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Common Ground invests more than $1.6M to support forests,recreation management and rural landscapes

May 15, 2024 — The Board of County Commissioners approved $1,616,745 in grant awards to 16 recipients during the Spring 2024 Chaffee Common Ground funding cycle. Recommendations by the Citizens Advisory Committee were approved Tuesday at the Commissioners’ regular meeting.

The grant funding package includes $747,526 for forest health and wildfire resilience, $333,000 to sustain rural landscapes, and $536,219 for recreation management that protects watersheds and landscapes in Chaffee County. Matching cash and in-kind funds total $5,703,011.

This marked the sixth funding cycle since the ballot measure generating Common Ground revenues passed in 2018. To date, $9.3 million has been awarded to 54 groups and partnerships for 86 programs and projects. Matching investments for these grants will bring $33.2 million in value to the community by 2027. 

Programs and projects by category:

Forest Health & Wildfire Resilience

Granite Forest Restoration Project

$350,000 over two years to the National Forest Foundation to partner with the Bureau of Land Management on a wildfire mitigation and forest health project in northern Chaffee County. The project reduces hazardous forest fuels, enhances wildlife habitat and protects the watershed by strategically removing trees in a 425-acre project area identified in the Chaffee County Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP).

Mini-excavator, Field Supervisor & Crew Housing

$300,000 over three years to Colorado Firecamp for equipment, staff and crew housing for projects that reduce wildfire fuels on lands identified as high priority in the CWPP. Funding supports a Southwest Conservation Corps (SCC) field supervisor position and housing assistance for SCC chainsaw crews for three seasons. Equipment includes a mini-excavator and a trailer. Colorado Firecamp trains about 900 students a year in wildland firefighting.

Multi-Benefit Wetland Restoration Projects

$52,546 over three years to Colorado Open Lands to develop beaver-wetland restoration projects, including an extension of the Fourmile Creek project started in 2023 by the U.S. Forest Service, Chaffee Rec Adopters, EcoMetrics and other community organizations. Multi-benefits involve wildfire risk reduction and riparian restoration to promote healthy watersheds. Funding adds six additional projects sites, covering up to eight stream miles in Chaffee County.

Chaffee Chips

$42,480 to Chaffee County Community Foundation to fund the Chaffee Chips slash haul away service in 2024. Program partners include Chaffee County Fire Protection District, Colorado State Forest Service and Envision Chaffee County.

Mycelium Use In Biowaste Reduction

$2,500 mini grant to Mushroom Love Co. of Buena Vista, to develop and test a locally sourced mushroom strain for bio-waste reduction, to determine if wood chips and slash resulting from forest treatments could break down more quickly and support wildlife and plant growth, as has been demonstrated at a lower elevation in Colorado.

Sustainable Agriculture

Williams & Hamm Ditch Inlet Enhancement & Bank Stabilization

$100,000 over two years to the ditch company to modify the 149-year-old ditch inlet and allow use of the full water right allotment during low flows. Located southwest of Highway 291 and the Arkansas River and ending in Smeltertown, the ditch supports 856 acres of agricultural irrigation among 24 shareholders.

Pridemore Ranch Irrigation Enhancement

$83,000 to install an irrigation system for hay production, which will conserve water and improve crop production on the 392-acre ranch that sits between Highways 291 and 285 along the Arkansas River.

Agriculture Production Value Conservation Easement

$60,000 to the Kelly Ranch to support the cost of amending an existing conservation easement to further limit ranch land resale to production value (also known as Future Agricultural Limitation or FAV term). The ranch is located southwest of Buena Vista, encompassing nearly 400 acres at the base of Mount Princeton.

Bowen Ditch Silt & Tree Mitigation

$45,000 to the Bowen Ditch Company to clear vegetation and debris, enlarge the ditch and shore up its banks to facilitate future maintenance, eliminate bank breaches and improve water flow. The Bowen Ditch provides water to shareholders in central Chaffee County.

Hands For Lands

$30,000 over three years to the Central Colorado Conservancy to support a staff position to manage the Hands For Lands volunteer program, which educates the community about the importance of working lands while linking volunteers with agricultural producers to implement on-the-ground stewardship projects such as irrigation ditch maintenance and reseeding rangeland.

Fire Damaged Irrigated Pipe Replacement

$5,000 mini grant to the Kelly Ranch to replace irrigation pipe for three fields that was damaged in a fire.

Headwater Farms Main Line Electrical Installation

$5,000 mini grant to Headwater Farms to electrify the Buena Vista-area property and operate irrigation pumps, walk-in coolers, greenhouses and other infrastructure on Headwater Farms and Meadows Edge Farm. The farms grow fresh produce sold to families and local businesses.

McMurry Land & Livestock Watering System

$5,000 mini grant to the McMurry Land & Livestock Company to purchase a portable solar pump, storage tank and pipe to move water and service pastures during the grazing season.

Recreation Management

Sawatch Range Restoration

$125,000 to the National Forest Foundation (NFF) for the first year of a five-year project to address impacts of public lands visitation as outlined in the Chaffee County Outdoor Recreation Management Plan. The project encompasses the Sawatch Range, including Fourteener hiking and other backcountry experiences, as well as watershed and wildfire protections. A partnership among NFF, Envision Chaffee County, Chaffee Recreation Council, U.S. Forest Service and Great Outdoors Colorado, total recommending funding through 2027 is $499,999.

Burmac Trailhead Transformation

$35,000 to Salida Mountain Trails to improve the Burmac recreation area south of Salida on Highway 50. Funding contributes to the cost of vault toilets to accompany new designated camping, providing a solution to longstanding problems with human waste in a high-traffic recreation area adjacent to the river.

Dog Waste Management

$1,220 mini-grant to Salida Mountain Trails (SMT) to install three dog waste stations on Methodist Mountain at popular trailheads. SMT’s program includes an educational component to inform trail users of the consequences of unmanaged pet waste, as well as local business sponsorship of the stations and volunteer recruitment for a new “SMT Poo Crew.”

A conservation funding program addressing landscape challenges for the community, Chaffee Common Ground invests a 0.25% sales tax to strengthen forest health and reduce wildfire danger; conserve and support working agriculture and rural landscapes; and manage the impacts of growth in outdoor recreation. Visit chaffeecommonground.org for more information.