No to land trades to aid USFS finances |

No to land trades to aid USFS finances


Rep. Scott McInnis, our old congressman when we were in the 3rd District, has filed a bill that would allow the U.S. Forest Service to trade land so it can improve its office and support facilities.The way the bill is written, we do not support it and local government officials shouldn’t either.The topic arises because our new 2nd District congressman, Mark Udall, is soliciting comment on whether he should co-sponsor the measure.At stake in Summit County is a 10.5-acre parcel next to Dillon that the Forest Service uses for two employee houses. It also has five trailer pads. Much more land is involved in Eagle, Pitkin and Garfield counties, which is where the real battle is.In those locations, the Forest Service wants to cash out land, including a prime corner in the middle of residential Aspen, and consolidate offices.Locally, Dillon Ranger District Ranger Rick Newton says he needs affordable housing to recruit staff members for his Silverthorne office. That office is rented, not owned. We can appreciate his problem but don’t think the McInnis bill solves his problem.The bill does not guarantee that if the Forest Service were to cash out of its near-Dillon property, that the money would stay in the Dillon District. The way the poverty-stricken Forest Service works, the Dillon property could be exchanged and the money shipped elsewhere. We are not ready to give up public land to see that happen. The real issue is that Congress starves the Forest Service and it needs to consider gimmicks such as land trades to generate money, such as for the purpose of providing employee housing. The Fee Demo program that charges taxpayers to use public land they already support every April 15 is another of these gimmicks.For sure, Forest Service land dedicated to support facilities in the High Country is valuable. In the case of Summit County, the Forest Service already owns the greatest asset needed for employee housing.

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