Index: Environment / Subcategory: Use of Resources

Open Lands

Date updated: 06/06/2012

The Larimer County Open Lands Program was implemented in November of 1995 as a result of the Help Preserve Open Spaces Initiative. The intent of the program is to protect, acquire, improve and maintain open space, natural areas, wildlife habitat, parks, and trails in Larimer County and its communities. The Open Lands Program partners with other organizations in order to accomplish this.

Open Lands partners include:

The program uses revenue from a county-wide quarter-cent sales and use tax. In 2011, more than half (58%) of the money collected was distributed to cities and towns in Larimer County. The communities use the revenue to acquire land, buy conservation easements, and improve existing parks and open lands within the community. The Larimer County Open Lands Program and its partners use the remainder of the revenue to acquire and manage additional land. According to the Open Lands Department, the program has received more than $114 million in land and cash donations since 1996. See Additional Information for more on how Open Lands sales and use tax revenue is used and distributed.

The Open Lands Program acquires land by two methods:

Conservation easement: In a conservation easement, the landowner sells or donates the right to develop a piece of land. This agreement might be temporary (lasting for a certain number of years) or permanent.

Fee-simple: In a fee-simple acquisition, the Open Lands program buys the land from the landowner at a fair market price.

'Open Lands' acquisitions are protected from most development. When selecting acquisitions and planning their use, the Open Lands Advisory Board (which includes appointed community members, one elected official, and one member from the Larimer County Planning Commission) balances the need to protect natural resources and land in its original state against the needs of the public to experience nature and access the land. Land used for agriculture may or may not continue to be farmed by the owner. Other acquisitions may be developed solely for the purposes of recreation, with Open Lands staff adding trails or overlooks. In some cases, motorized vehicles might be prohibited, or certain parts of the land may be inaccessible to the public. In other cases, the whole acquisition may be entirely off-limits to the public if the acquisition consists of conservation easements on private land or sensitive wildlife habitat, for example.

What this chart shows: Open Lands Acreage by Type of Acquisition in Larimer County, 2001 vs. 2006 vs. 2011

Data Source: Larimer County Open Lands Program (data not available online)

See data table

What the above data tell us:

The total acreage in the Larimer County Open Lands Program increased 243% between 2001 and 2011. In terms of square miles, the total acreage increased from 20.6 square miles in 2001 to 70.6 square miles in 2011 (640 acres = 1 square mile).

The number of conservation easement acres increased 132% (from 11.4 square miles to 26.4 square miles) during this same time, while the number of fee-simple acres increased 381% (from 9.2 square miles to 44.2 square miles). The larger increase in fee-simple acres represents a greater stability in Open Lands' acquisitions, as fee-simple acquisitions will remain a part of the Open Lands Program unless the County sells the land.

What this chart shows: Open Lands by Access Type in Larimer County, 2011

Data Source: Larimer County Open Lands Program (data not available online)

See data table

What the above data tell us:

The majority (63%) of land held in the Open Lands Program is open or will be opened to the public, with approximately one-third (37%) not open to the public.

What this chart shows: Distribution of Help Preserve Open Spaces (HPOS) Tax Revenue - Larimer County and Larimer County Communities, 2011

Data Source: Larimer County Open Lands Program (data not available online)

See data table

What the above data tell us:

The total amount of tax revenue collected by the Open Lands Program averaged $8,784,172 over the last 10 years. The highest revenue was collected in 2007 ($9,839,751) and the lowest revenue was collected in 2009 ($8,400,539).

In 2011, only Fort Collins and Berthoud received lower than average distributions.

See Additional Information for more on how Open Lands revenue is used and distributed.

What this chart shows: Distribution of Open Lands Tax Revenue - Larimer County and Larimer County Communities, 2011

Data Source: Larimer County Open Lands Program (data not available online)

See data table

What the above data tell us:

In 2011, communities within Larimer County received 58% of the total Open Lands sales and use tax revenue. The communities used this money to purchase conservation easements, develop trails, and improve park facilities. The Larimer County Open Lands Program received the remaining 42% of the total tax revenue. This money was allocated partly for acquiring land or conservation easements, and partly for future management of open lands. See Additional Information for more on how the tax revenue is used and distributed.

Additional Information:

According to the Larimer County Open Lands Master Plan, [pdf] the shares divided between the municipalities and the County fluctuates from year to year. At least 55% of the collected revenues is distributed to the municipalities and no less than 35% is allocated to the County. The proportion that each community receives is recalculated annually based on population size or the amount of sales tax collected by the community, whichever calculation affords the community the larger amount of revenue.

After municipal funds have been allocated, the remaining fund balance (not less than 35%) is distributed to the County as follows:


Related Information on COMPASS -

Other Resources -

Industry Standards or Targets:

N/A

Data Tables:

Larimer County Open Lands Acreage by Type of Acquisition

Year

Total Acres

Fee-Simple Acres

Conservation Easement Acres

2002

14,223 6,155 8,068

2003

16,404 8,168 8,236

2004

37,930 23,465 14,465

2005

38,463 23,596 14,867

2006

40,134 24,958 15,176

2007

41,951 26,286 15,295

2008

43,578 28,282 15,296

2009

44,295 28,294 16,001

2010

44,633 28,294 16,339

2011

45,193 28,294 16,899

See chart

Larimer County Open Lands by Access Type, 2011

Public Access

Future or Potential Public Access

Conservation Easements - No Public Access

Number

Percentage

Number

Percentage

Number

Percentage

24,448 54% 3,889 9% 16,889 37%

See chart

Larimer County Open Lands Program Dollars

Year

Total Dollars

Larimer County

Fort Collins

Loveland

Estes Park

Berthoud

Wellington

2002

$8,483,382 $3,527,084 $3,235,748 $1,304,378 $218,802 $124,129 $67,642

2003

$8,468,525 $3,532,580 $3,205,119 $1,314,655 $218,445 $123,913 $66,730

2004

$9,005,236 $3,750,211 $3,374,671 $1,405,098 $234,908 $126,810 $75,185

2005

$9,148,751 $3,811,306 $3,417,517 $1,432,517 $239,502 $127,480 $79,698

2006

$9,643,420 $4,033,795 $3,599,786 $1,506,477 $250,110 $136,930 $77,782

2007

$9,839,751 $4,152,187 $3,529,570 $1,554,153 $252,524 $129,513 $122,196

2008

$9,202,705 $3,956,426 $3,189,107 $1,470,884 $240,167 $120,359 $122,125

2009

$8,400,539 $3,614,183 $2,824,574 $1,410,589 $224,318 $109,178 $114,630

2010

$9,143,760 $3,920,058 $3,058,106 $1,558,011 $244,384 $118,288 $123,466

2011

$8,743,241 $3,734,616 $2,929,532 $1,445,545 $240,910 $109,266 $117,820

See chart

Distribution of Open Lands Dollars - Larimer County, 2011

Location

Percentage of Revenue

Larimer County

42.7%

Fort Collins

33.5%

Loveland

16.5%

Estes Park

2.8%

Wellington

1.3%

Berthoud

1.2%

Windsor

0.7%

Johnstown

0.7%

Timnath

0.5%

See chart