Pueblo couple snags conservation award


Gary and Georgia Walker: Innovators in conservation. - COURTESY PALMER LAND TRUST
  • Courtesy Palmer Land Trust
  • Gary and Georgia Walker: Innovators in conservation.
A Pueblo couple added another conservation recognition with their selection for the Innovation in Conservation Award by the Palmer Land Trust.

Gary and Georgia Walker were selected for their dedication to preservation of thousands of acres of land south of Fort Carson into Pueblo County. You might recall that Gary Walker has gone a round or two with Colorado Springs Utilities over its water pipeline crossing his land.

Palmer Land Trust's description of the Walkers' award:

The Innovation in Conservation Award honoring the development of new conservation models, the creation of new conservation funding mechanisms, and implementation of unique conservation partnerships that protect our natural heritage.
Winner: Gary and Georgia Walker - Owners of Turkey Creek Ranch.
Father and Son (Gary Walker and Remmington Walker)
This ranch is 65,000 acres located between U.S. Army's Fort Carson and the growing urban community of Pueblo West. Turkey Creek Ranch is an area of intact natural systems, native species and quiet, open spaces. The Walkers have spent more than 50 years protecting the biodiversity of this working ranch by building partnerships with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Colorado Natural Heritage Program, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and Department of Defense. Years of perseverance and hard work have resulted in over 21,888 acres of permanent conservation easements, safeguarding shortgrass prairie, juniper woodland, riparian area, and populations of rare plants for future generations. After decades of building partnerships and trust, the Walkers became the first private landowners in the nation to re-introduce Black Footed Ferrets on their lands under a cooperative Safe Harbor Agreement with USFWS. In October and November 2013, a total of 55 Black Footed Ferrets were released on the Walker Ranch. This re-introduction represented the return of the species to eastern Colorado for the first time in more than 80 years.

The Walkers and other award winners will be honored on Oct. 16 at the 5th annual Southern Colorado Conservation Awards (SCCA) in Colorado Springs.

Other Recipients:
The Stuart P. Dodge Award honoring lifetime achievement in conservation.
Winner: Steve Wooten
As a 4th generation member of a southeast Colorado ranching family Steve Wooten placed a conservation easement over much of the Beatty Canyon Ranch with Colorado Open Lands, one of the earliest and largest in southeast Colorado. He recognized that a conservation easement was only one part of securing his family's connection to the land. Economic realities of ranching still required innovative approaches to making a sustainable future not only for his family, but equally important, for the southeast Colorado community too. Steve has been a leader in developing and promoting economic opportunities based on the wealth of natural, historic, and cultural resources throughout the southeastern Colorado region, building a ranching and nature tourism enterprise, introducing the arts and birding communities to southeast Colorado, and forging one of the largest and most effective landowner partnerships under Colorado Parks and Wildlife's Ranching for Wildlife hunting program.

The Friends of Open Space Award honoring efforts that lead to the protection of a significant landscape in southern Colorado.
Winner: Nancy Butler
Nancy has served as Executive Director of the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) since 2002. Under her leadership she grew the local land trust to serve six counties of the San Luis Valley and inspired the convergence of land and water protection across the broader region. Under Nancy's leadership, and in a close working relationship with co-coordinator of the Initiative, Rio de La Vista, has successfully partnered with many national, state and local entities. RiGHT and partners are getting close to achieving their initial goal of protecting 25,000 acres of the Rio Grande and tributaries, with over $40 million in conservation achieved. The demand for conservation along the Rio Grande, and increasingly along the Conejos River, the largest tributary, continues to be strong. Nancy, along with the RiGHT staff and all local Board, continue to work to address that interest, one ranch at a time.

The Stewardship Award (Conservation) honoring an organization that has positively impacted the land and the way members of our communities understand and respect their relationship to the land.
Winner: The Coalition for the Upper South Platte (CUSP)
CUSP has served Colorado's Front Range with projects and programs that implement innovative, state-of-the-art, post-fire recovery and flood mitigation strategies. CUSP is recognized for their commitment to land and water resources stewardship, and also is an invaluable organization within Colorado that can quickly advance pre-fire mitigation projects as well as provide communities with immediate assistance for post-fire recovery efforts as demonstrated in the Waldo Canyon Fire.

The Stewardship Award (Education) honoring an organization that has positively impacted the land and the way members of our communities understand and respect their relationship to the land.
Winner: Mile High Youth Corps - Colorado Springs
For the past 21 years, Mile High Youth Corps - Colorado Springs has had immeasurable impact not only on the land, but on local youth by providing opportunities for Southern Colorado youth to work alongside conservations managers in crew-based environmental rehabilitation, habitat restoration, and fire mitigation and restoration projects throughout the Pikes Peak Region.
Palmer Land Trust has been protecting the places you live since 1977. Throughout the greater Pikes Peak region Palmer Land Trust has helped individuals and communities conserve nearly 75,000 acres of public open spaces, historic farms and ranches, critical habitat, and stunning scenic vistas.

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