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Colorado Lottery A Jackpot For Outdoor Conservation Efforts

John Fielder (c) 2010
Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund

Many people think about the lottery only when jackpots are high and they want to strike it rich. Behind the scenes though, there's more than scratch and win.The fund has been a steady source of revenue for the state’s parks and wildlife, conservation, and public school construction.

In the 30 years since it was created, the Colorado lottery has provided $2.4 billion for improving and preserving the state's wilderness, river corridors, trails, wildlife habitat and agricultural lands. Dozens of projects across the state have received funding, including Staunton State Park in the Pike National Forest.

Most recently, funds from lottery sales have enabled the renovation and development of playgrounds as part of an effort to get more kids playing outside. In June the lottery distributed 42 grants worth $7.4 million – including 16 Schoolyard Initiative grants.

As Colorado’s population has grown over the years, the distribution of the lottery funds has changed, even boosting the state budget during economic downturns. According to the Denver Post, in 1988, the cash-strapped legislature began diverting money from the state’s Conservation Trust Fund – earmarked for parks – into projects like prison construction.

In 1992, voters approved a constitutional amendment [.pdf] that directed the lottery funds back into parks and open space by creating the Great Outdoors Colorado Program (GOCO).

Today, 40 percent of lottery profits go into to the Conservation Trust Fund, while 10 percent funds the Division of Parks and Wildlife – the only state support that agency receives.

GOCO collects 50 percent of lottery proceeds (after payouts and administrative costs) up to a cap of $35 million annually. Money in excess of that goes toward funding public school construction.

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