For Immediate Release: Palmer to Celebrate Four Conservation Champions at SCCA

For Immediate Release

May 31, 2017

Contact: Erica Oakley-Courage, [email protected]  

Palmer Land Trust has announced the names of the three award winners, and a prestigious honorary recognition, for the 2017 Southern Colorado Conservation Awards (SCCA). The event recognizes individuals and organizations that are dedicated to stewardship, education and innovation in conservation impacting southern Colorado. The winners will be honored at The Antlers Hotel in Colorado Springs on Wednesday, September 27, with an awards ceremony and farm-to-table dinner. The entire community is invited to attend. 
“SCCA showcases the exemplary conservation work being done in southern Colorado. This year’s slate of award winners highlights inspiring stories from an incredibly diverse range of people and projects, including ranching in Westcliffe, recreation in Canon City, and water and land conservation on a statewide scale. We are excited to tell these stories at what has become the premiere conservation event in southern Colorado,” said Rebecca Jewett, Executive Director of Palmer. 
Award winners were nominated by the community at large and underwent a rigorous selection process by a Blue Ribbon Panel. The 2017 panel includes Pueblo County District Attorney, Jeff Chostner; Bee Vradenburg Foundation President, Phil Kendall; Third Sector Group Principal, Kimberley Sherwood; Rocky Mountain PBS Station Manager (retired), Wynona Sullivan; El Pomar President and Chief Investment Officer, Thayer Tutt; and retired attorney and former Palmer Board Trustee, Bruce Warren. 
2017 Southern Colorado Conservation Award Recipients: 
The Stuart P. Dodge Award honors a lifetime achievement in conservation.  

Winner:  Randy and Claricy Rusk, Westcliffe, Colorado

Randy and Claricy are conservation pioneers. Their vision, leadership, and influence within the ranching community has largely been credited for the conservation success achieved in the Wet Mountain Valley and beyond over the last two-and-a-half decades. Working alongside The Trust for Public Land, San Isabel Land Protection Trust, and the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, the Rusks have inspired their community to band together to conserve the rich ranching and open space heritage that has long defined the Wet Mountain Valley. 
The Environmental Stewardship Award recognizes an individual or organization(s) that has positively impacted the land and the way members of our communities understand and respect their relationship to it. This may have been done through grassroots efforts, exceptional land management practices, educational programs, protection of a significant property or important landscape, or by way of example.  

Winner: Kalem Lenard, Canon City, Colorado 

In 2012, as Kalem walked through cholla cactus and over granite boulders strewn across a littleknown area five miles north of Canon City, his wife and two small children followed carefully beside him. He would point to a rise in the landscape and tell them it would one day be a trail that would climb above the valley and offer recreationists an unparalleled view of the Royal Gorge Region. Five years later, those same two children now ride mountain bikes on a system of 17 miles of trails enjoyed by hundreds of bikers, hikers, trail runners, and horsemen every year. Without Kalem’s vision, passion, and expertise, the Oil Well Flats trail system might never have come to fruition. 
The Innovation in Conservation Award honors an individual, group, project, or program that has advanced the cause of conservation by developing new conservation models, creating new conservation funding mechanisms, or implementing unique partnerships that protect our natural heritage.

Winner: Colorado Water Trust, Colorado

The Colorado Water Trust was formed in 2001 to partner with Colorado's Instream Flow Program and amplify its work by supporting and promoting voluntary, market-based efforts to protect and restore Colorado’s streamflows. Today, the Colorado Water Trust is the only nonprofit organization solely dedicated to restoring flows on Colorado's rivers using marketbased transactions. Through its do-tank (not think-tank) approach, the Water Trust has revealed water-sharing possibilities that have never been done before, finding sweet spots to meet the needs of agricultural partners while providing water for rivers. 
At the discretion of the Blue Ribbon Panel and Palmer, the organization will also pay tribute to Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) with the Distinction in Conservation Award, a prestigious discretionary award recognizing catalytic excellence and influence in conservation in southern Colorado. This award is an acknowledgement of GOCO’s tremendous vision and impact on state land conservation. Since its inception in 1992, GOCO has committed more than $917 million in state lottery proceeds to more than 4,800 projects in all 64 counties in Colorado without any tax dollar support. Through their efforts they have helped protect more than one million acres of land. 
About SCCA 
SCCA is a land conservation community recognition event focused on honoring annual winners and the many organizations and supporters that stand behind them. This, in turn, builds strength in the conservation community as a whole, inspires future conservationists, and influences the greater political will for protecting the resources in Colorado that are important to all of us. The event serves more than just a select group of conservation insiders. As the increasing attendance demonstrates, it brings a greater understanding of conservation’s importance to a diverse audience ensuring Colorado’s future includes a passionate community united around land as essential to our identity, economy, and quality of life  
Each award winner will be featured in a brief film at the event on Wednesday, September 27, at The Antlers Hotel in Colorado Springs. Cocktails are at 5 p.m., followed by a farm-to-table dinner and the program at 6 p.m. Tickets are $125 with a special ticket price of $50 for young professionals 39 and younger. Organizations can also sponsor a 10-person table. For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit or contact Erica Oakley-Courage at [email protected]