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The Chaffee Common Ground Citizen Advisory Committee will meet at 9:00 a.m. Monday, July 1 in the Commissioners meeting room at 204 Crestone Ave., Salida. On the agenda will be the beginning of work to develop the grant criteria for distributing the funds raised by the Ballot Issue 1A tax, approved by voters in the November election.

The advisory team will take input on draft rating criteria by category. By statute, the 0.25 percent sales tax increase is to be divided among four program areas. The tax is projected to raise $1 million in fiscal 2019, its first year of operation.

Twenty five percent of all funds raised each year are to be directed to programs for forest health, including wildfire protection, forest thinning and controlled burns. This area will also address wetland work and long-term planning to strengthen forest health.

Another 25 percent is to be devoted to conserving and supporting working lands, through support of conservation easements, and creating new tools such as the Chaffee Conservation Connection. This program area will also be responsible for community education and support, so the public understands the importance of preserving agricultural production land.

The Common Ground initiative directs that five percent of funds are to go to management of recreation growth impacts. While tourism is important to the county’s economy, some say the county is being ‘loved to death’. This makes protection of the county’s watershed and the restoration of natural areas damaged by recreational use critically important. Funds dedicated to this area will also be used to manage waste, decrease erosion, and educate users to the need to protect natural areas. Funds can also beused to acquire more land to disperse recreational use.

Another 45 percent of designated sales tax funds will be held as “discretionary”, designed to be directed for programs and projects within the three program areas. The use of those funds will depend upon things like the urgency, importance and quality of the proposed program, as well as the final criteria to be established for the distribution of all funds.