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DENVER – Today, the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) board awarded a $1,500,000 grant to Larimer County to permanently protect the 1,547-acre Heaven’s Door Ranch near Loveland. 

The grant is part of GOCO’s Centennial Program, which invests in high-value, once-in-a-generation visions and projects that will create lasting impacts on the Centennial State and future generations. Larimer County’s Department of Natural Resources worked for 20 years to protect this critical “puzzle piece” that completes the connection between several conserved lands in the area. The acquisition serves as a cornerstone of the county’s conservation strategy in this high-priority area. It comes as the region faces a growing population, development pressure, and demands for more public access to the outdoors. 

The property boasts diverse wildlife habitats and movement corridors and its grasslands provide winter range for elk and pronghorn and year-round habitat for mule deer. The foothills shrublands are essential breeding habitats for migratory and resident bird species and serve as important seasonal food sources and cover for mule deer, elk, black bears, mountain lions, and bobcats. Its ponderosa pine woodlands provide breeding habitat for birds and support small mammals, including Allen’s and Townsend’s big-eared bats. Its steep hogbacks and canyons provide critical perch sites for raptors and birds. 

Located four miles west of Loveland on US Highway 34 and 12 miles southwest of Fort Collins, the future open space and its scenic vistas will eventually provide a much-needed, close-to-home nature-based public access opportunity for the Northern Front Range. Highlighting demand, a 2021 visitor use study conducted by the county found that over 150,000 people annually visited Devil’s Backbone Open Space, 5 miles east of Heaven’s Door Ranch, and that nearly 40% of visitors traveled there from outside Larimer County.

“We fully intend this property to join the ranks as one of the crown jewels of the incredible open space system in northern Colorado, protecting significant resource values and providing future public access," said Daylan Figgs, director of Larimer County’s Department of Natural Resources.

Larimer County has been interested in conserving Heaven’s Door Ranch for decades. At the end of 2022, the county was able to act quickly, negotiate with the landowner, and purchase the land at a reduced price of $9 million with help from the City of Fort Collins and the City of Loveland, which will co-hold the conservation easement. Larimer County officially closed the deal in November 2022, and the GOCO Centennial Program grant will reimburse the county for a portion of the purchase, replenishing critical open space acquisition funds.

To date, GOCO has invested more than $63.6 million and partnered to conserve 67,110 acres of land within Larimer County. Most recently, GOCO funding has supported Oxbow Natural Area, the conservation of lands buffering Red Mountain Open Space, and the Thumb Open Space in the Estes Valley, among other compelling projects.

Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers, and open spaces. GOCO’s independent board awards competitive grants to local governments and land trusts and makes investments through Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Created when voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1992, GOCO has since funded more than 5,700 projects in all 64 counties of Colorado without any tax dollar support. Visit for more information.

Click a photo to enlarge.

Published on: 
Friday, March 15, 2024 - 2:38pm
Contact Details:

Diane Metzger
GOCO Communications Manager

Jenn Almstead
Larimer County Fund Development & Projects Specialist

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