Great Outdoors Colorado has awarded the Montezuma Land Conservancy two grants totaling $355,029 to elevate Native American perspectives on land conservation, and to start a youth outdoor fellowship program.
According to a March 16 news release, the first grant of $222,314 will fund a multiyear program to strengthen partnerships and relationships between tribal and nontribal conservation efforts.
The programs will be in partnership with members of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, the Telluride Institute and the Mountain Studies Institute.
The goal is to advance outdoor recreation, stewardship and land protection work, with a focus on Indigenous people’s viewpoints and cultural context, said Travis Custer, executive director for the Montezuma Land Conservancy, in an interview Wednesday.
“There is a huge need to build relationships and trust between tribal and nontribal communities, especially on issues around land,” he said. “Hearing the Indigenous voice is crucial to understand the best ways to protect natural resources and take in the scope of Native American connection and history on these lands.”
Cross-cultural programs will address ecological and cultural restoration opportunities, outcome-based citizen science, youth leadership projects, teacher training and roundtable discussions.
Using the Dolores and San Miguel watersheds as a guide, projects will advance critical lands restoration work and provide cultural connections through the study of movement of water, wildlife and people across the southwestern landscape.
Funded projects also will address immediate needs or opportunities that have emerged in direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic all within the context of GOCO’s five program values: resource conservation, outdoor stewardship, community vitality, equitable access and youths’ connection to the outdoors.
The grant also will fund a program manager position who will work with MLC and the Telluride Institute to facilities community engagement as a part of the project.
In addition, eight scholarships will be awarded to local youths to participate in a hands on leadership course provided by the Telluride Academy.
“This project and its outcomes will help advance collaborative efforts to build relationships with local tribes, as well as provide more culturally relevant experiences and education opportunities to the greater public,” the news release states.
As part of an inaugural grant program, GOCO also awarded MLC $132,715 for a new fellowship program that pairs young people with outdoor organizations for two years of experience in the fields of conservation, outdoor recreation or stewardship.
Fellows will help complete priority projects while learning about the mission and work of their respective organizations, GOCO officials said. The program is intended reduce barriers to careers in natural resources and the outdoors and create new opportunities for young people.
In recent years, MLC has expanded its focus from traditional land conservation transactions to include community engagement programs through the organization’s education center, Fozzie’s Farm, and its role in leading the Montezuma Inspire Coalition, part of GOCO’s Generation Wild.
To date, GOCO has invested more than $12.9 million in projects and conserved more than 5,300 acres of land in Montezuma County. GOCO funding has supported Cortez South Neighborhood Park, the Nature Center at Butler Corner, McPhee Overlook Trail, the conservation of Horse Creek Ranch, Montezuma Inspire Coalition, among other projects.
For more information about grant programs and job opportunities, visit the Montezuma Land Conservancy website at montezumaland.org