Businesses Help Conserve Land

Program will raise money to fund efforts Montezuma, Dolores counties

By Stephanie Paige Ogburn | Cortez Journal Staff Writer

Customers shopping at area businesses will soon have the opportunity to pay a little extra and preserve open space in Montezuma and Dolores counties.

Pennies for Open Spaces, a new program launched by the Montezuma Land Conservancy and piloted at four Cortez businesses, gives customers the opportunity to add a 1 percent surcharge to their purchase. The extra money they pay goes to support the nonprofit land conservancy’s work of placing conservation easements on farms, ranches, wildlife habitat, and open space, said conservancy co-executive director Nina Williams.
Williams likes the program, which has also been used by the Crested Butte Land Trust and the Salida-based Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas, because it doesn’t cost businesses any extra. They just have to remember to ask customers if they’d like to add a percent to their purchase; all the money is donated by the purchaser.

“It’s a way for businesses to support the Montezuma Land Conservancy,” said Williams. “It’s just a simple button at the register.”
The first four businesses enrolled in the program, which kicked off last weekend, are Main Book Co., Kokopelli Bike and Board, Canyon Sports and Cliffrose Your High Desert Gardens, but other businesses are welcome to participate, said Williams.

The conservancy hatched the idea this winter, with its new operations manager, Loralee Spence, who was very enthusiastic about starting the program when she came on board at the organization, said Williams.

The land conservancy operates by working with private landowners who wish to place conservation easements on their property, ensuring that it will not be developed.

Since the Four Corners relies heavily on tourism, which is driven in large part by attraction to the area’s natural beauty, the conservancy said they felt working with businesses to preserve the open space that brings in more tourist customers made sense.
“Our landscape here in Colorado really defines our community,” said Williams. “We think that people come to this area because of the rural character and because of its beauty.”

“This is a way to preserve those beautiful vistas,” said Spence.

“And this is a way for visitors to help fund our conservation as well as residents,” added Williams.

The conservancy hopes to raise $10,000 in the program’s first year. They will check in quarterly with businesses to see how the project is going, said Spence.

Stephanie Glass, of the Main Book Co., said she wanted to be able to support the land conservancy and this program was a no-cost way for her to do it.

“I appreciate the aesthetic value of our area,” said Glass. “I want to be able in some way to support these efforts and this is a way to do that.”

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