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Dear Editor:

I am writing to express my support for Chaffee County Ballot Measure 1A and urge a “yes” vote for protecting forests, waters and working lands. This measure allows us to keep what we love about Chaffee County: our healthy land, sweeping scenic landscapes and working lands, clean water, free-roaming wildlife and room to explore these natural spaces.

Dedicated county funding is key to being able to leverage additional dollars from other sources, such as partner organizations and multiplier grant funding. The new funding can only be used for strengthening forest health and reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire, conserving and supporting working ranches and farms with tools such as conservation easements to enhance the long-term longevity of working lands, and managing the impacts of increased growth on outdoor recreation areas.

To ensure the funds are used effectively, a citizens advisory committee will be set up with at least eight members appointed by the Chaffee County Commissioners. It will be composed of countywide representatives of the agriculture, ranching and outdoor recreation sectors. An annual report and an annual independent audit will be performed on the use of funds and presented to the Chaffee County Commissioners.

Yes on 1A provides long-term benefits to managing growth and protecting water, forests, working lands and quality of life in Chaffee County. Catastrophic wildfires present an increasing threat to our communities and economic base. Colorado is expected to add another 3 million residents by 2050 and is losing natural areas 38 percent faster than the average rate in the West.

Thirty percent of agricultural lands in Chaffee County have been lost due to development pressures since 1980. We must remember the important role working ranches and farms play in our economy and our ecosystems. Fifty percent of Chaffee County livelihoods depend on agriculture, ranching and outdoor recreation. And outdoor recreation is growing at a rapid pace, exceeding U.S. economic growth overall.

We see firsthand the growth in Chaffee County where tourism is increasing at a rate of 16 percent per year. Yes on 1A allows us to maintain recreation growth in balance with Chaffee County’s ecosystems. Dedicated agency professionals have had their resources decline despite expanded responsibilities due to increased population and recreational use of our outdoor spaces. Yes on 1A helps to better manage the impacts of recreational camping, resultant vegetation impacts, trash and human waste that results from dispersed recreational camping.

The beauty of Chaffee County’s forests and rivers, our scenic rural landscapes and superb recreational experiences are the very reasons people choose to live here and visit. Please join me in voting yes on 1A.

Richard Kenshalo