October 29, 2018|By Christine Quinlan
Sydney Macy and I are both fourth-generation Coloradans with deep connections to our home state. In Sydney’s case, this devotion led her to dedicate more than 40 years of her life to conservation, protecting hundreds of thousands of acres and helping to initiate statewide programs that have provided more than $1 billion to conservation in Colorado. With her no-nonsense results-oriented approach, Sydney led The Conservation Fund’s efforts in the Centennial State for 23 years as Colorado Director and Senior Vice President. 

10 29 I 25 Corridor Colorado Broyles Bryan 03 Portrait with DogsSydney Macy (left) with Ninia Ritchie—a friend and an owner of the JA Ranch in Colorado and Texas. In the late 1990s, Sydney worked with Ninia and her family to protect the JA Ranch in Colorado with a conservation easement. Today, the owners still use the ranch as summer pasture for their cattle. Photo by Bryan Broyles.

It was during that time that I got to work with and know Sydney. She grew up on the edge of her grandparents’ farm south of Denver, in full view of the Rocky Mountains to the west. Her early exposure to nature led her to an Environmental Studies major at Stanford University, and then to a job right out of college at The Nature Conservancy (TNC). One of her first successes at TNC was helping to create the Mueller State Park and Dome Rock Wildlife Area. The use of phased options and a mix of federal and state funding made this early project a creative model for the future. Sydney went on to become TNC’s Colorado State Director—the organization’s first female state director. 

Driven by a vision that Colorado Springs and Denver should never grow together into a single megalopolis, Sydney joined with former state Attorney General and U.S. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar and a small group of other state conservation leaders to conceive and launch the initiative that created Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO). In the face of tremendous growth and development pressures, the GOCO initiative was passed by Colorado voters in November 1992, and has since provided over $1 billion, and leveraged another $1.45 billion, to achieve remarkable conservation results all across the state. Speaking of his collaboration with Sydney, Ken Salazar said, “Sydney has a heart for conservation. She was really the powerhouse, the quarterback of creating GOCO.”

We were fortunate to have Sydney join The Conservation Fund in 1994. For the next 23 years, she served as Colorado Director and Senior Vice President. One of her most significant undertakings at the Fund was the Interstate-25 Conservation Corridor Project, a comprehensive vision plan for one of the nation’s fastest developing counties along Colorado’s Front Range between Denver and Colorado Springs. The objective: to preserve historic ranches and open lands along 12 miles of the highway corridor encompassing a minimum of 25,000 acres. The plan gave the effort focus and credibility. Today, most of the 12 miles of I-25 are protected through an effort involving 20 separate properties valued at over $100 million—the resulting 35,000 conserved acres surpassing the project’s original goal. 

10 29 I 25 Corridor Colorado Broyles Bryan 08 Closer View South from Upper Lake Gulch RoadView South from Upper Lake Gulch Road along the I-25 Corridor. Photo by Bryan Broyles.

Two of Colorado’s oldest and most historic ranch properties stood out in the success of this vision. Sydney was familiar with the Greenland Ranch and neighboring JA Ranch from her time with TNC, where her passion to protect them was ignited. In 1999, the opportunity she had been working toward finally arrived. Sydney and The Conservation Fund facilitated the protection of the 6,300-acre JA Ranch with a conservation easement, followed a year later by protection of the 22,000-acre Greenland Ranch. Every person who drives I-25 south from Denver (more than 80,000 per day) has Sydney to thank for an iconic Colorado experience—uninterrupted views of dramatic buttes and mesas, rolling grasslands, and Pikes Peak rising in the distance.

In December 2016, Sydney departed the Fund to return to Stanford University as a Fellow in the Distinguished Careers Institute. In her final months before leaving, Sydney completed conservation easements on the 16,000-acre May Ranch on the shortgrass prairie of southeast Colorado, and the 17,000-acre Navajo Headwaters Ranch in the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado. These final projects exemplify Sydney’s recognition of the enormous role that private landowners play in conserving the diverse landscapes that make Colorado unique. 

10 29 John Fielder BANDED5Navajo Headwaters. Photo by John Fielder.

My family has its own deep agricultural roots in Colorado, and if there is one thing I have admired and witnessed in Sydney, it is her talent for working with private ranchers to find solutions that preserve both the environment and a way of life for future generations on the land. Sydney is formidable—a force of nature—when it comes to reaching her goals. She is a personal hero of mine, a hero for all of Colorado, and deeply deserving of the Stuart P. Dodge Award for Lifetime Achievement in Conservation