Sunday, November 19, 2006

Hundreds of federal campsites may close

Hundreds of campgrounds, picnic areas and other recreation facilities in national forests and grasslands could close under a sweeping U.S. Forest Service cost-cutting exercise.

Every one of the roughly 15,000 campgrounds, trailheads with bathrooms and other developed recreation sites in the 193 million acres under the agency's authority is being evaluated.

The value of each site is being weighed against the costs of maintaining it, federal officials say.
Forest Service officials say they are being forced to juggle priorities as the system faces a $346 million backlog in maintenance, a growing tab for fire suppression - now 42 percent of expenditures - and an annual budget that was cut 2.5 percent to $4.9 billion for 2007.

"We are looking at reality here," said Jim Bedwell, the Forest Service's national director of recreation and heritage resources. "We're trying to best focus our funds as well as look at other ways to operate."

So far, about 10 percent of facilities in 44 national forests that have completed their studies are targeted for decommission or closure. Full Story...
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