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Dear Editor,

The reason I live here, and why I think many people visit Chaffee County, is to experience and enjoy the beauty of our mountains, wildlife, rivers and ranches.

As a Salida resident, mother, outdoor enthusiast, Central Colorado Conservancy board member and professional dedicated to the conservation and health of working lands, I will vote yes on 1A.

This measure, also known as Vote Yes! For Protecting Forests, Waters and Working Lands, has been in the works for more than a decade, was crafted by 1,500 community members through the Envision process and has strong accountability measures to ensure funds are spent as planned. It has wide, bipartisan support from local businesses, the outdoor recreation industry, the ranching community and conservation groups – something not common in today’s polarized political climate.

I believe that Ballot Measure 1A is innovative and provides real actionable ways to address the three key challenges faced by many western rural communities: the rising threat of severe wildfire, the loss of working lands and the growing impacts of recreational use. Protecting working lands provides measurable economic and ecological value to rural communities. Working lands and forests make up an extremely diverse ecosystem, support the local economy and provide critical water supplies, recreational opportunities and sanctuaries for wildlife populations. One Colorado State University study in Chaffee County indicated that our rural landscapes are a primary draw for tourists seeking an authentic Colorado experience – something increasingly difficult to find as rural lands are subdivided and developed.

Perhaps most importantly, as a mother I want to help protect what I care about in Chaffee County –healthy forests, wildlife habitat, clean water, a strong economy, great outdoor recreation experiences and open rural landscapes – so that my children can enjoy them tomorrow as I do today. If you want the same, join me in voting YES on 1A.

Hallie Mahowald