Photo Credit: Michael Menefee
The wild, rugged nature of Colorado is why many of us live in the Centennial State. We know the feeling of being small while gazing up at mountain peaks and the awe of seeing an ocean of grassland stretch out before us for miles. Being able to leave the city and take in the wilderness is part of our attraction to Colorado. There are quintessential southern Colorado experiences we all know: driving west on highway 24 and seeing Pikes Peak out the left-side window; taking the rumbling Shelf Road from Cripple Creek and Victor to Canon City and not seeing a building for miles; watching the elk and mule deer or the migratory birds travel, uninterrupted, on their journeys. These experiences are possible because private landowners chose to conserve and protect the land they own.
As witnesses to our majestic landscape, we often don't know if land is public or private, but more than 56 percent of Colorado's land is privately held. That number jumps to 89 percent on the eastern plains. Wildlife species like burrowing owls, ferruginous hawks, the swift fox, and others are mostly found on private land. The pronghorn is highly dependent on private land, and approximately 95 percent of crticial winter range for mule deer is located on private land.
Private lands maintain the views and identity of Colorado. These private property acres are what create a buffer aorund our cities, attract tourists who want to see Colorful Colorado, and make a road trip through the state such a mesmerizing experience. Studies show that unspoiled natural landscapes are our tourists most valued attribute of Colorado, making them a significant economic strength. The views that private conserved land make possible are crucial to our region's - and our state's - economic future.
Open lands are disappearing at an alarming rate in some parts of the state. Without these private lands, Colorado will be a vastly different place. Our beloved, uninterrupted open spaces would be missing. Continued conservaiton of open spaces is critical, and that work can only be done through close partnerships with private landowners. They are the unsung heroes of Colorado's natural heritage. Their dedication to protecting the landscape that is the very essence of Colorado is what enables conservation organizations like Palmer to achieve what it has. The next time you take in an awe-inspiring view, take a moment to thank the landowner that makes that experience possible.