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Idaho forest sites face cuts

LEWISTON – The U.S. Forest Service is starting an inventory and ranking of recreational facilities in two Idaho national forests, with the possibility of closing sites due to lack of money.

Officials also are looking at having private businesses manage campgrounds in the Nez Perce and Clearwater national forests that are in the process of combining.

“Given that our recreation budget for the two forests has been cut in half since 2007, it is crucial that we hear from the public on where they think we should focus our limited dollars on recreation facilities,” Rick Brazell, supervisor for both forests, told the Lewiston Tribune.

He said the Forest Service won’t be able to operate its 200 recreation sites without an increase in funding. So the agency is looking at raising fees for camping and cabins, and converting some sites from developed campgrounds to dispersed camping.

Some sites have already been shuttered. Wendover and Jerry Johnson campgrounds won’t open this summer, nor will a handful of lookouts and cabins. Officials were going to close the Lochsa Historic Ranger Station, but it will now be staffed with volunteers.

A draft of a five-year work plan is expected to be released at the end of the month.

“The end result is for us to have a sustainable program that meets the visitors’ needs,” said Diana Johnson, recreation facility analysis coordinator for the two forests.

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