Forest Service is mum on draft merger study
By Mike Koshmrl, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Date: January 17, 2013
U.S. Forest Service officials have made a preliminary decision whether to pursue consolidating the Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee national forests.
But the recommendation is still in its draft stages and not ready for public release, Bridger-Teton Supervisor Jacque Buchanan said Wednesday.
“I’m having a conversation with the regional office Friday,” Buchanan said in a phone interview from Lander.
That conversation, she said, will determine if the draft report is adequate or if the eight-person Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee focus team assigned to study a merger needs more time.
“I think they took a hard look,” Buchanan said. “It will depend on the reception of the regional office. Have we done a good enough job?”
Consolidation of the forests would need approval by the Forest Service’s Region 4 office in Ogden, Utah.
Nora Rasure, the recently appointed regional forester, is scheduled to begin her new job Feb. 18.
Ultimately, any decision must be OK’d by Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.
Until Rasure assumes her post, there is a gap in regional management.
Caribou-Targhee Supervisor Brent Larson has stepped in as acting deputy regional forester, leaving Buchanan as supervisor for both national forests nearest Jackson.
Buchanan called the job of managing both forests “fairly daunting.”
“I think it gives you a perspective for sure,” the Bridger-Teton supervisor said. “It’s close to 7 million acres, which is a huge territory. Together, it is the largest forest unit in the Lower 48.”
Buchanan was confident the merger team was on track to meet its late-January deadline for a final recommendation.
“I firmly believe we will know by the end of the month if we are done studying this, or if we will move forward,” she said.