CODY, WYOMING – Shoshone Forest campgrounds surrounding Yellowstone National Park may be closed next summer. A preliminary budget would shut down the campgrounds, to send money to beetle killed forests in southern Wyoming and northern Colorado. Beetle kill has turned entire forests from green to brown all over Wyoming. That includes the Shoshone Forest next to Yellowstone. Shoshone Forest Supervisor Becky Aus said, “We’re a forest that has 600,000 acres of dead and dying trees.” The U.S. Forest Service says dying trees in southern Wyoming and Northern Colorado Forests are a budget priority. Aus explained, “Our regional forestor basically has said, ‘you know we’ve got major power transmission lines at risk, we’ve got roads that access public lands that aren’t open because of dead fall, we’ve got communities at risk.” Aus says that leaves the Shoshone with a bare budget. She explained, “The initial budget that we have basically doesn’t fund all of our programs and campgrounds is one of those.” A spokeswoman for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Cody Office, Hilary Eisen said, “All the campgrounds on the Beartooth Pass, on the North Fork, on the South Fork, down by Meeteetse, down by Dubois. All those campgrounds would be closed.” Eisen says GYC members are already contacting congressional representatives protesting the closures. She says the Forest Service needs more money, period, “The bigger issue here is that the Forest Service is critically underfunded. And so they’ve been forced to cut back on critical things and focus on one or two. In the forest service, recreation is what’s been compromised.” Eisen and Aus both think there will be changes as the budget process moves forward, and some area campgrounds may be open next summer. But, Aus warns that her own budget priorities will include beetle kill mitigation. She said, “It may be that people aren’t getting all the goods and services that they’re used to. And, we just ask for your patience because it’s going to take several years to take care of what is an ecosystem wide change, it’s a landscape change.” Many of the Shoshone Forest campgrounds are used by tourists on their way to or from Yellowstone. Eisen predicts those tourists may use a different gateway than Cody, if the campgrounds are closed.
/ Source: KULR-TV