Wildfire risk reduction, irrigation ditch repairs and recreation ‘Rangers’ top awards list
Forest Health & Wildfire Resilience
Jan. 28, 2021 — The Chaffee Common Ground Citizens Advisory Committee releases its second annual report today. In 2020, the program invested $450,753 in 10 local programs and projects and recommended an additional $580,442 for multi-year proposals.
Since voter passage of a dedicated county sales tax in 2018 for the Common Ground Fund, nearly $2.8 million in grants has been awarded to 15 local groups and partnerships for 18 programs and projects. Matching investments for these grants will bring nearly $9 million in value to the community by 2024.
“In just two years, the fund established to protect forests, waters and working lands from our dual threats of severe wildfire and impacts from growing population and visitation has delivered significant results,” Common Ground Citizens Advisory Committee Chair Cindy Williams said. “These results are accomplished through citizens, non-profit organizations, agencies and local governments working together in innovative and strategic ways.”
The 2020 report is the second installment of a commitment to accountability made during the 1-A ballot measure campaign that funded the program through a 0.25% sales tax. “Together, we are helping to ensure the future the ballot initiative promised,” Williams said.
Investments in forest health and wildfire resiliency include two community fuel breaks and support for Chaffee Chips, a wood slash removal and chipping service. These programs advance implementation of the county Community Wildfire Protection Plan that was updated in 2020. Through the plan, the Envision Forest Health Council is working to complete 30,000 acres of forest mitigation work by 2030 on both public and private lands, and is leveraging Common Ground funds to accomplish the goal, Williams said.
Williams said Common Ground programs also are taking shape in recreation management, as user groups, non-profit organizations, agencies and governments have worked collaboratively to deliver on-the-ground success toward the community goal of maintaining exceptional outdoor experiences while protecting natural resources and the economic benefits of recreation. Examples include better signs, restrooms, dispersed campsite containment and public lands restoration.
Williams said that collaboration also is at the cornerstone of three conservation easements that will permanently preserve more than 2,000 acres of some of the valley’s key agricultural lands and views.
The Citizens Advisory Committee oversees the grant process and makes recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners, which approves funding. Project and program activities and funding information is provided in the annual report.
July 7, 2020 — Chaffee Common Ground will invest $450,753 in 10 local programs and projects this year, plus an additional $400,352 in 2021 and 2022 for multi-year projects that address the program’s community goals. Matching funds total nearly $2 million.
The funding package recommended by the Common Ground Citizens Advisory Committee was approved by the Chaffee Board of County Commissioners on July 7. This marked the second funding cycle since the ballot measure generating revenues passed in 2018. In 2019, $660,716 was awarded for six grants, and the BoCC indicated the intention to provide future support of $1,140,834 through 2024 for multi-year and future-year requests. Matching funds so far will bring nearly $9 million in value to the community.
“Investments last year had a strong agricultural focus due to timely opportunities to protect rural landscapes through conservation easements,” Committee Chair Cindy Williams said. “This time, excellent forest health and wildfire protection opportunities ranked very well, providing a balance in investments over time as promised.”
Sixteen applications were submitted during the Spring 2020 grant cycle. Due to unknown economic impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak, the committee decided to recommend a conservative funding package, Vice-chair Rick Hum said. “The program is sales-tax dependent so we will continue to track revenues and evaluate available funds,” he said, adding that the next grant cycle is likely to take place in early 2021. The Citizens Advisory Committee is a seven-member board appointed by County Commissioners. Spring 2020 winning programs and projects by category:
Chaffee Chips Fire-Adapted Communities Implementation — $34,000 to Chaffee County Fire Protection District to purchase trailers to haul slash, chain saws and other materials, rent a chipper and pay for labor for Chaffee Chips, a program that provides professional assistance to landowners to decrease wildfire risk while implementing the Chaffee County Community Wildfire Protection Plan.
Coyote Valley Road Community Fuel Break — $4,652 to Colorado State Forest Service to begin work on a 2-mile-long, 400-foot-wide community fuel break south of the Mesa Antero subdivision west of Hecla Junction. The fuel break designed by the Envision Forest Health Council will improve firefighting capabilities in the event of a wildfire in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, improve egress for residents and visitors and protect structures in the surrounding area. The committee recommended $163,998 to complete the project in 2022.
