Envision Chaffee County held a worksession with 60 local ranchers on Friday, Dec. 3 to pursue new projects that help protect our rural landscapes and wildlife populations by keeping Chaffee County’s working lands working.
The vision of having a future with sustainable agriculture was developed during Envision’s planning phase in 2017, when more than 1,500 citizens with diverse backgrounds and views came together to listen, learn from each other and build solutions to community challenges together.
Since then, Envision has helped catalyze the programs and project outlined in the Community Action Plan, including Chaffee Common Ground to help fund conservation easements and other projects that support working lands. A new program called Community Conservation Connection is helping rural lands stay in agricultural operation during a period of fast-paced growth and changes.
Friday’s event was the third worksession Envision has hosted over dinner with local ranchers.
“We’ve realized so much success so far and are excited to work more with this group to continue the momentum,” Envision Co-lead Cindy Williams said. “There are many challenges facing ranchers and farmers across the nation, and we hosted this event to celebrate progress and identify new actions we can take in Chaffee to keep working lands in operation here.”
Gov. Jared Polis attended the dinner to listen in on the worksession, after being informed of the session by Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture Kate Greenberg, who also attended.
Polis spoke briefly, reflecting that the challenges in Chaffee County are unique to our community but also echoed across the state in similar areas facing a combination of growing population and recreation. He applauded Envision for its collaborative work in the community and expressed appreciation for the opportunity to listen to the agricultural community.
Participants included most of the community’s major ranching operators and their families. Topics involved a discussion about how to manage recreation’s costly impacts on agricultural operations, such as specific ideas to engineer new infrastructure to protect stock tanks, fences and gates from damage. Discussion also focused on enabling ranchers to burn ditches and slash piles safely and efficiently with help from the county fire department.
Michael Rosener from HIPCamp discussed potential added revenue from short-term visitors camping on private lands through partnerships with the online lodging venue. The
Upper Arkansas Conservation District gathered input on their program to help fund and implement critical water infrastructure such as head gates.
In open brainstorming sessions, multiple new ideas were identified that could help sustain agriculture into the future, such as creating a brand for Chaffee County beef and adding local processing capacity.
“I applaud all who attended for their open minds and candid conversation,” said County Commissioner Greg Felt, who is also co-lead of Envision. “It was a very productive evening and I believe Governor Polis and Commissioner Greenberg came away with a strong sense of the challenges we face, as well as our collective determination to succeed.”
County Commissioner Keith Baker attended the event, as did new U.S. Forest Service Salida District Ranger Perry Edwards and Bureau of Land Management-Royal Gorge Field Office Assistant Field Manager Kalem Leonard. All are members of the Envision Forest Health Council and the Chaffee Recreation Council.
Input from the event will be collected and shared with participants, after which Envision will follow up on top ideas for new projects and programs. For more information on outcomes or programs, connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.