Colorado Open Lands

Northern Front Range :

Preserving Working Farms and Agricultural Heritage


Bordered on the east by the high plains and to the west by some of the most rugged mountains in the country, Colorado’s Northern Front Range is defined by its wide open vistas, a striking mountain backdrop, and a long agricultural heritage.

With the richest agricultural soils this county is experiencing the greatest growth pressures and as such is in danger of being over used and destroyed. To date, we have protected 2,929 acres through 19 projects in this rapidly developing part of Colorado.

Significance

The Northern Front Range is a colloquial geographic term for the populated areas of Colorado which stretch from the foothills of the Rockies just west of Boulder and Fort Collins, to eastern Weld County.  Originally, most of this area consisted of short grass prairie.  The rolling topography found along the western edge of the Northern Front Range is cut by the St. Vrain River, the Big and Little Thompson Rivers, and the Poudre River.

Perhaps of greatest significance in this part of Colorado are:

  • The highest concentration of prime farmlands in Colorado,
  • A grassroots partnership among local farmers, business owners, landowners, and civic leaders with Colorado Open Lands, formed to preserve the Town of Berthoud’s prime farmlands and agricultural heritage,
  • A new farmland and open space protection program initiated by the Town of Mead and its Open Space Committee
  • Numerous other agricultural communities committed to preserving their heritage and lands

Threats and Impacts

There are now more people living in the Front Range than were in the entire state 10 years ago.  Recent estimates project that in 20 years, an additional two million residents will occupy the Front Range, a growth rate of 65% (CWCB, 2004) - or 43,500 acres developed per year (Hobbs and Theobald 1998).

Ironically, it is the counties with the richest agricultural soils that are experiencing the greatest growth pressures.  Two of these counties - Larimer and Weld - grew an average of 36% between 1990 and 2000 (Colorado Demography Department).

Because of these pressures, soaring land and water values make land protection in this area challenging.  Most residents are aware of the loss of agricultural lands and open space, and of how development pressures continue to alter the landscape and character of the area.

As a result, broad public support exists for the concept of open space protection; however, translating that general support into specific programs with the necessary financial resources is a different issue.

Integrating the different perspectives and needs of communities and citizens in a way that will improve their quality of life presents an exciting challenge and opportunity for Colorado Open Lands.

As a result of the ongoing development pressures in the Northern Front Range, significant changes are occurring.  These changes include:

  • Conversion of prime agricultural lands to other uses at the rate of 250 acres each year, according to the American Farmland Trust,
  • Loss of wildlife habitat, particularly river corridors,
  • Fragmentation of open spaces, and
  • Changing character in the area.

What Colorado Open Lands is Doing

Colorado Open Lands strives to protect active family farms, thereby preserving the land as well as the long-term continuation of each property’s agricultural use.  As a result of the combined conservation efforts of Colorado Open Lands, local landowners, city and county governments, other local land trusts, businesses, and the State, we are:

  • Continuing our work with the Town of Berthoud and the Berthoud Land Conservation Fund to protect key agricultural lands along the Highway 56 corridor.
  • Partnering with the Town of Mead, Great Outdoors Colorado and the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program to complete the Town’s first conservation easement.  The partners anticipate that this will inspire other agricultural landowners in the area to also protect their farms.
  • Assisting local governments in the St. Vrain River and Boulder Creek corridors to preserve these important riparian corridors that are vitally important to wildlife, to set aside greenways and trails on which the public can recreate, and to preserve the agricultural communities upon which these towns were founded.
  • Working with individual landowners and families who are land-rich, cash-poor, but wish to continue their cultural heritage, to remain on the land that has been in their families for many generations, and most importantly, see their vital agricultural lands protected
  • Protecting natural areas, imperiled scenic viewsheds, stream corridors, and important riparian habitat.
  • Addressing ways to coordinate regional support, land preservation efforts, and crucial funding which will contribute to a successful regional land protection program.
  • Continuing to develop long-term funding sources that are critical to successful land protection.

Partners

Our partners in the Northern Front Range include:

  • Numerous local landowners
  • Towns of Berthoud and Mead
  • St. Vrain Valley Open Lands and Trails coalition:  Cities of Firestone, Frederick,  Dacono and Longmont, Town of Erie, Weld and Boulder Counties, and the Department of Local Affairs

How You Can Help

Your support is critical to our ongoing success in helping willing Colorado landowners preserve and protect the great natural, cultural, and working landscapes of Colorado.  You can help support this project and Colorado Open Lands’ ongoing efforts by:

  • Making an online donation
  • Sending your donation to:
    • Colorado Open Lands
      355 South Teller Street, Suite 210
      Lakewood, CO 80226
      303.988.2373
  • Funding or donating items listed on our Wish List!  To accomplish our mission of land preservation, it is necessary to have the right tools.  By donating either the item or the money necessary to purchase any of the items, you help ensure our ongoing effectiveness and efficiency.
  • Consider putting a conservation easement on your land.

Project Descriptions

Working in conjunction with local landowners, the Towns of Berthoud, Mead and other local municipalities, Larimer County, State Parks, and the Legacy Land Trust, we have collectively protected 1,921 acres through 13 projects.  These projects represent the preservation of multi-generational family farms, river corridors, high-visibility scenic areas, and wildlife habitat.

Click here to view completed projects list.

Ninety-nine percent of our revenue goes directly to our land conservation programs.