Stewardship Trust

The Stewardship Trust is a special management designation placed by the Board on state trust lands containing the highest natural values of beauty, open space, wildlife habitat, rare plants, geologic features and/or paleontological and historic features.

Revenue-earning leases on Stewardship Trust properties

All trust land in Colorado, including properties designated into the Stewardship Trust, are leased for assorted purposes to earn income for public schools. 

Designated Stewardship Properties are leased for agriculture, mining, oil and gas development, and more, and we ensure the identified natural values are protected. 

Lowry Ranch (pictured right) is a 26,500-acre property of which 80 percent of the land is designated into the Stewardship Trust. The property is leased for grazing, recreation, solar energy, and mineral extraction. Those leases have cumulatively generated $155 million. The lessees comply with strict stewardship stipulations that protect the property's natural values. 

cattle grazing at lowry ranch in arapahoe county

Annual Questionnaire

We send a questionnaire to agriculture and recreation lessees who hold leases on Stewardship Trust parcels each year. Please take the survey if you lease Stewardship Trust land. It was due May 8, 2020, but we are still accepting submissions.

  • The Usage and Stewardship Questionnaire is a new annual questionnaire sent to lessees on Stewardship Trust properties.
  • The questionnaire will apply only to state trust lands designated into the Stewardship Trust.
  • Its purpose is to help the Board better understand how lands in the Stewardship Trust are being used and identify opportunities to improve long-term care.
  • There are four parts to the questionnaire: grazing use, recreation use, property concerns, and stewardship improvement ideas. 

Read a detailed Q&A about the questionnaire.

Q&A

Here the most commonly asked questions about the Stewardship Trust:

The Stewardship Trust was created in November 1996 through voter approval of Amendment 16. Among other things, this amendment established that 10 percent of the state’s three million acres of surface trust lands be designated into the Stewardship Trust “to preserve the long-term benefits and returns to the state” through sound stewardship of the natural values of these special lands.  As such, state trust lands designated into the Stewardship Trust are subject to a higher standard of care, planning, and management by both the Board and the lessee.

Stewardship Trust parcels are comprised of small and large tracts located throughout the state in a variety of ecosystems.  As with other state trust lands owned and managed by the Board, lands designated into the Stewardship Trust are leased for a wide variety of uses including grazing, recreation, and mineral development.

The Stewardship Trust is limited in size and must contain at least 295,000 acres but no more than 300,000 acres. Today the Stewardship Trust includes 130 parcels totaling 296,426 acres.  

Yes, state trust land designated into the Stewardship Trust continues to generate revenue for the trust beneficiaries. In fact, over the past decade, leases on Stewardship Trust parcels have generated more than $100 million in revenues for the beneficiaries. The State Land Board monitors these leases to make sure they are managed in a way that protects the identified natural values.

The Stewardship Trust is a “living trust” that is responsive to change. Under the terms of Amendment 16, the Board may choose to add or remove state trust land from the Stewardship Trust. If the Board votes to remove land from the Trust, it must be replaced with an equal or greater-sized acreage so that the Trust always includes between 295,000-300,000 acres.

Between 2000 and 2014, about 10 percent of the original designated lands were removed from the Stewardship Trust. In many cases, this land was sold to federal, state or local jurisdictions and contributed to the creation of national parks, county parks and federal wildlife areas.

In May 2015, the Board completed a three-year comprehensive review of the Stewardship Trust and approved a change of seven percent (22,471 acres) of the designated lands based on updated information on the properties’ overall natural values and an extensive public comment process.  New designations included state trust lands containing extreme rich fens, rare plants, riparian values, and important wildlife habitat for Gunnison sage grouse, greater sage grouse, lesser prairie chickens, and Rio Grande cutthroat trout.

Another review occurred in 2019 with modest changes.

In 2019, the Board approved the decision to review Stewardship Trust designations every five years. It was previously reviewed triennially. 

Per its Stewardship Trust Policy, the Board will consider changes to the Stewardship Trust no less frequently than every five years.

Removals or new designations may occur more frequently subject to land transactions or other Board actions.

The public may nominate a parcel(s) of state trust land for designation into the Stewardship Trust at any time.  Individuals and organizations should use the Stewardship Trust Nomination Form and Stewardship Nomination Instructions to nominate state trust land for the Stewardship Trust and email the completed form to lindsey.brandt@state.co.us.

Yes, there is a Stewardship Trust policy adopted by the Board. Please note, other Board policies may be applicable as well.

Yes. Cost-sharing is potentially available for land improvement projects on all state trust lands, but lands in the Stewardship Trust are prioritized for funding.  Please contact your district office for more information on cost sharing. We also ask lessees to describe your cost-sharing proposals in the annual Stewardship Trust questionnaire.