Medicine-Bow Routt forests, counties form group |

Medicine-Bow Routt forests, counties form group

The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

RAWLINS, Wyo. ” Four counties in southern Wyoming and northern Colorado are joining the Medicine-Bow Routt National Forests to form a Resource Advisory Committee on forest-health projects in the region.

Carbon and Albany counties in Wyoming and Jackson and Routt counties in Colorado will each have representatives on the 15-member citizens’ committee.

The committee will recommend natural resource projects to fund on National Forest land within the counties, the Forest Service said. Possible projects include hazard-tree reduction, fuels reduction, watershed improvement, wildlife habitat improvement, weed control and fisheries improvement.

“I’m sure we’re going to run out of money before we run out of projects,” said Terry Weickum, Carbon County commission chairman, during a meeting with the Forest Service last week.

The committee will work with money from the federal Secure Rural Schools Act. Last October, the federal government extended the program to pay rural counties hurt by federal logging cutbacks. The four-year, $3.3 billion extension provides payments to 700 counties in 39 states.

The four counties will designate a portion of the funds to projects reviewed by the committee, according to the Forest Service. Phil Cruz, deputy Medicine Bow-Routt Forest supervisor, told Carbon County commissioners last week that the committee’s bylaws could be written so that funding allocated to the counties would be used within their borders.

The Carbon County commission agreed to join the committee, though commissioners said they’d rather work only with Albany County and not the Colorado counties that surround the Medicine Bow-Routt forests.

“Our first choice is by ourselves, our second is with Albany County, and the third is with Routt and Jackson too,” Commissioner Jerry Paxton said. “The more people we have involved in this, the less say we have in it.”

Paxton questioned the logistics of organizing a committee across state lines.

Cruz said he hopes to have the committee up and running by September. He tried to assure the Carbon County commissioners that the Resource Advisory Committee will not be a hindrance to the county.

“I’d like to assure you we’ll have a lot more control over projects than seems evident,” he said.

The counties and Forest Service will take nominations for committee members and forward those to the Secretary of Agriculture. Appointments could take several months.

“We’re going to be looking for people who can work together,” Cruz said. “We’re not looking for people who would bog down the process.”

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