Methodist Front Wildland Urban Interface Forest & Watershed Health Restoration Project — $341,545 to Chaffee County for a multi-jurisdictional wildfire mitigation project within the foothills of Methodist Mountain, planned and executed by Envision Forest Health Council partners to create a 5-mile-long area of fuel breaks to protect the southern flank of the Salida and Poncha Springs communities of 7,000 people. Specifically, funds are for forest treatments on city, state and privately owned lands to create the fuel breaks. The two-year funding recommendation is $545,000.
Chaffee Provides — $2,442 to Envision Chaffee County in partnership with Guidestone Colorado and the Kelly Ranch, for a marketing and educational program that connects agricultural producers and local consumers during a time of food insecurity due to COVID-19 and build community support for local agriculture. The two-year funding recommendation is $4,884.
Kelly Ranch Equip Irrigation System — $40,000 to ranch owner David Kelly to install a pipeline and irrigation system to capture and transport water to 40 acres of the 389-acre Kelly Ranch, delivering increased production of 60 to 80 tons of hay annually. The ranch west of Johnsons Village is on the National Historic Register of Places and under a conservation easement since 2011. Irrigation supports the burrowing owl, a state threatened species, as well as elk, antelope and deer, and the property contains one of the largest natural high-altitude fen wetlands in Colorado.
Land Link Lunch & Learn Online Series — $2,000 to Guidestone Colorado to support a new, year-long virtual online learning series through Colorado Land Link, a program that encourages conversation and resource development for land access and farm succession.
Sunnyside Park Ditch Feasibility Study — $8,000 to Sunnyside Park ditch company to conduct a feasibility study to explore options for long-term repairs and reinforcements of the ditch serving ranches north of Salida on both sides of Highway 291.
Chaffee County Recreation Plan — $10,152 to Envision Chaffee County to support the delivery of a strategic plan to manage outdoor recreation growth and support the goals developed by the Envision Recreation in Balance program, which are to enhance or maintain natural resources, exceptional user experiences, and the economic benefits of recreation. The two-year funding recommendation is $40,609.
Fourmile Midland Road Restoration — $3,812 to Wildlands Restoration Volunteers to close and revegetate a 3,200-foot road section in the Fourmile/Midland recreation area as requested by Bureau of Land Management partners, to help direct recreation to less sensitive areas and allow deteriorated natural areas to recover for a better overall user experience.
Healthy Horn Fork — $4,150 to the Greater Arkansas River Nature Association (GARNA) in partnership with Noah’s Ark Rafting & Adventure Co., U.S. Forest Service and Envision Chaffee County to plan and implement stewardship activities in Horn Fork Basin, a 6,000-acre area west of Buena Vista encompassing Bear and Kroenke lake drainages and three Fourteeners in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness. The project is designed to serve as a model for long-term stewardship of Wilderness areas.
March 1, 2020 — The Chaffee Common Ground Citizens Advisory Committee releases its first annual report today. In 2019, Common Ground invested over $673,000 in projects managed by five nonprofits and a nonprofit/land agency partnership for eight different projects and programs. Additional future support of $1,140,230 was indicated for multi-year and future-year grant requests. Matching investments for these grants will bring $7 million in value to the community.
Prior to the first grant cycle in 2019, the Citizens Advisory Committee developed overall program goals, agreed to written guiding principles, and created a citizen-led allocation system. All activities and detailed funding information is provided in the 2019 Annual Report. A printed copy is available at the Chaffee County Administrative Offices, 104 Crestone Ave., Salida.
May 6, 2019 — All seven members of the Citizens Advisory Committee agreed to sign and abide by Guiding Principles in their positions on the committee. They agreed to:
Follow spirit and letter of the Colorado Open Public Meetings Act.
Encourage public input. Consider large community meeting when grant applications are rolled-out.
Disclose personal and professional relationships with grant applicants. The other members are to determine if the conflicted member will refrain from discussion and voting.
Fully support majority-vote decisions and not express individual opposing views.
Work for the best interest of the program and not act as a representative of one of the funding areas or region of the county.
Not represent interests of any nonprofit, government agency or contractor.
View complete Citizens Advisory Committee Guiding Principles here. Committee members agreed to also sign the county’s conflict-of-interest policy.