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Youth Outdoor Programs to Receive $2 Million Distributed by Governor Jared Polis and Wildlife Outdoor Equity Grant Program

Beginning today, August 21, through September 29, 2023, organizations helping instill a sense of wonder, excitement, and responsibility for the environment in Colorado’s youth can apply for financial support from the Colorado Outdoor Equity Grant Program (OEGP). It will award $2 million in Outdoor Equity Grants this coming December.

Kelsey King, Programs and Youth Coordinator with Greater Arkansas River Nature Association helps fourth graders with their watershed projects. Photo/Tara Flanagan

“Colorado is home to world-class outdoors areas, and we are making outdoor experiences more accessible for every Coloradan,” said Governor Polis. “By  helping more Coloradans spend healthy time outside, explore new interests, and learn about the outdoors, more children will thrive and access the fun and bright future they deserve.”

The OEGP was created through HB21-1318 sponsored by Representatives Leslie Herod and David Ortiz and Senators Leroy Garcia and Sonya Jaquez Lewis, and works to increase access to outdoor opportunities for all Coloradans.

Through funding from the Colorado Lottery, the OEGP has invested more than $3.1 million in grants supporting environmental learning opportunities, outdoor education, exposure to career pathways, public health, and outdoor fun for underserved youth and families.

“Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) is enthusiastic about supporting organizations across the state who are inspiring the next generation of outdoor stewards,” said CPW Director Jeff Davis. “We’ve received a tremendous response to this program since it began, and are excited to continue to invest in youth education and outdoor experiences through Outdoor Equity Grants.”

Nonprofits, government entities, school districts, for-profits, and federally recognized tribes that wish to increase outdoor access for traditionally excluded youth (including youth from low-income and communities of color, LGBTQ+ youth, youth who are members of Tribal Nations with historical ties to Colorado, and youth with disabilities) can apply for grants up to $100,000.

In order to continue to support quality outdoor experiences for youth Colorado youth, organizations that have previously received Outdoor Equity Grant funding may reapply this year. Organizations that have spent more than half of their previously-awarded funds, or who plan to do so by September 29, are eligible to apply.

elevateHER Snowshoeing Photo Courtesy of elevateHER

“Though Colorado is known as a hub for outdoor experiences, our recreation and conservation spaces do not yet reflect our state’s population,” said Benilda Samuels, Outdoor Equity Grant Board member.

“Positive experiences in the outdoors are paramount to building a sense of belonging and responsibility for the environment in youth who have never been introduced to these opportunities,” added Samuels. “Outdoor Equity Grants support healing, health, and learning in the outdoors for a diverse group of tomorrow’s conservation leaders so that they can fully engage in the stewardship of our state’s lands, waters, and wildlife.”

“We encourage all organizations whose mission includes increasing access to the outdoors for youth to apply and help Colorado continue to build a welcoming, inclusive, and accessible outdoors for all,” said Colorado Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Dan Gibbs.

Students who participate in CMC’s First Ascent youth outdoor course, such as Corbin Finley of Breckenridge in 2019 – climb, hike and raft while learning confidence and problem-solving skills. Photo by Matt Lit

OEGP Board members, who were appointed for their experience with outdoor recreation, equity, and engaging the communities served with grant funds, will accept and review grant proposals. Eligible organizations include those :

That support outdoor activities and learning for Colorado youth;

That show cultural competence in working with a target population of the OEGP;

That demonstrate a commitment to justice, equity, diversity and inclusion;

That propose to increase the capacity of the communities they serve in the outdoors and conservation are eligible.

That show a deep commitment to — and understanding of — the youth they serve and who will help cultivate in youth a responsibility for the outdoors will be awarded grants on a competitive basis.

The OEGP Board is committed to providing funding to organizations that have traditionally been unable to apply for grant programs due to organizational barriers, and encourages organizations of all sizes and with diverse missions to apply. The board will provide applicant guidance through a virtual Q&A session for applicants at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, August 31. The link to register for the Q&A session can be found on the OEGP website.

Groups can apply from August 21 – September 29, 2023. Find out more on the Outdoor Equity Grant Program website:

The Outdoor Equity Grant Program accepts applications for grants each fall. Last year, it distributed $3.1 million in funding to 69 organizations across the state. This year, the program will award approximately $2 million in grants. Beginning in 2024, the program will distribute approximately $2.75 million annually in Outdoor Equity Grants.