Issue of: May 20, 1998  

 

Forest Service announces cuts

140 jobs in southern Idaho at stake


By E.D. ALEXANDER
Express Staff Writer

The status of the U.S. Forest Service in southern Idaho is bleak: timber receipts are dropping, operational costs are rising, and 140 employees are leaving.

Last Thursday, forest supervisors announced 63 full-time positions will be cut on the Boise National Forest, 52 on the Payette, and 25 on the Sawtooth.

The foresters expect to have the positions identified by Oct. 1. The cuts would be spread over a three-year period.

Declining budgets and increasing costs at regional and local levels have created the need to cut back, said Sawtooth National Forest supervisor Bill LeVere.

"A lot of the dollars that we used to get are going elsewhere," he said.

Two years ago, forest headquarters in Washington, D.C., changed its budgetary criteria, said LeVere.

As a result, the region--southern Idaho, Utah, Nevada, and southwest Wyoming-- is seeing more money, but most of the money is being funneled to "urban" forests that are within an hour’s drive from at least a million people.

So the Wasatch-Cache National Forest outside Salt Lake City and the Toiyabe National Forest south of Reno get richer while the forests in southern Idaho get poorer.

"As [federal money] filters down, there tends to be some winners and some losers," said LeVere. "Unfortunately, we tend to be a loser."

Boise supervisor Dave Rittenhouse, Payette supervisor Dave Alexander and LeVere said some administrative facilities may need to be closed or consolidated with other offices.

Certain high-level jobs could be combined and officials have talked about consolidating the Burley and Twin Falls ranger districts. Former employees could be relocated to other Forest Service jobs.

But the 756,000-acre Sawtooth National Recreation Area north of Ketchum, one of the six components of the Sawtooth National Forest, is already skin and bones, according to ranger Ed Cannady.

"We’re at the point where we can’t get a whole lot leaner," he said.

When the SNRA was established in 1972, it had 64 permanent employees. The number is now in the low twenties.

"Since 1972, use in the SNRA has increased, yet we’re dealing with only one third the employees we used to have," LeVere said.

Currently, the three national forests are operating under a budget of $62 million. Appropriated federal funds make up 57 percent of the budget, or $35 million.

The appropriations are expected to be reduced by $2.6 million by the year 2000. Timber receipts, which are responsible for 43 percent of the budget, are also declining.

The three national forests in southern Idaho encompass 7.1 million acres. Cuts in 1996 and 1997 abolished 149 positions.

 

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