Chaffee County commissioners unanimously approved the recommendations from the Chaffee Common Ground Citizens Advisory Committee for grants in the amount of $450,753 to 10 local groups, plus an additional $400,352 in 2021 and 2022 for multi-year projects during their meeting Tuesday.
There were 16 applications submitted for this round of grants.
Matching funds associated with these programs and projects would bring nearly $2 million in value to the community.
Funding for the program comes from a 0.25 percent county sales tax approved by voters in 2018 for programs that strengthen forest health and reduce wildfire danger; conserve and support agricultural lands and rural landscapes; and manage the impacts of growth in outdoor recreation.
In 2019, $660,716 was awarded for six grants, and county commissioners indicated the intention to provide future support of $1,140,834 through 2024 for multi-year and future-year requests.
Those projects and programs included matching funds that will bring an estimated $7 million in value to the community.
“Investments last year had a strong agricultural focus due to timely opportunities to protect rural landscapes through conservation easements,” Cindy Williams, Common Ground chairwoman, said. “This time, excellent forest health and wildfire protection opportunities ranked very well, providing a balance in investments over time as promised.”
The recommendations for 2020 include:
Forest Health & Wildfire Resilience
Chaffee Chips Fire-Adapted Communities Implementation — $34,000 to Chaffee County Fire Protection District for trailers to haul slash, chain saws and other materials, rent a chipper and pay for labor for Chaffee Chips, a program providing professional assistance to landowners to decrease wildfire risk while implementing the Chaffee County Community Wildfire Protection Plan.
Coyote Valley Road Community Fuel Break — $4,652 to Colorado State Forest Service to begin work on a 2-mile-long, 400-foot-wide community fuel break south of the Mesa Antero subdivision west of Hecla Junction. The fuel break, designed by the Envision Forest Health Council, will improve firefighting capabilities in the event of a wildfire in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, improve egress for residents and visitors and protect structures in the surrounding area. The committee recommended $163,998 to complete the project in 2022.
Methodist Front Wildland Urban Interface Forest & Watershed Health Restoration Project — $341,545 to Chaffee County for a multi-jurisdictional wildfire mitigation project within the foothills of Methodist Mountain, planned and executed by Envision Forest Health Council partners to create a 5-mile-long area of fuel breaks to protect the southern flank of the Salida and Poncha Springs communities. Specifically, funds are for forest treatments on city, state and privately owned lands to create the fuel breaks. The two-year funding recommendation is $545,000.
Chaffee Provides — $2,442 to Envision Chaffee County in partnership with Guidestone Colorado and the Kelly Ranch, for a marketing and educational program that connects agricultural producers and local consumers during a time of food insecurity due to COVID-19 and build community support for local agriculture. The two-year funding recommendation is $4,884.
Kelly Ranch Equip Irrigation System — $40,000 to ranch owner David Kelly to install a pipeline and irrigation system to capture and transport water, increasing production of 60 to 80 tons of hay annually. The ranch is on the National Historic Register of Places and under a conservation easement since 2011. Irrigation supports the burrowing owl, a state threatened species, as well as elk, antelope and deer, and the property contains one of the largest natural high-altitude fen wetlands in Colorado.
Land Link Lunch & Learn Online Series — $2,000 to Guidestone Colorado to support a new, year-long virtual online learning series through Colorado Land Link, a program that encourages conversation and resource development for land access and farm succession.
Sunnyside Park Ditch Feasibility Study — $8,000 to applicant Nancy Roberts to conduct a feasibility study to explore options for long-term repairs and reinforcements of the Sunnyside Park Ditch serving ranches north of Salida on both sides of Colo. 291.
Recreation Impact Management
Chaffee County Recreation Plan — $10,152 to Envision Chaffee County for a strategic plan to manage outdoor recreation growth and support the goals developed by the Envision Recreation in Balance program. The two-year funding recommendation is $40,609.
Fourmile Midland Road Restoration — $3,812 to Wildlands Restoration Volunteers to close and revegetate a 3,200-foot road section in the Fourmile/Midland recreation area as requested by Bureau of Land Management partners, to help direct recreation to less sensitive areas and allow deteriorated natural areas to recover for a better overall user experience.
Healthy Horn Fork — $4,150 to the Greater Arkansas River Nature Association in partnership with Noah’s Ark Rafting & Adventure Co., U.S. Forest Service and Envision Chaffee County to plan and implement stewardship activities in Horn Fork Basin, a 6,000-acre area west of Buena Vista encompassing Bear and Kroenke Lake drainages. The project is designed to serve as a model for long-term stewardship of Wilderness areas.