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Less money for firefighting
DURANGO, Colo. As the Bush administration continues to cinch federal agencies, in order to fund the various foreign wars, the U.S. Forest Service is seeing cutbacks, including a loss of $277 million in the firefighting budget.
In places like Colorados San Juan Mountains, where only an average fire season is expected, the budgets have been reduced even more, in order to provide money for what is expected to be a bad year of fires in Montana, Idaho, and the Pacific Northwest.
The Forest Service has stepped up efforts to thin forests and set prescribed fires during recent years, thereby reducing the threat of catastrophic fires. Still, it takes a while for preventative measures to matter much, foresters tell the Durango Telegraph.
But The Wilderness Society thinks the Forest Service still has the strategy all wrong. Tom Fry, a representative of the group, said that when push comes to shove, the Forest Service will find a way to suppress fires. He also believes the Bush administrations Healthy Forest Initiative emphasizes how many acres are treated, not how well they are treated to prevent fires.
Development potential curbed
OURAY, Colo. Steadily but somewhat quietly, thousands of acres of privately owned land in the high country of Colorado are being removed from the potential of development.
One area of focus is the high country located in the triangle Ouray, Silverton and Telluride. There, a consortium of local governments and the federal government, working with non-profit groups, has acquired nearly 8,000 acres.
While some of the land was not suitable for development, the greater worry was that the high country of the San Juans would eventually become sprinkled with summer and even winter vacation homes, removing the sense of solitude but also creating major impacts of their own to water and even air quality as well as wildlife habitat.
One of the prime movers in this effort is the Trust for Public Lands, which does the complicated work of determining prices and engineers the purchases. In turn, the organization sells the land to the federal government, as Congress appropriates money. Most of the lands, which were originally patented for mining, is put under administration by the U.S. Forest Service. So far, Congress has spent more than $14 million for purchases in this area of the San Juans.
Doug Robotham, Colorado director of the Trust for Public Lands, says his group is trying to curb what he describes as a "backcountry sprawl." Nobody seems to mind a few cabins, but those few often turn into many more, a trend noted in several areas.