On Nov. 6 the voters of Chaffee County have the opportunity to create a continuing support mechanism for our lands and waters.
By saying yes to Ballot Issue 1A, we are investing in the foundation of our economy and quality of life. As a long-term local and business owner of 37 years, I have seen the positive and negative aspects of growth in Chaffee County. This measure gives us the means to help balance the impacts our lands are seeing from increasing recreation use, as well as help address the rapidly developing wildfire risks.
1A is an opportunity for us as a community to establish a voice and a stronger role in determining outcomes and to invest in and impact the resources we care most about. By acting now, we are able to be on the front side of the curve and not sit idly by – as opposed to reacting to a full-blown crisis.
While foresters are clear about the declining health of our forests, we also are experiencing the impacts of rapidly increasing recreation numbers. Our wilderness and non-wilderness areas are looking tired and overused. By establishing stewardship partnerships that bring together the stakeholders of Chaffee County, we can strategically fund mitigation projects in our forests as well as help restore and protect our outdoor spaces.
This in turn helps protect our waterways by addressing the land-overuse issues that affect our streams. And by taking steps toward addressing catastrophic wildfire risk, we are helping to diminish the impacts that large fires can have on our waterways: flooding, sedimentation and destruction of streambeds, fisheries and the aesthetic value we all appreciate.
1A also supports education for the people who use our lands. From better signage to education in schools and more promotion of ethics such as Leave No Trace, we can make a substantial difference in the stewardship of our lands and waters.
The measure seeks a 0.25 percent sales tax, which amounts to 2.5 cents on a $10 purchase. The revenues can then be leveraged for grants that yield substantially more funding over the years.
We know clearly that a major fire would impact our properties and access to burned areas, and ultimately affect all of our businesses, across the board. A fire on the front of Mount Princeton, for example, would take a generation to regrow and would leave a lasting, negative impression on people’s experience here. These interwoven aesthetic and economic costs are exponentially more than an investment in 1A.
Recreation opportunities will continue to be the major draw to our valley. The condition of our recreation assets such as the Arkansas River, Collegiate Peaks, Buffalo Peaks and Fourmile Recreation Area will ultimately define the character of Chaffee County and drive the quality of experience for our visitors and those who live here.
I ask you to join me by voting yes on 1A for Chaffee County’s waters and lands. It’s time to take the step.