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Wildfire protection, rural landscapes, and recreation management work to be considered for 1A funding in the second grant cycle of 2020.

The Chaffee Common Ground Citizens Advisory Committee has recommended $450,753 in 2020 funding appropriations for 10 local grants during the second Common Ground grant cycle. An additional $400,352 is apporved in funding for 2021 and 2022 for multi-year projects. Matching funds associated with these programs and projects would bring nearly $2 million in value to the community.
The Chaffee Board of County Commissioners makes final decisions and will consider the recommendations at its public meeting on Tuesday, July 7.

Funding for the Common Ground program comes from a 0.25 percent county sales tax approved by county voters in 2018. The funding is slated for use on programs that strengthen forest health and reduce wildfire danger; conserve and support agricultural lands and rural landscapes, and manage the impacts of growth in outdoor recreation.

In 2019, $660,716 was awarded for six grants. The Board of County Commissioners has indicated the intention to provide future support of $1,140,834 through 2024 for multi-year and future-year requests. Those projects and programs included matching funds that will bring an estimated $7 million in value to the community for proposed projects meeting the grant criteria.

“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.”

The Citizens Advisory Committee is a seven-member board appointed by County Commissioners. Its current recommended programs and projects by category include:

Forest Health & Wildfire Resilience

  • 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.

Sustainable Agriculture

Ditch maintenance is critically important to keep irrigation ditches functional. Photo courtesy of Central Colorado Conservancy.

  • 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 Johnson Village is on the National Historic Register of Places. It has been under a conservation easement since 2011. Irrigation supports the burrowing owl, a state threatened species, as well as elk, antelope, and deer. 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 applicant Nancy Roberts for the ditch company to conduct a feasibility study to explore options for long-term repairs and reinforcements of the Sunnyside Park Ditch serving ranches north of Salida on both sides of Highway 291.

Recreation Impact Management

  • 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.

Sixteen applications were submitted during this grant cycle. Due to unknown economic impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak, the committee decided to recommend a conservative funding package.

“The program is sales-tax dependent so we will continue to track revenues and evaluate available funds,” said , said Vice-chair Rick Hum. He added that the next grant cycle is likely to take place in early 2021.

Chaffee Common Ground applications are subject to grant criteria that tie awards to values outlined in the ballot measure approved by voters. The criteria were developed by the Citizens Advisory Committee and three Subject Matter Expert Boards. Applications are scored using a rubric similar to others around the state, such as Great Outdoors Colorado.

For more information about the program, visit chaffeecommonground.org.