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For the week of July 4 through July 11, 2000

Sawtooth budget
shows decline

Biggest obstacles posed by tardy funds


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

The Sawtooth National Forest’s 2000 budget finally fell in the hands of local land managers two weeks ago, nine and a half months after the U.S. Forest Service’s 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.

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According to Sawtooth National Forest spokesman Ed Waldapfel, the Sawtooth National Forest’s budget fell from $9.8 million in 1999 to $9 million this year.

He said the forest’s 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 year.

"Recreation is down, wildlife is down, wilderness is down and trail construction is down," Waldapfel said of the forest’s various line items.

While the Sawtooth National Forest’s budget declined, the Sawtooth National Recreation Area’s 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 easement purchases.

Earlier this spring, DesLaurier feared as much as a 15 percent decline in the SNRA’s 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 said.

The majority of the SNRA’s increase came in the form of lands program allocations, DesLaurier said. The SNRA’s lands program facilitates conservation easement purchases.

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 doesn’t give us much time," DesLaurier said.

"I’ve 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.

"We’re 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."

 

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