January 21, 2015

Conservation Easement Permanently Protects Largest Private Property In South Boulder Creek Watershed

GILPIN & BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — The Conservation Fund and its partners announced today the permanent protection of the historic 3,334-acre Toll property, one of the largest intact private holdings along the Front Range. This area is a popular recreation destination with access to the James Peak Wilderness, Indian Peaks Wilderness, Roosevelt National Forest, and Eldora Ski Area. The conservation easement protects critical drinking water sources for Boulder and Denver, improves forest management and safety, and sustains and enhances recreational opportunities.

“Coloradans in every corner of our state believe that the conservation of our land and way of life are top priorities,” U.S. Senator Michael Bennet said. “Today we celebrate another victory for conservation in the South Boulder Creek watershed. It will continue to benefit Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy and support jobs in the recreation and tourism industry.”‎

The Toll property contains an extensive system of Nordic trails operated by Eldora Mountain Resort. Located within an hour’s drive for 2.8 million people in the Denver/Boulder metro area, these trails are widely used by the public at large, local ski clubs, schools, and the University of Colorado’s Nordic team. Completion of this project also comes with an agreement to establish an important new trail link for non-motorized summer use that will be managed by Boulder County. Once constructed, the new trail will traverse the Toll property and connect with popular recreation areas on national forest lands that adjoin the privately owned Toll property on the east and west.

“We consider this to be one of the most exciting mountain land conservation projects in the last decade, and we feel so fortunate to be part of this overall effort to protect critical wildlife habitat and provide a legacy for generations to come” said County Commissioner Chair, Deb Gardner, on behalf of the Boulder County Board of Commissioners. “Completing this conservation easement proves how a collaborative partnership of land trusts and local, state and federal government can work with private landowners to achieve a significant legacy of land preservation for generations to come.”

This forested property is the centerpiece of a larger initiative to conserve and keep intact 4,700 acres owned by the Toll family in the South Boulder Creek watershed. With $5 million from the federal Forest Legacy Program, $1.5 million from Boulder County, and $800,000 from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), the property has been placed under a conservation easement held by the Colorado State Forest Service.  Protected in perpetuity by the conservation easement, the property remains in the Toll family’s private ownership. The federal Forest Legacy funds come from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which does not use taxpayer dollars but is funded, instead, using a small portion of offshore oil and gas royalties.

“With the preservation of the Toll property through this conservation easement, both local residents and visitors to the Front Range are assured that they will not only be able to continue to enjoy the property’s many recreation opportunities, but also that an important source of water for the region is protected,” said Rep. Jared Polis. “The Conservation Fund has done an impressive job of identifying, pursuing, and protecting many of our most treasured tracts of land and today’s announcement is another reminder of the benefits that we all reap from their work.”

The Toll property creates an expansive buffer between the 14,000-acre James Peak Wilderness and extensive rural subdivisions and urban areas to the east. The property contains a 4-mile stretch of upper South Boulder Creek, which Denver Water relies upon to help deliver safe drinking water to 1.3 million people—nearly one-quarter of all Coloradans. Through its Forest Legacy Program, the USDA Forest Service (USFS) works with states, landowners, and other partners to protect private forest lands from being converted to non-forest uses.

“This property is surrounded by National Forest lands, and this project will ensure that this entire undeveloped landscape continues to provide invaluable recreation, scenic, watershed, wildlife, and other public benefits for current and future generations. I applaud the conservation vision and dedication of the Toll family and all the other partners who made this project a reality.  We are grateful to contribute to this conservation easement through our national Forest Legacy program,” said Dan Jirón, Regional Forester for the Rocky Mountain Region of the USDA Forest Service.

The Toll property was the Forest Legacy Program’s top national priority in 2013 when federal funds were appropriated. Boulder County and GOCO provided critical funding to meet the program’s requirement for matching dollars from non-federal sources. The Toll property is vital for wildlife movement to and from the adjacent National Forest and Wilderness lands. Protection of the Toll property brings its forests under a plan of active forest management.

“Establishing this easement will allow the Toll family to continue its long-standing commitment to conservation,” said Mike Lester, state forester and Colorado State Forest Service director. “The Colorado State Forest Service looks forward to working cooperatively with the family to implement forest stewardship programs that will ensure the enduring health of a magnificent landscape.”

Owned by the Toll family for 120 years, the Toll property has long been a priority for conservation. The Conservation Fund worked with two branches of the Toll family to complete this project, and secured the federal, state and local funding needed to complete the project.

“The Tolls are dedicated hikers, mountaineers and ranchers who have responsibly managed this land since the 1890’s,” said Christine Quinlan of The Conservation Fund’s Boulder office.  “The current generation has endured a great deal in order to preserve this land.  We commend their dedication and vision.”

The Toll property is central to the history of this area. In 1904, the switch-backing railway known as the Giant’s Ladder was built over Rollins Pass. Thousands of Denver’s early socialites rode the rail line, stopping at the historic town of Tolland for lunch. Today, Amtrak’s California Zephyr carries passengers from Chicago to San Francisco through the Toll property. In 1994, brothers Henry Toll, Jr. and Giles Toll conveyed 1,320 acres to the USFS clearing the way for establishment of the James Peak Wilderness in 2002.

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states to protect more than 7.5 million acres of land since 1985.

About the Colorado State Forest Service
The mission of the Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) is to achieve stewardship of Colorado’s diverse forest environments for the benefit of present and future generations. As a service and outreach agency of the Warner College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University, the CSFS provides technical forestry assistance and wildlife mitigation expertise to help landowners and communities achieve their stewardship goals. Every year, the agency helps treat 20,000 acres of forest land and assists approximately 6,400 landowners and hundreds of communities through 19 district and field offices. The CSFS also administers the Colorado Wood Utilization and Marketing Program (CoWood) and manages a seedling tree nursery in Fort Collins, which each year distributes approximately 1 million seeding trees and shrubs for conservation purposes.

About the U.S. Forest Service
The mission of the U.S. Forest Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. http://www.fs.fed.us/ 

About the Forest Legacy Program
Funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program supports voluntary partnerships between states, forest landowners, conservation organizations and others to help conserve environmentally important forests from conversion to nonforest uses. The main tool used for protecting these important forests is conservation easements to provide for jobs, water quality, wildlife, recreation and a host of other public benefits.   The program has protected 2.4 million acres to date across the nation.

About Boulder County Parks and Open Space
Boulder County Parks and Open Space’s mission is to conserve natural, cultural and agricultural resources and provide public uses that reflect sound resource management and community values. http://www.bouldercounty.org/dept/openspace/pages/default.aspx

About Great Outdoors Colorado
Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers and open spaces. GOCO’s independent board awards competitive grants to local governments and land trusts, and makes investments through Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Created when voters approved a Constitutional Amendment in 1992, GOCO has since funded more than 4,500 projects in urban and rural areas in all 64 counties without any tax dollar support. Maps and lists of funded projects are available at www.goco.org.

Press Release Contacts
Ann Simonelli | The Conservation Fund | 703-908-5809 | asimonelli@conservationfund.org
Robin Murphy | The Conservation Fund | 703-797- 2507 | rmurphy@conservationfund.org
Ryan Lockwood | Colorado State Forest Service | 970-491-8970 | Ryan.Lockwood@colostate.edu
Chris Strebig | USDA Forest Service | 303-275-5346 | cstrebig@fs.fed.us
Barb Halpin | Boulder County | 303-441-1622 | bhalpin@bouldercounty.org
Todd Cohen | Great Outdoors Colorado | 303-226-4530 | tcohen@goco.org