Forest Service cuts impact summer work force
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – An 18 percent budget cut for the White River National Forest this year will impact the seasonal work force at area campgrounds and along trails this summer, including the popular Hanging Lake area in Glenwood Canyon, Forest Service spokesman Bill Kight said Wednesday.
“We are looking at 18 positions that we had last year that we can’t fill this year,” Kight said, confirming that the local forest has had to cut about $3 million from its $16 million annual budget.
The cuts are separate from the anticipated across-the-board budget cuts due to the federal sequestration that went into effect last month, he said.
Those cuts will also impact the U.S. Forest Service as a whole, including local forest offices. However, the exact impact of the sequester cuts on local forest operations are not yet known.
Meanwhile, the WRNF is working on ways to make people aware of the seasonal cuts that are known, Kight said of the non-sequester reductions.
“We will have to let people know that some of what they’re used to seeing will not be up and running.”
One result is that there will not be forest rangers regularly patrolling the Hanging Lake area, he said.
That will present some difficulties in terms of enforcing the numerous restrictions for the area, which draws upwards of 80,000 visitors per year.
Among the restrictions are no dogs and no swimming or fishing in the lake itself. Parking at the trailhead, which doubles as a rest area on Interstate 70 that is overseen by the Colorado Department of Transportation, has also been a problem in recent years.
During peak times, cars often park along the shoulder of the road leading into the area, sometimes onto the I-70 off-ramp, which is illegal.
“We will get together with CDOT to put together a communications plan for the public as the season approaches,” Kight said. “There are some bigger issues that we will have to try to deal with.”
In an effort to limit the number of people at the trailhead and on the trail during peak tourist season, locals will also be encouraged to make the hike during off hours if possible, he said.
“That would help a lot,” Kight said.
Two years ago, the Forest Service made several upgrades to the Hanging Lake area, including measures to try to prevent damage from overuse. Hanging Lake and the Spouting Rock waterfall located above the lake are a designated National Natural Landmark.
New signs were put up urging hikers not to wade into the lake or walk out on the floating log that extends into the lake from the bank.
The area is also posted with signs prohibiting swimming, fishing and bringing dogs onto the trail, activities that can disturb the sensitive ecosystem and threaten the native cutthroat trout that thrive in the lake.
New interpretive signs, including text and illustrations focused on the unique characteristics of Hanging Lake, were also installed along the elevated boardwalk that runs along the lake.
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