Over these past four years we have been adjusting and adapting our programs and services in order to balance our budget as it “down sized.” We’re in better shape than other Forest Service units because of our prioritizing strategies we worked on together in our 2012 Budget Reduction Open Houses. Today we want to include you in our part of the region-wide effort to achieve sustainable recreation.
Sustainable Recreation = Recreation that Lasts
Our regional facilities budget has decreased by more than half and our recreation operations budget has gone down by 12 percent since 2012. We are one of 15 Forest Service units in 13 states relying upon regional funding.
Sustainable recreation is to provide recreational opportunities and activities that are ecologically, economically and socially sustainable for present and future generations.
In August, our Regional Office provided a workshop for our staff. We now have a better understanding of the disruption in the region being caused by reduced budgets.
While budgets go down, costs of suppressing wildland fires and maintaining recreation and environmental education facilities continue to rise. These trends have led to aging facilities, maintenance backlogs and unmanaged use across the region including at Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area.
As a result of these budget challenges, we need to plan how we will continue managing our recreation and environmental programs to be sustainable in the future. We want to make sure we provide quality activities and facilities that you, our visitors want. We will need your help to accomplish this by developing priorities.
So far each regional forest had to identify priority sites to invest the limited dollars available for infrastructure. We had three of our properties make the list — Piney, Hillman and Wrangler campgrounds. These will be financially supported by the region. All other facilities will be supported through our internal (shrinking) budget.
In June we began gathering information on our environmental education programs and facilities. In August we held open conversations with professionals in the environmental, wildlife and conservation education industries about the future of our environmental education program. We have begun the process.
At our community meetings in 2012 you helped us identify ways to overcome 1 million dollars in budget reductions. You also showed us ways in which we could increase visitation. Together we identified priority facilities and services. Start thinking now about ways we can become sustainable in the future.
We will be asking for your help soon. Stay tuned.
Customer Service Department Manager
Outdoor Recreation and Environmental Education
P.S. For more information about the rising cost of wildfires and the Forest Service budget, go to http://www.fs.fed.us/blogs/cost-fighting-wildfires-sapping-forest-service-budget.