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The Chaffee Common Ground Citizens Advisory Committee announced the release of its fifth annual report this morning, January 16. The report summarizes 2023 total investments and the program’s fifth funding cycle, during which nearly $1.5 million in grants were awarded.

Awards this year include:

$450,451 for forest health and wildfire resilience,

$588,077 to sustain rural landscapes,

$402,800 for recreation management that protects watersheds and landscapes in Chaffee County.

Matching cash and in-kind funds totaled $835,616 in 2023.

To date, more than $7.6 million has been awarded by Common Ground to dozens of local groups and partnerships. Matching investments for these grants will bring $28 million in value to the community by 2026.

The 2023 report is the fifth installment of a commitment to accountability made during the 2018 ballot measure campaign that funded Common Ground through a 0.25 percent sales tax.

Major investments in 2023 include support for ongoing forest treatments as planned and executed by the Envision Forest Health Council. The council is now composed of 60 leaders who work together to implement the Chaffee County Community Wildfire Protection Plan. The plan’s top goal is to treat 30,000 priority acres by 2030 to improve wildfire resiliency and wildlife habitat. Grants also support staff and equipment for firefighters and foresters to complete the treatments, as well as support for the restoration of Fourmile Creek.

Common Ground continues to directly support agricultural sustainability by funding conservation easement opportunities, irrigation ditch maintenance projects, and additional programs that help keep ranches in operation.

Investments in recreation management focused on protecting watersheds and landscapes from the impacts of dispersed camping growth. Other funded projects include elk monitoring by satellite, supported as part of a Keep it Wild initiative outlined in the Chaffee County Outdoor Recreation Management Plan, and the Chaffee Trails System & Conservation Plan process that launched this month.

All project and program activities, as well as aggregated funding information, is provided in the report that is available at chaffeecommonground.org.

A direct link to the 2023 Annual Report is https://chaffeecommonground.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/2023-CCG-Annual-Report_JAN2024.pdf