First-of-its-kind Study Details Economic Benefits Of Great Outdoors Colorado And Conservation Trust Fund Investments

A study released today by The Trust for Public Land quantifies for the first time the billions of dollars of economic benefits generated annually by the investment of Colorado Lottery money across the state in parks, trails, land and water conservation, playgrounds, and recreation.

According to the study, The Economic Benefits of Great Outdoors Colorado and the Conservation Trust Fund, over the past decade, Colorado Lottery proceeds invested through Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) and the Conservation Trust Fund supported 11,800 jobs with $507 million in labor income. In addition, by protecting land and water and providing places for people to enjoy the outdoors, Great Outdoors Colorado and Conservation Trust Fund annually help create $392 million in resident spending on sporting goods, which combined with nonresident spending, supports the state’s robust sporting goods industry of 1,510 businesses with 14,800 employees that produce $4.30 billion in sales.

“The study shows that investment of lottery proceeds in parks, trails, conservation and outdoor recreation not only enhances Coloradans’ quality of life, but also supports local jobs, strengthens our agricultural sector and propels economic development across the state,” said Jim Petterson, Southwest and Colorado director for The Trust for Public Land.

The 56-page study was prepared by The Trust for Public Land’s Conservation Economics team, which has conducted economic analyses in more than 40 communities, from Los Angeles to Massachusetts.

The Trust for Public Land’s economists analyzed detailed data on Colorado’s investments of Lottery proceeds to quantify the economic impact. Benefits include creating jobs, propelling economic development, attracting tourism, supporting farming and ranching, transforming schoolyards, shaping future leaders, providing recreation, and leveraging funds.

According to Jennifer Plowden, senior conservation economist and author of the report, “Great Outdoors Colorado and the Conservation Trust Fund are excellent programs which are the envy of other states. They provide clear and measurable economic benefits in every county of the state by investing in a wide spectrum of high-impact projects from working farms and ranches to schoolyards.”

“We’re proud to invest in the projects of our partners–local governments across the state, nonprofit land trusts, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife–which work every day to protect and enhance our state’s natural resources,” said GOCO Executive Director Chris Castilian. “Our great outdoors brings business and new opportunities to Colorado, making it the best place to live and work.”

Among the study’s findings:

  • Over the last 10 years, investments through Great Outdoors Colorado and the Conservation Trust Fund supported 11,800 jobs and $507 million in labor income. This represents 17.2 jobs for every $1 million invested.
  • Great Outdoors Colorado investments help secure water and productive farm and ranch lands for future generations of food production. The state’s 33,800 operating farms and ranches generate $8.58 billion in agricultural production and support thousands of jobs across the state.
  • Great Outdoors Colorado and the Conservation Trust Fund have leveraged nearly $3 billion in other federal, state, local and private funds, which means every dollar invested through these programs leverages at least $1.29.
  • Each year, Coloradans receive a benefit of at least $399 million for the recreational use of the state’s parks, trails, rivers, open spaces, and playgrounds. Great Outdoors Colorado and the Conservation Trust Fund are major sources of funding to ensure access to nature, wildlife, and outdoor recreation.
  • Visitors to Colorado who come to the state primarily to visit the outdoors spend $1.21 billion annually and generate $44.9 million in state tax revenues and $66.5 million in local tax revenue.
  • Investments through Great Outdoors Colorado and the Conservation Trust Fund facilitate $392 million each year in resident spending on sporting goods. Combined with tourist expenditures, this spending contributes to Colorado’s robust sporting goods industry with 1,510 businesses that employ 14,800 Coloradans and generate $4.30 billion in sales.

The full Economic Benefits of Great Outdoors Colorado and the Conservation Trust Fund study, as well as a two-page executive summary can be downloaded here.

The investment of Lottery proceeds in the outdoors not only contributes to Colorado’s overall economy, and local economies in urban and rural communities across the state, but also helps retain Colorado’s cultural heritage and quality of life.

Since 1992, Lottery proceeds have been distributed according to this formula: up to 50 percent each year to the Great Outdoors Colorado (against a cap that today is roughly $65 million), 40 percent to the Conservation Trust Fund (which distributes its proceeds quarterly to local parks and recreation providers on a per capita basis), and 10 percent to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Lottery proceeds that exceed the GOCO cap go to the Colorado Department of Education’s Public School Capital Construction Assistance Fund called BEST.

The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live near a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit