Upper Ark Forest Fund to support wildfire plan implementation

National Forest Foundation to accelerate land treatments with Common Ground seed funds

The Upper Ark Forest Fund created by the National Forest Foundation (NFF) is set to accelerate 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 forest, by improving landscape-level forest health and reducing wildfire risk, including forest thinning and prescribed low-intensity burning. 

The NFF has worked in Colorado for nearly 20 years. It chose the Upper Arkansas River Basin to develop the new 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. About $1.6 million is raised annually.

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. Funding beyond 2023 is contingent on the NFF raising $4 million in new cash funds by that year.

NFF aggregates and distributes funds from beneficiaries, utilities, state and local governments, foundations and corporations for wide-scale forest work across the nation. 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 wildfire poses to people, structures and natural resources in a ten-year timeframe.

Read more Stories of Impact from Chaffee Common Ground.