WHAT IS CCLC?
Clear Creek Land Conservancy was founded in 1986 to preserve and protect undeveloped land in Clear Creek Canyon and watershed area. We are a certified land trust and nonprofit organization run by local volunteers and our Executive Director. We currently own 650 acres and hold conservation easements on approximately 2,000 acres.
Clear Creek Canyon is Denver’s backyard, and we envision it as a place where people and nature exist together for the benefit of both—where visitors, through such activities as hiking, bicycling, fishing, hunting, and nature viewing, can appreciate the natural and historical significance of Clear Creek while the area’s plants, wildlife, water quality, and scenery are managed and enhanced to ensure that this beautiful canyon remains in its near-to-natural state forever.
History of CCLC
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is a land trust?
A “land trust” is an organization that works cooperatively with landowners to help conserve and protect lands because of their natural, scenic, open space, wildlife, historic, recreational, cultural, and/or agricultural values. The mission of land trusts is simple – to perpetually preserve lands that are important to the people, communities, and regions where they operate.
There are nearly 1,700 land trusts in the USA, operating in every state to protect lands of local, regional, and national importance. They range from the very large national and international ones (like The Nature Conservancy) to the very small (like those protecting an inner-city neighborhood garden). Most land trusts – like the Clear Creek Land Conservancy – are nonprofit, nongovernmental, charitable groups run by boards of volunteers with expertise to offer, sometimes with the assistance of paid staff.
Typically, land trusts focus on distinct political or geographic areas (like a city, county, state, or multi-state area – or a river corridor, sea coast, forest, or farm and ranch area). The Clear Creek Land Conservancy protects the Clear Creek Canyon and watershed from the Foothills to the Continental Divide in Jefferson, Clear Creek, and Gilpin Counties.
What role do land trusts play in protecting Clear Creek Canyon?
The Clear Creek Land Conservancy exists to encourage, expand and protect public open space, scenic vistas, wildlife habitat, trails, and other outdoor recreation and education opportunities, and to promote open space compatible development. The canyon is located in Jefferson County, Colorado, in the foothills only a few miles west of Denver. Over 10,000 acres in Clear Creek Canyon and nearby areas have been preserved in their natural, undeveloped state because of the efforts of Clear Creek Land Conservancy and its Preservation Partners.
In 1994, CCLC financed a two-year-long citizen-government planning effort, resulting in a 46-page Master Plan for preservation of the Canyon, which was adopted by the Jefferson County Commissioners and incorporated a consensus vision for the canyon’s future based on its importance to various segments of the public. The original plan was updated by Jefferson County, but much of the original plan influences the current trends.
As we look to the future, development pressure from the growing population of Denver and the Front Range, coupled with the dangers of climate change, will continue to challenge the delicate and diverse ecosystems that make Colorado such a unique place to live. Conservation remains an important piece of the puzzle to protect land from development and ensure future generations will enjoy its beauty.
What does CCLC do to protect our natural resources?
In addition to helping landowners establish conservation easements, and continuing our land preservation advocacy, the Clear Creek Land Conservancy has a major land and resource management responsibility. The Conservancy owns acres in fee simple and oversees acres of conservation easements. CCLC must meet or exceed the management guidelines required by its Colorado certification and those set by the national Land Trust Alliance. Much of our Board of Directors’ volunteer time and that of our part-time paid Staff is spent on these land management functions.
CCLC, together with landowners, conducts annual stewardship visits of each of the conservation easements we hold to insure that the requirements of the easement are being met. While at the property, stewards note the general condition of the land, monitoring long term changes. We look for problems, such as increases in invasive weeds, encroachment by neighboring landowners or their livestock, changes in use, improvements, etc. A report is prepared and filed and any recommendations are passed to the landowner for implementation. If you would like to volunteer, here’s how to get involved.
The land CCLC owns in fee generates significant management responsibilities for the Board of Directors as well. CCLC maintains liability insurance for its lands and has a caretaker, who lives in a CCLC-owned cabin in the midst of its holdings. Board members visit the CCLC-owned parcels several time each year to monitor their condition and to take any management actions necessary. In addition, as every landowner knows, special problems and unexpected expenses associated with the land are always cropping up.
How does CCLC work?
