Forest Service campgrounds, services feel budget strain

May 7, 2015
Photo: White River National Forest
Maroon Lake at peak fall color in late September 2011 in the White River National Forest in Colorado.

While the base area for popular shuttle trips to Maroon Bells will be open,“We just can’t afford to staff” a visitor center in Aspen, White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams told the Aspen Times. The 2014 budget was $18.37 million, down 18 percent from the year before. 

In Durango, the Herald reports that cuts could close campgrounds and trails in the San Juan National Forest. It cut full-time staff from 17 to 11 in 2014.

The Forest Service has seen the recreation budget for the San Juan National Forest continuously decline since 2006 when it was $2.5 million. Local Forest Service officials expect it will hit $1.7 million in 2018, said Brian White, the recreation staff leader for the San Juan National Forest. ...

The San Juan National Forest includes 127 developed recreation sites and about 1,800 miles of trails. There also is about $3.6 million in deferred maintenance needs, White said.

Nationally, the Forest Service is struggling with maintenance as more of its budget goes to fighting forest fires. A 2013 Government Accountability Office report said the service "has more miles of trail than it has been able to maintain, resulting in a persistent maintenance backlog."