Carbon County, WY - After initially questioning whether it could use the money, Carbon County officials have found a use for U.S. Forest Reserve funds.
Prior to a Sept. 30 deadline, Carbon County commissioners approved using $36,407 from the Forest Service for emergency services and search and rescue. The county had to identify how the money would be used before the deadline.
Accepting the funding was initially questioned because the scope of how it can be used has narrowed.
In example, additional equipment cannot be purchased but an old piece of equipment can be replaced, Commissioner Jerry Paxton said. Any money spent has to be toward projects that affect the forest.
Paxton said the money is to be used to pay for fuel, equipment costs, food for rescue workers and other expenses related to search and rescue missions in the forest.
“Any expenditure directly related to that search and rescue is part of what that money can be spent for,” he said.
If money is leftover, it is returned to the Forest Service, said Gwynn Bartlett, Carbon County clerk.
Paxton said it’s impossible to know how much of the money could be spent.
“It’s difficult to tell right at this point, if there were a major event it would take that up in a hurry and that would be gone in no time,” he said, citing expenses such as using a helicopter on a search and rescue mission.
The advantage of the funding, he said, is it keeps the county from having to use money from its general fund on such missions.
Commission Chairman Terry Weickum said the money will go toward a worthwhile cause, but he questioned the funding restrictions, citing cases where it would be more responsible to repair or rebuild old equipment as opposed to buying new equipment.
“Sometimes I really wonder about those programs, if they’re being done like they ought to be,” Weickum said.
He said had the county not found a good use for the funding, he would have supported not accepting it.
“I have no problem sending it back either,” he said. “I don’t believe in spending just cause you have it, but we did have some needs that can take care of.”
The funding, referred to as forest reserve funds, comes from a payment from the Forest Service based on a formula that includes acres of forest within the county — essentially a payment in lieu of tax on Forest Service land.
Seven percent of the payment goes into the forest reserve fund, which can only be spent on certain things that improve the forest.