We receive donations, acquire, and help others acquire open space land and interests (like conservation easements, fees, rights-of-way, trails, etc.)
We provide positive incentives for open space – cooperation, expert help, tax benefits, and other resources.
Preserving land through the Conservancy can qualify land owners for substantial reductions in income tax, estate tax, and property taxes and for Colorado State tax credits.
We fully support and work with other open space programs – like Jeffco Open Space, Denver Mountain Parks, etc. A fast-moving, private-sector group can often accomplish what large government programs cannot.
CCLC is led by a volunteer Board of Directors, composed of area business, scientific, legal, financial, and volunteer leaders, who donate their services for free.
Open space adds real dollar value to Jefferson County. Studies clearly show open space does not “take money off the tax rolls.” It raises the value of all our properties, increases the county’s tax base, makes it more attractive for new business and residential investment, and improves everyone’s quality of life.
Being “for open space” does not mean being “anti-development.” Economic growth and development can compliment open space – even make it possible. CCLC has been a leader in advocating “Protective Development” – using the positive leverage of new developments to plan for and maximize remaining open space. For example, the Conservancy had professionals prepare a land use plan to show a developer how it could build as many homes as desired – but with greater protection of open space and wildlife habitat, and consequently increased sales and increased the rate of return.
Is CCLC an approved land trust?
Proud to be!
The State of Colorado now reviews the credentials, operations, and accomplishments of land trusts in Colorado and certifies those that meet their rigorous standards. We are proud that Clear Creek Land Conservancy was fully approved by the State in the very first round of certifications on January 1st, 2010. We hold License Number CE002 issued from the State of Colorado Conservation Easement Oversight Program. The license certifies that Clear Creek Land Conservancy “has met the qualifications to hold conservation easements for which a state tax credit is claimed.” CCLC is officially recognized as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, which makes us a tax-exempt, tax-deductible entity.
Are my donations to CCLC tax deductible?
CCLC is a non-profit corporation and a 501(c)(3) charity and meets all the paperwork requirements of that status with the State of Colorado. CCLC has an accounting consultant who keeps track of its income and expenditures and who prepares its annual tax documents. CCLC submits an annual report and pays an annual fee to the State of Colorado to maintain its certification as an official land trust.
Where do land trusts get their operating budgets?
Land trusts are registered charities under Colorado and Federal law. They are supported by donations from individuals, corporations, and foundations. Nationwide, some 1,000,000 people are financial supporters of land trusts, and 50,000 are active volunteers. The donations to land trusts are tax deductible just like any other charity.
Clear Creek Land Conservancy (CCLC), and all other land trusts, have annual and non-recurring expenses. CCLC holds assets (lands and easements) of considerable size and value, which means that we have significant expenses each year. In 2010, CCLC spent approximately $40,000 to manage its holdings, and that number has continued to increase each year. Our major budget items are County Taxes for lands we own in fee, maintaining State of Colorado Certification, legal fees, maintaining and updating our website, insurances and payroll for accounting, auditing, the Executive Director, and administrative support.
CCLC has annual income from donations and payments from landowners with new easements. CCLC also has a conservatively invested endowment from large donations and from our merger with the Northwoodside Foundation, and income from this endowment is used to supplement annual income to meet expenses.
Donations, however, are and must remain an important part of our income for several reasons:
- Proceeds from investment income in most years do not cover annually expenses.
- Liquidating part of the endowment to pay annual expenses would erode the long term financial stability of the Conservancy.
- IRS regulations for 501(C) organizations require that at least 33% of expenses are covered by tax deductible donations.
Where can I find out more about land trusts?
Why Conserve Land
The Land Trust Alliance provides information on national land conservation.
A Landowner’s Guide
A publication of the Conservation Resource Center’s Tax Credit Exchange Program
A Guide to Colorado products and services from conserved lands
A publication of Tax Credit Connection
Colorado Department of Revenue FAQ on Conservation Easements .
This website has many publications on conservation easement income tax credits including FYI 39, a fact sheet on Colorado conservation easement income tax credits.
IRS Guidance on New Federal Tax Incentives
The IRS has published a 12-page document giving guidance on how to use the new federal tax benefits that were enacted in August 2006. It includes information on the qualified farmer or rancher special deduction rate as well as other guidance.