Merger talk points way to forest cost savings
By Mike Koshmrl, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Date: January 24, 2013
The Bridger-Teton National Forest is retaining its autonomy, but in the future will share more programs with neighboring national forests.
The resulting cost savings will eventually mean a smaller workforce, officials said Wednesday.
Bridger-Teton officials announced Tuesday there would not be a merger with the Caribou-Targhee National Forest.
A 12-week study of the proposed merger yielded ideas for sharing forest management with the Caribou-Targhee and the Shoshone national forests.
Consolidated programs must be approved by upper levels of the Forest Service. If the OK comes for consolidation, no employees will lose their jobs, Bridger-Teton spokeswoman Mary Cernicek said.
“There will be no layoffs,” Cernicek said. “All of the workforce planning efforts that we’ve done, it still has to be vetted by the regional office and Washington office.”
Dale Deiter, the Bridger-Teton’s Jackson District ranger, said changes would phase in gradually.
“We’ll implement the plan as we have vacancies and retirements,” Deiter said. “A lot of it is about realigning what people do, rather than getting rid of people. It’s about making more efficient use of their time.”
The Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee have already tried sharing programs.
Last year, Deiter said, the forests shared portions of their road crews and range conservationists who oversee cattle and sheep grazing leases.
In the future, the Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee will explore sharing vehicle fleets, hazmat operations, timber administration, wilderness management, engineering, range and grazing oversight, nonrecreation “special uses,” a landscape architect and webmaster responsibilities.
With the Shoshone, the Bridger-Teton is considering a shared air quality specialist, mineral specialist, wilderness rangers, timber administration and road crews.
Cernicek said shared programs will first be tested before permanent changes are implemented.
Bridger-Teton Supervisor Jacque Buchanan called the proposal to share programs a “benefit” of the merger study, adding that work investigating the posssibility of merger would improve efficiency.
Deiter said the proposed changes are in line with his experience working for the Forest Service.