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Jim Aragon, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, will receive the 2019 Central Colorado Conservationist of the Year award from the Central Colorado Conservancy at its 10th annual event from 5:30-9 p.m. Thursday at Chaffee County Fairgrounds.

“In our 10th year honoring the Central Colorado Conservationist of the Year, we are excited to recognize Jim Aragon as a community hero,” board president Cindy Williams said in a press release.

“He has worked tirelessly over 35 years to ensure that wildlife – from eagle to elk and badger to bear – so valued by the community are thriving. Protecting habitat, providing water, ensuring protection … Jim has made a lasting difference. I encourage the community to join us to recognize his achievements.”

Aragon has worked the past 16 years as manager in Salida and has partnered in the conservancy’s work with scientific data, funding, statewide and local influence and landowner relationships.

Williams said programs that he manages or influences have had major impacts on the community’s and conservancy’s successful land and water conservation and restoration projects.

“I was surprised by the award,” Aragon said. “It’s not just for me, but for the agency I work for.”

Speaking for the local ranching community, Jay Wilson said the award is well deserved. “This award recognizes your hard work and dedication to the enhancement of wildlife practices in our area. The results are additional lands with better habitat.”

“Jim Aragon has been a strong and reliable voice for fish and wildlife for 35 years,” Chaffee County Commissioner Greg Felt said. “Soft-spoken and self-effacing, he is a careful listener and adept at finding balance among competing interests. However, when he feels strongly about a considered course of action, he will dig in his heels and demand what is best for our natural resources. This has been true of protecting and extending public access for fishing and hunting, as well as protecting wildlife and critical habitat from excessive public access. ”

The annual event also features former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter speaking on “Community and Conservation: The Importance of Local Conservation in the Current Political Climate.”

The fundraiser will unveil the conservancy’s newest and biggest land conservation project – Forever Chaffee, which Williams said will protect “the views, Browns Canyon experience, productive lands and wildlife that are integral to our amazing local quality of life.”

The event will feature a silent auction, live art auction, hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar.

Tickets cost $50 for conservancy members and $60 for nonmembers. They can be purchased by calling 719-539-7700, at the conservancy office at 128 E. First St. or centralcoloradoconservancy.org/annual-event-tickets/.

For more information about Central Colorado Conservancy and how to become a member, visit centralcoloradoconservancy.org or call 719-539-7700.

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