TELLURIDE, CO – (December 21, 2015) – Six years ago, when Paul Major, President of the Telluride Foundation, was asked by Foundation employee, April Montgomery, if he would mind if she served on the state’s Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), he didn’t hesitate despite the time it would require being away from the office and the fact that the Foundation did not focus on water issues. Today, Montgomery, the Programs Director at the Foundation, still serves as the southwestern representative to the CWCB, including serving as chair last year, and the Foundation is leading several efforts to promote water issues.
The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) is a 15-member board with responsibilities that range from protecting Colorado’s streams and lakes to water conservation, flood mitigation, watershed protection, stream restoration, drought planning, water supply planning and water project financing, as well as protecting the state’s water apportionments in collaboration with other western states and federal agencies. Montgomery was appointed to the CWCB in 2009 by Governor Ritter, and was later reappointed by Governor Hickenlooper.
“Being on the CWCB has been a nice compliment to working for a community foundation and vice versa,” said Montgomery. “Water is the very essence of community, and living in rural southwest Colorado, I am reminded daily how important water is to our agricultural, recreational, and tourism economies.” The CWCB recently completed drafting the Colorado Water Plan (CWP) and presented it to Governor Hickenlooper at a ceremony in November. The CWP is an unprecedented three-year grass roots effort to develop a roadmap for meeting the state’s water needs in an uncertain water future. “Working on the Water Plan has been an exciting time to be on the CWCB”, said Montgomery. “The Plan provides a list of priority actions covering a wide range of projects, and I think that philanthropy can play a role in helping the state use and protect limited water supplies and promote healthy watersheds and productive agriculture.” For more information on the CWP, visit www.coloradowaterplan.com.
Montgomery and Major both believe that water issues are a logical fit for a community foundation, and especially the Telluride Foundation, whose mission is to improve the quality of life for the residents, visitors, and workforce of the Telluride region. “While a community foundation may typically focus on funding arts, early childhood and K-12 education, and human service organizations, having sufficient, clean water is a basic, critical need for any community”, said Major. “Water is going to be a defining issue for western states in the future; just look at California. What California is going through now is a peek into the future for every other western state.”
To this end, the Foundation is co-hosting with Governor Hickenlooper, the Gates Family Foundation, and the El Pomar Foundation a retreat for Colorado foundation leadership. The goal of the “Colorado Water Issues & Solutions” retreat (February 17-19, 2016 at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs) is to engage foundation leaders on how they might begin to learn about state water issues and take a more proactive approach in helping to protect and manage water resources.
“Residents of Colorado who are most vulnerable will likely bear a disproportionate impact as Colorado water becomes scarce,” said Montgomery. “Colorado foundations are made up of some of our state’s most talented thought leaders and change-makers, and these leaders will be a strong, critical voice in helping solve our water challenges, implement parts of the Colorado Water Plan, and support community water values and needs.”
In another effort to engage in water issues, the Foundation is exploring a new initiative, the “San Miguel Market Place,” which would be a process for applying market based principles to increasing river flows and benefitting the health of the San Miguel River. The process would focus on win-win projects that could provide water users and agricultural producers with funding in exchange for benefits to the river ecosystem, which is widely considered one of the last free-flowing rivers in Colorado. The Foundation, which was funded by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation, has been working with the Colorado Water Trust to determine areas of the San Miguel River where flows could be improved or restored by finding win-win, market-based, collaborative solutions. The Telluride Foundation believes that this Market Place process, once implemented, will be an innovative approach to streamflow restoration that can serve as an example for other communities across the state and beyond.
The Telluride Foundation exists to create a stronger Telluride community through the cultivation and promotion of philanthropy. It is a nonprofit, apolitical community foundation that provides year-round support for local organizations involved in arts, education, athletics, charitable causes, land conservation and other community-based efforts through technical assistance, education and grant making. As a grant maker, the Foundation awards grants to qualified applicants that serve the people living and/or working in the Telluride region for the purpose of enhancing the quality of life within the region. For more information on the Telluride Foundation, visit www.telluridefoundation.org.