Tipton, county talk forest issues in visit

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Tipton

La Plata County Commissioners have yet to give their official support to a bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton that would give state and county governments more say in the management of certain high-risk areas within U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands.

The congressman met with commissioners Tuesday as part of a tour of the Western Slope during Congress’ two-week recess, and the local officials’ first questions were aimed at his Healthy Forest Management Act.

The act allows governors, in consultation with counties, to designate high-risk areas such as watersheds and develop emergency hazardous-fuels reduction projects for those areas.

But it’s hard to see how the federal government would be willing to acquiesce some of its land- management authority yet still accept full responsibility for funding forest management activities, Commissioner Bobby Lieb said.

Commissioners also pressed Tipton for more details about how sequestration will affect county operations. The county has learned, for example, that Payment In Lieu of Tax funding – money counties receive to offset lost revenue because of nontaxable public lands within their bounds – will be cut by 5.1 percent. Tipton said he couldn’t give the county any more specifics in that area.

Finally, Tipton said his faith is waning that Eagle-Net, the $1 million federally funded project to increase broadband across the state, will be finished by August, when its grant term ends.

“We were getting a lot of sideways talk,” Tipton said. “We didn’t get a clear answer about whether they were going to have the resources to accomplish (the project) within the time frame.”

ecowan@durangoherald.com

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