A recreational report card due out this year on the Sierra National Forest in California will determine how many of its campsites will survive, according to an Associated Press report.
The evaluation process is part of the Bush administration’s proposal to cut the U.S. Forest Service’s facilities and maintenance budget by 27%.
Future cuts will be made based on a 100-point rating system of recreational sites to be determined by forest managers. Use, condition and cost of maintaining a site will affect a facility’s rank, meaning a seldom-used, costly facility will earn low ratings and likely be cut first.
The Sierra National Forest, a 1.3 million-acre greenbelt northeast of Fresno, will be among the first in the nation to be evaluated. It’s the only national forest in California that’s expected to have its inventory ratings completed this year.
The new system provides “a good handle on what those facilities are, and what their conditions are,” said Sierra National Forest spokeswoman Sue Exline. “It does set out priorities – where are your facilities that are heavily used, and where are the ones that aren’t?”
Popular campgrounds and other facilities run by concessionaires will generally earn high ratings because they tend to take little money out of the budget.
“There’s no incentive for us to close any of those,” Exline said. “We don’t have a lot of dollars going to them.”
Nevertheless, officials at Sierra and other national forests may be forced to completely close down some campgrounds, trailheads, boat ramps or other facilities to save money. Some facilities might be left open only on popular weekends. Or officials might close a portion of a facility – closing some sites in a campground, for example.
“We’re not looking at closing anybody’s favorite campground,” said Matt Mathes, a spokesman for the Forest Service.