Critics say GOCO not buying open space |

Critics say GOCO not buying open space

DENVER ” Four years after Colorado voters overwhelmingly approved the use of $115 million in bonds to preserve open-space land around the state none of the money has been spent, the Rocky Mountain News reported Monday.

The newspaper said critics say the money is not being spent because the Great Outdoors Colorado board that oversees the spending is resisting the will of the voters. The board has shifted its emphasis from buying open space to paying ranchers and farmers not to sell out to developers, critics said.

“They have broken faith with the voters by de-emphasizing acquisition of land,” said state Sen. Dan Grossman, D-Denver. “They don’t like the idea of the state holding title to land. If you’re not acquiring land, there’s no reason to use bonding.”

GOCO officials dispute Grossman’s characterization, saying they have preserved thousands of acres in the past year and GOCO still will have the capacity to issue bonds in the future. GOCO announced in December it would spend $60 million to protect 80,000 acres stretching from Larimer County to the San Juan Skyway in southwestern Colorado.

“We went through a tremendous amount of work to take care of the most urgent needs in the state,” GOCO executive director John Swartout said. “In the Laramie foothills, we were able to buy 50,000 acres (with) cash. We preserved our ability to use that bond funding if we need it.”

GOCO, which is funded with revenue from the state lottery, has spent hundreds of millions of dollars during the past decade preserving wild terrain around the state. Voters were told in 2001 that by allowing GOCO to issue bonds, the agency could move quickly to acquire disappearing open space.

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