Budget cuts mean fewer summer workers for Dillon Ranger District | SummitDaily.com

Budget cuts mean fewer summer workers for Dillon Ranger District

Volunteer Phil Kopp uses a pulaski to dig a trench for a log on Ophir Mountain near Farmer's Korner in this archive photo from April 2013. Kopp and about 25 other volunteers helped Friends of the Dillon Ranger District build a trench system to prevent erosion where a 2012 fire occured.
File photo |

The Dillon Ranger District will hire fewer seasonal employees and scale back some of its projects this summer.

The budget for the national forest surrounding Summit County is down $4.24 million, or 18 percent, in 2014 from last year, according to data acquired Thursday by The Aspen Times, one of the Summit Daily News’ sister papers, from the U.S. Forest Service.

The 2.3 million-acre White River National Forest, which receives the most recreation visits of any forest in the country, has a budget of $18.37 million in 2014 compared with $22.61 million last year.

Budget information for the U.S. Forest Service, the federal agency that supervisors our national forests, is available online from fiscal years 2004 through 2015.

In Summit County, about three-fourths of the land is designated as national forest and belongs to the 312,000-acre Dillon Ranger District, one of five districts within the White River National Forest.

This year’s budget cut was no surprise to Jan Cutts, the Dillon Ranger District’s district ranger, who said anyone paying attention to national politics knows government funding has been shrinking for a while now.

The district won’t be reducing any services more than it already has due to tight budgets in recent years, she said, and it won’t close any facilities or raise campground fees.

She will have plenty of staff at Green Mountain Reservoir in the north part of the county, but staff will be “bare bones” for trail and wilderness projects, she said, declining to give specific numbers or discuss which projects would be impacted.

“We’re really counting on our partners to help us,” she said. Still, she added, “I’m feeling good about the workforce and the work that we’re gong to be able to get done this summer.”

Many local nonprofits, like the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District, Friends of the Eagles Nest Wilderness and Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, do volunteer service projects within the district.

Cutts wanted to reassure visitors that they should notice few changes from last year.

“We’re going to be here,” she said. “We’re looking forward to a good summer.”

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