Forest budget cuts could haunt |

Forest budget cuts could haunt

— With news that forest officials want to cut more than $4 million from the $230 million spent last year on forest health in Colorado and several surrounding states, one local official says the repercussions in Routt County may not be felt for several years.

Jamie Kingsbury, the U.S. Forest Service district ranger for the Hahn’s Peak-Bears Ears District, said for the most part budget cuts won’t affect the number of fire-fighting resources Routt County has this year.

In the future, however, the budget cuts could present a risk to the county.

Kingsbury said the cuts will “definitely” affect vegetation management treatments such as assessments, prescribed fire burns, tree removals and timber sales.

“It will be affecting field crews that are going out for future planning,” she said.

The cuts have many representatives around the state upset, even causing Colorado’s Congressional delegation to send a letter to U.S. Forest Service Chief Gail Kimbell asking to restore the money.

“The fact is that not enough is being done,” the group noted in their letter to Kimbell. “The need for increased funding is apparent.”

Last year, Colorado saw 3,294 fires that burned 202,000 acres – 1,200 more fires and three times the acreage of 2005.

Fire officials are scheduled to meet in Boulder next week to discuss weather, forest health and other issues that cause or contribute to wildfires.

While precipitation has helped with wildfires in the past, Brian Avery, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said Routt County should see a very dry summer season, increasing the chance for a possible fire later in the year. He said the weather model calls for above average temperatures and below average precipitation.

“The end of May and into June and July are really dry periods anyway,” he said. “But this year it could definitely be even drier.”

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