Biggest obstacles posed by tardy funds
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
The Sawtooth National Forests 2000 budget finally fell in the hands
of local land managers two weeks ago, nine and a half months after the U.S. Forest
Services fiscal year began on October 1.
For the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA), the final budget bore
good tidings. For the remainder of the forest, however, cuts were prevalent.
According to Sawtooth National Forest spokesman Ed Waldapfel, the Sawtooth
National Forests budget fell from $9.8 million in 1999 to $9 million this year.
He said the forests headquarters in Twin Falls absorbed most of the
cut by not refilling vacated staff positions. The Ketchum Ranger District, however, did
experience about a $200,000 cut, he said, from $1.3 million in 1999 to $1.1 million this
"Recreation is down, wildlife is down, wilderness is down and trail
construction is down," Waldapfel said of the forests various line items.
While the Sawtooth National Forests budget declined, the Sawtooth
National Recreation Areas funding increased from $1.9 million in 1999 to $2 million
in 2000, SNRA area ranger Deb DesLaurier pointed out.
The SNRA also received an additional $400,000 in funds for conservation
Earlier this spring, DesLaurier feared as much as a 15 percent decline in
the SNRAs budget.
"We were really gearing up for a slim year," she said in an
interview last week. "We seemed to have our prayers answered with some late-arriving
funds to help out special areas such as the SNRA."
When asked, DesLaurier said "yes, definitely" the SNRA got
special treatment. National Recreation Areas nationwide received funding increases, she
The majority of the SNRAs increase came in the form of lands program
allocations, DesLaurier said. The SNRAs lands program facilitates conservation
Waldapfel and DesLaurier agreed, however, that the biggest difficulty with
the 2000 budget has nothing to do with actual funding.
"Since there are only three months left in our fiscal year, it
doesnt give us much time," DesLaurier said.
"Ive never seen a budget arrive anywhere near this late,"
she said. "Ideally we want it just after Christmas."
DesLaurier said the tardy budget could have been caused, in part, by a new
budgeting system the Forest Service is implementing.
"Were in the middle of this huge transition from one budget
structure to another," she said. "The change is just really tough for a huge
agency like the Forest Service."