San Isabel receives grant for satellite monitoring

San Isabel Land Protection Trust has received $10,000 to purchase satellite imagery to monitor its 134 conservation properties across four counties. Keep It Colorado, a nonprofit coalition of conservation partners, awarded the grant.

Keep It Colorado received $155,000 from Great Outdoors Colorado's Resilient Communities program and the Gates Family Foundation to support safer, more efficient monitoring. Monitoring usually takes place through in-person visits.

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Redwing Ranch in Huerfano County, San Isabel's latest conservation easement

Linda Poole, San Isabel’s executive director, said, “We are grateful to Keep It Colorado for working with GOCO and the Gates Family Foundation to develop this funding opportunity. It will help the land trust community adapt and thrive despite these turbulent and unpredictable times.”

The coronavirus pandemic has forced land trusts to rethink how they watch over conservation easements while keeping their communities, landowners and staff safe. Land trusts are responsible for monitoring their conservation easement properties every year. That involves evaluating the condition of the property to determine compliance with the easement’s terms and to ensure that landowners are upholding the conservation values of each property.

Melissa Daruna, executive director of Keep It Colorado, said, “Many land trusts are innovating and shifting to widespread use of satellite or aerial imagery to fulfill annual monitoring requirements efficiently and safely. Our partners ­– GOCO and the Gates Family Foundation – stepped in and prioritized an investment when they recognized a need for immediate support.”

San Isabel joins 12 land trusts across the state in receiving a grant. They include Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust and Colorado Open Lands. Keep It Colorado estimates that every dollar saved in monitoring costs reduces stewardship fund requirements by $20 or more.

Poole said, “Our 134 easement properties are widely dispersed and include a lot of heavily treed, steep or otherwise inaccessible areas. Even before the pandemic sideswiped us all, San Isabel had been considering implementing remote sensing as an adjunct to in-person, on-the-ground monitoring. In the past year, we have researched effectiveness, costs and availability of various monitoring approaches, comparing our usual on-the-ground procedures with using drones, small aircraft and various satellite-based systems. We concluded that fine-scale satellite imagery was the best fit for our purposes.”

Janet Smith

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  • “Open space does not keep our cities apart; it holds our country together.”

    – Claricy Rusk, fourth-generation rancher