Benefits Summary | Year One 2020 - 2021
The Community Conservation Connection program is a new conservation tool—offered in addition to conservation easements—that keeps more of our beautiful agricultural lands in operation as the county changes and grows.
The first year was a great success, with nine participants enrolling over 3,300 acres in voluntary 5-year agreements. These agricultural operators receive annual payments on a per-acre basis in exchange for continuing agricultural production, limiting development and protecting scenic views, water resources and wildlife habitat.
The program also aims to foster broader appreciation in the community and spread the word about how agricultural lands contribute to Chaffee County's quality of life and fulfill important conservation values that benefit human and non-human residents and visitors alike.
Envision Chaffee County found that 97% of our community believes working agricultural lands are important. The Community Conservation program, funded by taxpayers through Chaffee Common Ground, puts this sentiment into practice.
This program is an unprecedented approach to conservation, and its reciprocal structure aims to increase the support system and sense of community between ranchers and other residents.
This program benefits both participating agricultural landowners and other members of the community. Ranchers follow practices that bolster their production and conservation value, which provides benefits to residents and visitors to the area. Reciprocity is achieved by payments from the Community Conservation Connection program.
For every dollar spent on land conservation in Colorado, there is a $6 return on investment based on the value of the ecosystem services conserved.
Many of these benefits are highly visible, with protected lands providing expansive views and open space, natural beauty and habitat for big game like antelope, elk, black bear, wild turkey, mountain lion and deer.
Lands in the Community Conservation Connection program provide innumerable other benefits that are less visible but no less important:
recharge aquifers through flood irrigation
serve as buffers against wildfire
host youth fishing trips, high school mountain bike races and veteran's programs
provide habitat for vulnerable and protected species
connect and create wildlife migration corridors between public lands
retain the rural feel and quality of life in our community
support a prospering local economy with wedding venues, agritourism opportunities, food and livelihoods
ensure ecological diversity and viability of our landscape
Participants & Practices
The Community Conservation Connection program works with agricultural landowners rooted in Chaffee County—those paying taxes here, living here and actively participating in the daily management of the operation.
While enrolled in the program, all participants are required to limit nonagricultural development on their lands.
Participants with existing conservation easements on their property are committed to conservation agriculture practices above and beyond their easement requirements, such as:
using manure or other organic fertilizer instead of chemical fertilizer
leaving forage or hay stubble on field edges for wildlife habitat
maintaining water tanks year-round for wildlife and livestock
improving fish habitat in creeks, rivers, etc
ensuring fencing is wildlife friendly
conserving pollinator habitat
installing bird and bat boxes, burrowing owl tubes and raptor poles
hosting and participating in educational activities, tours or field trips
The program offers modest payments of $12-$17 per acre per year, but it's the demonstration of the broader community's commitment to support agricultural livelihoods and conservation efforts that has the most significant potential for impact.
These short-term agreements buy valuable time during a period of rapid growth and development in Central Colorado, when it's more important than ever to keep these land and water stewards on the land.