SNRA budget slips
visitation expected this summer
line is that the SNRA’s budget is continuing to decline. The little
things across the board won’t get covered."
Express Staff Writer
appropriations to Idaho’s crown jewel, the Sawtooth National Recreation
Area, are slipping for the second year in a row. Meanwhile, SNRA managers
are anticipating record-breaking visitation this summer.
appropriated budget is about $1.8 million, down from last year’s $2.1
million. The SNRA’s 2000 fiscal budget was $2.4 million. This is the
lowest year since 1998, and¾ including a 4 to 5 percent annual increase
in the cost of doing business¾ it is probably the lowest year since 1994,
said Deb Cooper, SNRA area ranger.
bottom line is that the SNRA’s budget is continuing to decline,"
Cooper said. "The little things across the board won’t get
little things include staffing the Stanley Ranger Station seven days a
week, opening the Galena Overlook center as often as in previous years and
initiating special projects. They’re things the visiting public may not
notice, but will detract from the recreation area’s overall management.
example, Cooper said she wanted to hire temporary biologists to help with
a daunting work load and help issue a long-overdue environmental
assessment on grazing allotments in the East Fork Salmon River drainage.
Temporary help, and immediate completion of the East Fork environmental
assessment, are going to have to wait, she said.
considering the SNRA’s fixed costs, which include personnel, vehicles,
travel and overhead, the area’s budget this year is $100,000 in the
hole. Appropriations haven’t failed to cover fixed costs since at least
1998, and fixed costs have risen only $300,000 in four years.
as appropriations dwindle, Cooper said she is expecting the summer to be
busy, "busier than ever before."
All of the
campsites on the SNRA’s reservations system—between 100 and 150—sold
out in two days this spring, Cooper said. That’s probably a record.
tone that’s been set post 9-11 is, Winnebago can’t make campers fast
enough. I think this is going to be a record year for camping on the SNRA."
taken notice of the SNRA’s financial conundrums, too.
Sen. Larry Craig requested that the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO)
investigate the SNRA’s declining budget. According to the GAO, the
recreation area’s budget fell about 26 percent from 1993 to 1997 when
the appropriated budget was close to this year’s $1.8 million. Following
a decade-low $1.4 million in 1998, the SNRA’s appropriated budget
climbed for two years, and dipped again to this year’s level.
GAO report pointed out that declining budgets reduce the recreation area’s
ability to "meet recreational needs by, for example, preventing the
recreation area from maintaining trails and building new campsites."
three-page letter penned to Sen. Mike Crapo April 2, the Blaine County
Commissioners contended the SNRA is under funded and that the recreation
area’s status as a funding entity should be elevated.
higher reporting level, the SNRA would be funded similarly to national
forests, receiving $8 million to $20 million. Currently the SNRA is funded
like ranger districts, receiving $1 million to $1.5 million,"
Commissioner Sarah Michael wrote.
The SNRA is
the largest of 38 national recreation areas and comprises 754,000 acres in
four counties and three national forests. It contains parts of five
mountain ranges, the headwaters of five major rivers and more than 1,000
SNRA’s budget is funneled through Sawtooth National Forest headquarters,
Sawtooth spokesman Ed Waldapfel said final budgets for the forest’s
Ketchum, Fairfield and Twin Falls ranger districts and the SNRA are not