Much of those areas are interwoven with power lines and infrastructure. A large concern for foresters is the possibility that the dead and weakened trees will topple onto power lines, knocking out large swaths of power and perhaps sparking …
Bark beetles bite regional budgetA bark beetle-induced budget crunch could lead to the closure of the Shoshone National Forest's camping sites next summer.The regional Forest Service office in Denver is proposing to shift funding away from some of its forests to focus on those in northern Colorado and southeastern Wyoming — the areas hit hardest by mountain pine beetle-kill.Some 2.5 million acres in the the Arapaho, Roosevelt, White River, Medicine Bow and Routt National Forests are believed to be affected by the beetle epidemic.
Much of those areas are interwoven with power lines and infrastructure. A large concern for foresters is the possibility that the dead and weakened trees will topple onto power lines, knocking out large swaths of power and perhaps sparking catastrophic wildfires.
In those five national forests, the Forest Service already has begun planning an effort to clear all potentially hazardous trees within 200 feet of of electrical transmission lines and from within 75 feet of distribution lines.
The Rocky Mountain Region has budgeted $49 million to deal with the beetle-kill in fiscal year 2010, the Associated Press reported — with some of that money being re-directed from forests such as the Shoshone.
The preliminary directive from the regional office in Denver told forest managers that all campgrounds — except for those run by private concessionaires — should be shut down as one cost-saving measure.
Shoshone National Forest Supervisor Becky Aus said that in other National Forests, the bulk of the campgrounds are concessionaire-run. But in the Shoshone — which hosts tens of thousands of campers each year — only five of the 32 camping sites are operated by concessionaires, near Dubois and Lander. The other 27 campgrounds would be closed under the initial proposal.
Given the “disproportionate impact” on the Shoshone, Aus said she expects that the regional office will give the Shoshone special consideration as the budget process develops.
The Shoshone's average annual budget is around $14 million, Aus said. How much that sum will be cut is currently unknown, Aus said, but a $2 million reduction is one possibility.
Bighorn National Forest supervisor Bill Bass told the Associated Press that his $6 million budget is down $500,000 from last year.
He said the biggest impact will be on construction, maintenance and seasonal employees. The cuts could also result in campground closures and decreased services at visitor centers, Bass said.
Aus noted that the Shoshone is also dealing with beetle devastation — some 600,000 acres of dead and dying trees.
“As bad as that sounds, as horrible as it looks, ... my understanding is it's not as bad as what they're experiencing down there (in Colorado and southeast Wyoming),” Aus said.
When Hilary Eisen of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition's Cody office first learned of the possible campground closures, she said her immediate question was, “How are people going to go play on the North Fork this summer?”
“Recreation is really important, and camping is a major way people recreate, and it shouldn't be taken away,” Eisen said.
Eisen said concerned local residents should contact their congressional representatives and ask them to push for more Forest Service funding for the Rocky Mountain Region.
While the bark beetle fight is important, “They need money to do everything else the Forest Service does,” she said.
Shoshone spokeswoman Susan Douglas said the Shoshone provided input back to the regional office conveying the general idea that, “We don't care for this too much.”
“We've asked for more money so we don't have to do this,” Douglas said. “We don't want to do this.”
Aus said the recreation provided by camping is a key part of the Forest's mission.
“To not have those campgrounds open would be troubling to all of us,” she said.