Forest Service Understaffed: Another Solution

Despite the recession, a mansion in Aspen, Colo., has fetched a boom-market price.
The 21,400-square-foot home sold this week for $43 million and it wasn’t even on the market. Brokers say it’s the most expensive home that has sold in the U.S. so far this year.
The 10-bedroom contemporary mountain home on 4.5 acres sits at the base of Aspen’s exclusive Red Mountain.
I thought this letter to the editor was interesting and posed a creative solution to some of the issues raised on this blog, particularly given our previous discussions about privatization of recreation, concessionaires, and the importance of hiring people in poor rural areas and treating members of the workforce with adequate pay and safety. I can’t figure out quite how the unemployed issue would relate to the Roaring Fork Valley, though; because there are so many well-off people there, the cost of housing is so high that everyone who is not well-off might be considered underemployed. Would that we had an economist on call for this blog!

Here’s the link and below is the letter.

Dear Editor:

The Aspen-Sopris Ranger District’s budget is out for next summer, and they get four summer employees for the entire district. One of those will be trail crew to clear more than 500 miles of trail. This past summer, the district had four on-trail crew members, and they still didn’t quite get all the trails cleared. Be prepared for some tough hiking next summer.

The Roaring Fork Valley makes a lot of money from national forest use. Perhaps those who make the money would be willing to help the district maintain the facilities. A trail-crew person cost the Forest Service $20,000 for the season, including all benefits. The Forest Service cannot solicit donations but can accept donations for a specific purpose.

An organization needs to step forward to act as a clearinghouse for money donated if we want our visitors to have a quality experience next summer.

Ron Thompson


8 thoughts on “Forest Service Understaffed: Another Solution”

  1. Sad commentary on the state of the forests…national, that is. Maybe instead of the firefighters standing on street corners with their rubber boots out, pan-handling for donations for some worthy fund, we could get USFS people in their official uniforms on similar corners in Aspen or San Bernardino with their hardhats held out, looking sad and needy.
    Think it is bad now. Just wait ’til we get a conservative in the White House united with an ultra conservative House. Wow.

  2. Accepting donations from the obliging rich? Not much future in that. Would recreation fees here cover this cost,? i was always happy to pay them, after all in the PNW one $30/year pass could get me in almost everywhere and I use it a lot , but for many other people, it is a hassle and hinders their use of public lands.

    I stopped in at a “private concession” FS campground in the Bighorns last year to get water and put my very small potato chip bag of trash in a container, like a good citizen since I also used to be a wilderness ranger. No idea what I was stirring up since i had to face the ire of the “host”. I am glad I did not try to use the latrine.

    I have always been happy and grateful to pay for use of public facilities but this was too weird. I told him I used to do law enforcement for the FS and never heard of people not being allowed to use trash cans. To placate him, I took it out of the can.

    Are they going to charge for water next?

    Is this the face the FS wants to show the public including very loyal supporters like myself?

    • A couple of years ago we were camping and in the same general area, and the campground was full (can’t remember if they were concessionaires or not) and the host pointed out many dispersed campers in sight around the campground (one group appeared to be girls with horses, their parents and grandparents) and suggested spots around nearby and that we were welcome to use the latrines. Quite the opposite feeling.

      Was it concessionaire or not? Host to host variation? Randomness in FS policies? People have the absolute greatest experiences with FS recreation, and the absolute worst experiences- but unfortunately it’s the worst that stick in people’s memories and craws.

      Here’s another idea.. I wonder if the FS has a “recreation complaint bureau” that’s public with data that can be analyzed?

  3. The concessionaire host went on awhile about how much it cost to haul trash and how they were keeping costs down for “our customers” etc etc although It was surely the most expensive FS campground I had ever seen in the Rockies. I have no idea how much money the FS got back on this.

    Since he had to clean the latrine I am almost sure he would have taken exception to my use of it. I prefer to dig a hole. I have never encountered such territorial behavior with any FS employee or volunteer campground host.

    No loss to me, I rarely stay in campgrounds if i can avoid it and I sure as heck will avoid any concessionaire camp. But for most people it hardly matters one way or another.

  4. There was a large sign stating it was a concessionaire, so they would know but i assume that most people would not care if they notice. But i think it better when the FS presents their invariably friendly faces instead, most people get really good impressions, ditto the USPS.

    Experienced campers used to the much more relaxed, retired volunteer CG hosts might see it differently since the private ones can be so overbearing-in some places. (??)

    I cannot imagine any FS managed CG getting any real complaints, almost always well cleaned with friendly people but the private guy I met was way too much for me, he was waiting for me to drive out although he knew i had put but a tiny bag of trash in there. I thought the law said we had to do that..

    Whatever, i will never toss my trash in the woods but i will avoid all concessionaire CGs.

    I will pay recreation fees but will not hand over my funds to the private sector.I have worked for the feds, my mom ,dad and brother did and we are proud of our work.


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