State reforms logging plans
By Kevin Huelsmann, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
January 4, 2013
After getting slapped on the wrist in a federal audit last year, state and county fire officials are taking a new approach to a fuels reduction program they oversee for the federal government.
This year, Teton County leaders plan to roll out a full bidding process for the $250,000 logging job they’re going to administer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The fuels reduction work is slated to take place on the Snake River Ranch.
“The state forestry division really has gone back and redone all of their paperwork,” Deputy County Attorney Keith Gingery said Wednesday, speaking to county commissioners.
County fire managers expect to issue a formal request for proposals and meet with all of the bidders before awarding the contract. State leaders awarded the money to Teton County last spring, but withheld it while they changed the process for awarding the federal dollars.
The delay means the logging work probably won’t be complete until next fall.
Last January, federal inspectors issued a report criticizing a committee charged with overseeing the program. They questioned how $550,000 was spent on a project in Crescent H, saying a land-logging operation would have sufficed.
Auditors raised questions about potential conflicts of interest for contractors who served on the committee and slammed state and county agencies for lax oversight.
Fire officials said they followed every rule laid out by federal officials. Additional regulations were placed on the project after the fact, they said.
The contractor who worked on the project said the audit was completed by out-of-town inspectors who knew little about the background of the logging project at Crescent H, the way the committee worked or basic information about conducting a tree removal project.
“One complaint is that it wasn’t transparent,” Gingery said this week. “This is a much more fair process.”
Money for projects is funneled to the county through the State Forestry Division. A logging area is picked based on how it fits within a larger, countywide plan for reducing wildland fire risks.
County fire officials manage the contract and reimburse the property owner once work is complete and documentation is submitted.