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2012 Southern Colorado Conservation Award Winners Announced

Announcing the 2012 Winners:

The 2012 winners were selected by a Blue Ribbon Panel from nominations put forth by citizens living and working across southern Colorado.  The diversity of accomplishments represented in this group recognizes innovative conservation achievements in Southern Colorado.

To learn about the 2012 award winners, watch the documentary films produced by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Ginger Kathrens. This film is made possible due to a generous grant from the Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Company.

The Stuart P. Dodge Award:  Dale Lasater

The Stuart P. Dodge Award honors an individual or entity for a lifetime record of conservation achievement.  The award is inspired by Stuart P. Dodge, whose exceptional service to Colorado set a benchmark for conservation leadership throughout the state.

Dale Lasater is Managing Partner of The Lasater Ranch, a family cattle operation in Elbert County.  His thoughtful, groundbreaking approach to ranching stewardship embodies his lifetime commitment to honoring both his family’s unique ranching tradition and also to his ongoing conservation of the land.  The lush, beautiful family ranch near Matheson, Colorado, is recognized internationally as an example of an extraordinarily successful relationship between the rancher, his land, and the natural environment.  It exemplifies Dale’s belief that nurturing the landscape through careful management leads to a complementary balance and shared use among wildlife, livestock, and man.  Dale’s philosophy involves a holistic approach that has been tested over time and has proven to benefit both the land and its inhabitants.  Recently recognized by the International Slow Food movement, Dale was honored for his success in his affirmation that keeping both animals and land healthy can be economically sustainable. He has also been honored as the Colorado Cattlemen's Association "Livestockman of the Year" and for the Society of Range Management "Excellence of Grazing Award”.

Dale has managed his family’s ranch for over 25 years.  Through his unique approach to raising livestock while keeping a close eye on the environmental impact, he has garnered broad respect from both the ranching and the conservation communities.  He has been an inspiring mentor and advisor to many, both cattlemen and conservationists.  Ranching is his livelihood and conservation is his passion.  Dale and his wife Janine have two sons, Alex and Tom.  Alex continues to work with his father managing the Lasater Ranch.

The Friends of Open Space Award: Gold Belt Tour and San Juan Skyway National Scenic Byways

The Friends of Open Space Award honors an individual or entity for efforts that led to the protection of a significant property or landscape in southern Colorado.

Colorado’s byways offer some of the best travel, recreation, and sightseeing opportunities the State has to offer.  They showcase our natural and cultural heritage and are a huge economic driver for the state.  These landscapes are being altered at a tremendous pace, threatening the very attributes and qualities that make a byway a byway.

The Gold Belt Tour National Scenic Byway, under the leadership of Charlotte Bumgarner, continues to collaborate with its conservation partners to protect 14 properties encompassing 10,500 acres along the byway.  The Gold Belt Tour follows historic railroad and stagecoach routes leading to North America’s greatest gold camp, three world-class fossil sites, and numerous historic sites.  Five communities exist along the Gold Belt Tour, allow a glimpse into this area’s rich heritage.

The San Juan Skyway National Scenic Byway is considered the “road to the sky”, featuring views from the towering 14,000-foot San Juan Mountains to rolling hillsides speckled with ancient Indian pueblo ruins.  Victorian towns, hot springs, and a narrow-gauge railroad offer a host of scenic attractions.  Executive Director Ken Francis took the lead in developing the San Juan Skyway Corridor Management Plan, completed in 1995.  Ken has continued as the executive director, although he will retire later this year.  The San Juan Skyway, along with its conservation partners, has protected 41 properties, encompassing 16,032 acres.

In 2011, building on their ground-breaking conservation successes, the Gold Belt Tour and the San Juan Skyway coordinated efforts to develop a plan for conservation across all twenty-five byways in the state of Colorado by establishing the Colorado Scenic Byways Conservation Coalition, a coalition of organizations dedicated to conservation along Colorado’s scenic and historic byways.  The Coalition applied for and was awarded National Scenic Byways Program funding which has brought $1.7 million into the State of Colorado for byways conservation.  These funds will be used to protect natural, cultural, and scenic resources along Colorado byways through strategic planning and resource protection.

The Stewardship Award: Rocky Mountain Field Institute

The Stewardship Award honors individuals and entities that have positively impacted the land and the way members of our communities understand and respect their relationship to the land.

The Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI) is a nonprofit organization based in Colorado Springs.  It is dedicated to the conservation and stewardship of public lands in the Southern Rocky Mountain Region through volunteer-based trail and restoration projects, environmental education, and restoration research.  RMFI has provided leadership for several major restoration initiatives, including the current effort to mitigate visitor impacts in Garden of the Gods, one of the most popular urban parklands in Colorado.  RMFI’s work extends to the south slope of the Pikes Peak restoration area and to the South Colony Lake Basin outside Westcliffe.

RMFI, in partnership with the City of Colorado Springs, began the Garden of the Gods Restoration Program in 2002.  This signature program mobilizes Colorado Springs residents to participate in the hands-on restoration of the park by restoring heavily eroded areas, re-vegetating bare slopes, and reconstructing trails.  Under RMFI’s leadership, over 9,000 community volunteers have contributed the equivalent of 4.7 years worth of volunteer hours (41,000 hours) moving soil, hauling rocks, and planting seed.  All told, RMFI has contributed over $1 million in cash and volunteer labor towards the conservation and stewardship of the park.

The Innovation in Conservation Award: Dan Hobbs, Hobbs Family Farm

The Innovation in Conservation Award honors an individual, group, project, or program that has advanced the cause of conservation by developing new conservation models, created new conservation funding mechanisms, and/or implemented unique conservation partnerships that protect our natural heritage.

For nearly two decades, Dan Hobbs has worked to preserve and fortify the rich agricultural and seed-developing heritage that has been a part of the Lower Arkansas Valley for generations.  Dan’s dream is to build a farming legacy that supports healthy citizens, strong farming families, and sustainable local economies.  In pursuing this dream, Dan has built organic growers alliances and seed producing cooperatives, created new farm to table infrastructure, secured significant financial investments for local agricultural initiatives, and provided technical assistance to strengthen the farming community in the Lower Arkansas Valley.

A fifth-generation Coloradan, Dan operates a thirty-acre organic farm in Avondale, Colorado.  Hobbs Family Farm has been harvesting produce and seed commercially since 1996.  In 2006, Dan pursued his vision of a cooperative for the small farmer, launching the Arkansas Valley Organic Growers.  Today this eight-farm cooperative of organic farmers thrives in an expanding distribution system that serves a growing number of consumers.

Palmer Land Trust extends its appreciation to our Blue Ribbon Panelists for selecting this year’s winners.  Panelists include: Pueblo County Commissioner Jeff Chostner, Bee Vradenburg Foundation President Phil Kendall, Colorado Nature Conservancy past President Kathy Loo, Retired Rocky Mountain PBS Station Manager Wynona Sullivan, and El Pomar Foundation President and CIO Thayer Tutt.

A Big Thank You to our Generous Sponsors!

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