Keep It Colorado honors Conservation Heroes and photographers Sept. 1

Celebration includes people, groups from San Luis Valley


GOLDEN — The nonprofit conservation coalition Keep It Colorado celebrated nine “Conservation Heroes” and 11 photographers at its inaugural Fall Reception on Sept. 1 at the American Mountaineering Center in Golden. About 80 guests attended the event, which featured an awards ceremony, a gallery exhibit and a cocktail reception.

The event was designed to celebrate those who contribute to conservation and those who benefit from protecting Colorado’s unique qualities — such as the beauty of the natural landscapes, the abundant wildlife, the ranching and farming way of life, fresh local food, cultural and historical heritage, and the endless outdoor recreation opportunities.

The heroes for conservation were selected by a committee based on a competitive nomination process. They were each honored for their remarkable contributions to land, water or wildlife conservation in Colorado and included:

  • Advocacy Hero: Rio de la Vista, Former Director, Salazar Rio Grande del Norte Center
  • Community Partner Hero: San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition
  • Land Protector Hero: Steve Wooten, Owner and Operator, Beatty Canyon Ranch.
  • Land Trust Innovator Hero: Travis Custer, Executive Director, Montezuma Land Conservancy
  • Volunteer Hero: Dawson Metcalf, Volunteer Extraordinaire on the Northern Front Range
  • Legislative Champion: Senator Faith Winter
  • Legislative Champion: Senator Cleave Simpson
  • Lifetime Achievement Champion: Patti Hostetler, Executive Director, Douglas Land Conservancy
  • Outstanding Public Official: Aaron Welch, Director, Colorado Division of Conservation

In addition to being recognized for their accomplishments, each hero received a ceramic bud vase titled “Bud Vase with an Attitude,” made by Colorado artist Macy Dorf. Much of Dorf’s more modern works are inspired by the geology and mythology of the canyon lands of the southwest.

The Fall Reception also recognized the works of 11 photographers, who had submitted photos illustrating their personal connection to Colorado’s land, water or wildlife, along with an essay, poem or caption to reveal more about that connection. The goal was to highlight the diversity and beauty of landscapes across the state and celebrate the unique relationships people have with Colorado’s places and spaces. Amateur and professional photographers selected from among four categories: “Born and Raised,” “Fell in Love – and Stayed,” “Indigenous Ties,” and “Workin’ It.”

Award winners’ photos and essays will be displayed at the American Mountaineering Center throughout the month of September. All photos and essays are displayed in an online gallery on Keep It Colorado’s website.

Top Picks photographers were:

  • Sarah Malerich, whose photo titled “You Can See Forever” was taken near Pawnee Buttes in the Pawnee National Grasslands. Category: Born and Raised.
  • Lynn Shore, whose photo titled “The Grand River” was taken on the Colorado River between Silt and Rifle. Category: Born and Raised.
  • Jason Swann, whose photo titled “Stepping into the Sunrise” was taken at Long Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. Category: Fell in Love — and Stayed.
  • Dan Downing, whose photo titled “Spring Wind, Mt. Antero” was taken in Chaffee County. Category: Fell in Love — and Stayed.
  • Montoya Whiteman, whose photo “3+1” was taken at Rocky Mountain Arsenal’s National Wildlife Refuge. Category: Indigenous Ties.
  • Rio de la Vista, whose photo “Keeping the Wet” was taken at the Colville family’s Corset Ranch on the Rio Grande in Rio Grande County. Category: Workin’ It.
  • Olander Farms and photographer Emily Sierra, whose photo “Barley Walk” was taken at Olander Farms on the northern Front Range. Category: Workin’ It.

“Staff Picks” awards went to:

  • Todd Warnke, whose photo “Colors, Mother Earth and Father Sky” was taken at Paint Mine Interpretive Park near Calhan. Category: Fell in Love — and Stayed.
  • Patrick Gardner, whose photo “McElmo Community Library” was taken at McElmo Canyon. Category: Fell in Love — and Stayed.
  • Montoya Whiteman, whose photo “Come Into My Lair” was taken at Rocky Mountain Arsenal’s National Wildlife Refuge. Category: Indigenous Ties.
  • Sean McNeil, whose photo “Place of Spirits” was taken at Vail Pass. Category: Born and Raised.
  • Bari Gisin, whose photo “Moving Sky II” was taken between Erie and Longmont. Category: Fell in Love — and Stayed.

The seven “Top Picks” photographers each received a cash gift in addition to $100 that Keep It Colorado donated to a land trust of their choosing; selected land trusts included Central Colorado Conservancy, Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, Colorado Open Lands, Ducks Unlimited, La Plata Open Space Conservancy, Trust for Public Land and Western Rivers Conservancy.

“Conservation doesn’t just happen by itself. All the qualities that make Colorado special are possible because of the hard work of people and organizations helping it stay that way through conservation, both today and in the future,” said Linda Lidov, director of membership and communications for Keep It Colorado. “Conservation means something different for everyone, and we believe our awards demonstrate and celebrate those differences. We’re proud of the shared connection Coloradans have for taking care of and enjoying the land.”