It is very true that 30 percent of our agricultural lands here in Chaffee County have disappeared to development since the 1980s.
The reasons are multifaceted, ranging from the “discovery” of Chaffee County to the many pressures on those families who continue to work these beautiful and increasingly rare lands. Some of the pressures stem from the economic realities of high-elevation ranching; some stem from interfaces with growth.
We have a ballot issue before us on Nov. 6 that can help keep our ranches in ranching. 1A, also known as Vote Yes! For Protecting Forests, Waters and Working Lands, has a three-pronged approach to supporting the lands of Chaffee County. This includes investments in forest health and as a result, reducing chances for catastrophic wildfire, as well as managing the impacts of growth and outdoor recreation – with the latter currently increasing at 17 percent per year.
There is also the working lands portion of 1A, which will help conserve our agricultural lands. These open spaces nourish our livestock, provide essential habitat for wildlife and are critical to the quality and quantity of our waters. And, as we all know, our serene and historic agricultural lands are essential to the mountain viewsheds we love.
1A proposes a very reasonable 0.25 percent sales tax, which can be leveraged into considerably more financial support via matching state and federal grants. Visitors and locals would contribute proportionately, with only 30 percent coming from local households.
With this in place, funding from 1A will help conserve and support working ranches and farms with tools such as conservation easements and programs developed with the agricultural community that will enhance the long-term success for working lands while also providing measurable long-term benefit to the community.
1A is an excellent opportunity. We urge all local voters to say Yes! to 1A For Protecting Forests, Waters and Working Lands.
Frank Holman, former county commissioner; Brady Everett (Everett Beef); David Kelly (Kelly Ranch); Jim LaRue; Nancy Roberts (Arrow Point Cattle Company); and Natalie Allio (Badger Creek Ranch)