Chaffee Common Ground gives $2.45M in local grants

Wildfire risk reduction, irrigation ditch repairs and recreation ‘Rangers’ top awards list 

June 1, 2021 — The Board of County Commissioners approved $2,448,241 in grant awards to 18 recipients during the Spring 2021 Chaffee Common Ground grant funding cycle. Recommendations by the Citizens Advisory Committee were approved today.
Twenty applications requesting $2.92 million were received. The grant funding package includes $2,015,600 for forest health and wildfire resilience, $249,640 to sustain rural landscapes, and $183,001 for recreation management that protects watersheds and landscapes in Chaffee County. Matching cash and in-kind funds total $10.5 million.
This marked the third funding cycle since the ballot measure generating Common Ground revenues passed in 2018. To date, more than $5 million has been awarded to 23 local groups and partnerships for 36 programs and projects. Matching investments for these grants will bring $22 million in value to the community by 2026. This year’s programs and projects by category:

Forest Health & Wildfire Resilience

Monarch Pass Forest & Watershed Health Project
$50,000 in 2021 to Arkansas River Watershed Collaborative (ARWC) to complete a 125-acre portion of the 2,809-acre U.S. Forest Service Monarch Pass Vegetation Management Project. Planned treatments are located on the lower slopes of Monarch Ridge near Monarch Park and both sides of U.S. Highway 50 near Old Monarch Pass Road and Monarch Mountain ski area. ARWC’s mission is to serve the Arkansas River Basin by addressing locally identified watershed issues for economic, ecological and social benefit.
Focused Fuels Reduction for Fire Ready Communities
$215,000 over three years to Colorado State University/Colorado State Forest Service for 260 acres of wildfire risk reduction and forest restoration work in five locations: Broadview along County Road 289; Three Elk’s community green space; Kiowa Road near Mesa Antero; County Road 325 south of Lost Creek Ranch; and Poncha Pass. Roadside thinning protects watersheds and structures, and it improves emergency ingress for firefighters and egress for residents and visitors.
Chaffee Chips Fire-Adapted Communities
$93,600 over 3 years to Chaffee County Fire Protection District to help provide a simple method for residents to dispose of wood slash to decrease wildfire risk. Chaffee Chips service areas are identified as high priority for treatment by the Chaffee County Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) with approval by the Envision Forest Health Council. Funding pays for equipment rental and staff through 2023.
Upper Arkansas Forest Fund
$1,640,000 over five years to the National Forest Foundation (NFF) to leverage funding through the Upper Arkansas Forest Fund (UAFF) to support forest treatments across 30,000 acres of priority areas identified by the community wildfire plan. Funding beyond 2023 is contingent on the NFF raising $4 million in new cash funds by 2023.
Chaffee Front Fire Patrol
$15,000 in 2021 to Chaffee County Fire Protection District to implement Chaffee Front Fire Patrol during the 2021 summer recreational season. The program targets dispersed camping areas to educate visitors about campfire safety and fire restrictions. Staff will ask violators for voluntary compliance. Abandoned campfires will be extinguished and reported to the proper jurisdiction.
Evaluating Wildfire Risk & Public Perceptions Mitigation Activities
$2,000 mini-grant to Chaffee County Fire Protection District for a collaborative wildfire risk assessment, data collection and education in the Shavano Front landscape.

Sustainable Agriculture

Bowen Ditch Maintenance Project
$42,500 in 2021 to the ditch company to replace the head gate on Chalk Creek and the downstream aqueduct. The 14.5-mile ditch provides water to 1,020 acres of hay fields and supplements area aquifers that provide residential water.
Sunnyside Park Ditch Rehab Project
$100,000 over two years to the ditch company to install water pipe to eliminate leakage on a small section of the ditch. The ditch runs along the Arkansas River and irrigates land on both sides of Highway 291 north of Salida, serving ranches that can be viewed from the Scenic Byway.
Lewis Ranch Conservation Easement
$100,000 in 2022 to Central Colorado Conservancy to support a conservation easement protecting 191 acres of agricultural land and water rights near Poncha Springs on County Road 250. The ranch supplies beef for local buyers and sells cattle. Conservation of the ranch will protect wildlife habitat and scenic views.
Colorado Farm to Table Sustainability Farm Hand Position
$2,500 mini-grant to Colorado Farm To Table Inc. to support a part-time farm hand on the historic and working Shine Farm, to manually control weeds that were previously managed chemically.
SOIL Sangre de Cristo Monthly Speaker Series
$1,000 mini-grant to SOIL Sangre de Cristo to continue producing a monthly speaker series about sustainable agriculture and ranching best-practice topics. SOIL Sangre de Cristo supports small farmers, ranchers and food producers while creating awareness of the connection of food from earth to table. SOIL is the acronym for Slow Opportunities for Investing Locally.
Securing a Future on the Land
$3,640 mini-grant to Guidestone Colorado to improve the effectiveness of the organization’s Land Link database by recruiting more landowners to match with land seekers.

Recreation Management

Seasonal Closure Gates to Protect Wintering Wildlife
$23,000 in 2021 to the Quiet Use Coalition (QUC) to install gates on existing seasonal road closures to protect wintering wildlife on seven U.S. Forest Service roads and five trails. QUC works to preserve and create quiet use areas on public lands and waters while protecting natural soundscapes and wildlife habitat.
Chaffee Rec Rangers Pilot Program
$44,200 over two years to the U.S. Forest Service Salida Ranger District to create seasonal staff positions for regular patrols to manage growth in use on public lands, thereby improving the recreational experience, reducing human-caused wildfire risk and minimizing negative impacts on natural resources and agricultural operations.
Material Collection for Dispersed Campground Containment
$8,000 in 2021 to Southwest Conservation Corps for a chainsaw crew to collect lodgepole pine to be used for buck-and-rail campsite containment fencing.
Lands Volunteers in Action (LaVIA Chaffee)
$62,465 over two years to the Greater Arkansas River Nature Association (GARNA) for Chaffee Rec Adopters, a program that engages volunteers to monitor and steward dispersed camping sites in support of Chaffee Recreation Plan management objectives.
Heritage Investigations for USDA Forest Service Camping Management Plan
$40,000 over two years for the U.S. Forest Service to hire a contractor to complete a required Cultural Resource Investigation to advance the camping management plan as outlined in the Chaffee Rec Plan. The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 requires federal agencies to do this preliminary work.
Expand Wildlife Education
$4,386 mini-grant to GARNA to create and enact place-based education, videos, presentations and materials to educate residents and visitors about wildlife and habitat.