Upper Ark Forest Fund supports wildfire plan implementation

National Forest Foundation accelerates land treatments with Common Ground seed funds

The Upper Ark Forest Fund created by the National Forest Foundation (NFF) accelerates forest treatments as outlined in the Chaffee County Community Wildfire Protection Plan.

As the Congressionally chartered partner of the U.S. Forest Service, NFF manages on-the-ground projects that benefit national forests, by improving forest health and reducing wildfire risk, including forest thinning and prescribed low-intensity burning. 

The NFF has worked in Colorado for more than 20 years. It chose the Upper Arkansas River Basin to develop the fund because of strong community support for reducing wildfire risk, shown by voter passage of the 2018 ballot measure that created the Chaffee Common Ground Fund.

Salida resident Marcus Selig is Vice President of Field Programs for the National Forest Foundation.

“Chaffee is one of only a few communities in the West to vote for public funding of forest restoration projects. The tax proves a local commitment to this work,” said Marcus Selig, vice president of field programs for the NFF.

Common Ground investments of $1,640,000 over five years were earmarked for the Upper Arkansas Forest Fund starting in 2021. That year, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service awarded $5.7 million to the fund.

NFF aggregates and distributes fund contributions from beneficiaries, utilities, state and local governments, foundations and corporations for wide-scale forest work. The organization designs and oversees cross-boundary projects that include private land treatments that address high wildfire risk. One-third of Chaffee County’s identified treatment priority areas are privately owned.

“There is value in working on both public and private lands to achieve effectiveness across the landscape,” Selig said.

Chaffee’s wildfire plan identifies 30,000 acres of treatments to target by 2030 — an objective that would halve the risk that wildfire poses to people, structures and natural resources in a ten-year timeframe.

Read more Stories of Impact from Chaffee Common Ground.