- Associated Press - Sunday, May 10, 2015

DURANGO, Colo. (AP) - Cuts to the San Juan National Forest budget are forcing officials to consider major changes that could include campground closures, trail closures, new campground fees and changes to services.

The Forest Service has seen the recreation budget for the San Juan National Forest decline since 2006 when it was $2.5 million. Local Forest Service officials expect it will hit $1.7 million in 2018, said Brian White, the recreation staff leader for the San Juan National Forest.

The San Juan National Forest includes 127 developed recreation sites and about 1,800 miles of trails. There also is about $3.6 million in deferred maintenance needs.

To stay within budget, the Forest Service reduced its full-time staff from 17 to 11 people in 2014, and hired seasonal staff.

“We have reduced our workforce, and now we have to look at the workload on the ground,” forest supervisor Kara Chadwick said.



The Columbine Ranger District in La Plata and San Juan counties likely will face the most change because it has the most amenities, said Jed Botsford, the recreation staff officer for the district.

The Forest Service may have to start charging for Lower Hermosa and Little Molas campgrounds because of their popularity, the Durango Herald reported (https://tinyurl.com/lxcfq4x ).

The Forest Service may also look at much smaller cost-saving changes, such as closing hand-pump wells.

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Information from: Durango Herald, https://www.durangoherald.com

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