining a large Legacy Grant from GOCO for acquisitions. The hope is that history will repeat itself, and enable Open Space to preserve the unprotected lands in these Heritage Conservation Areas.

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