by Anne Dahl
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
April 30, 1998
The Swan Ecosystem Center (SEC) last week awarded contracts to private sector rangers for this year's trail maintenance, ecological monitoring and education programs in the Mission Mountains Wilderness and along the Swan Front between Lion Creek and Holland Lake.
SEC has been responsible for administering contracts for trail maintenance and wilderness work for the past two years as a result of a decrease in Forest Service funding for wilderness and recreation since 1996.
The local, non-profit group also implements forest management and education programs at the Condon Work Center.
As a result of a competitive bidding process, Kari Gunderson and Joe Flood will return to work as wilderness rangers in the Mission Mountains this summer.
Tom Parker and Melanie Judge will work on trails and also conduct ecological monitoring along the Swan Front near Condon.
Trail maintenance work will begin in June, when high-country trails are clear of snow, and continue through the summer season. Ecological monitoring, which records data about things such as bear behavior, wildlife use of specific habitats and the health of whitebark pine trees at high elevations, will continue through the fall and winter.
The contracts are good for two years if private and federal funding continues to be available. Private funds for the projects were provided by the Pinchot Institute with money received from the Kendall Foundation. The private funds for the Mission Mountains contract were matched 50-50 with U.S. Forest Service money. For the work along the Swan Front, private funding made up more than half of the overall budget, with the Forest Service providing the rest of the money.
When the bidding process began this year, potential contractors knew the amounts of money that would be paid for each project$24,000 for the Mission Mountains Wilderness contract and $16,000 for the work along the Swan Front. Potential contractors submitted proposals for what kind of work, and how much, they could accomplish within the budget limitations.
In 1996, when the Forest Service first announced that wilderness rangers could not be hired because of a budget shortfall, local residents and private donors raised $12,000 to match U.S. Forest Service funds so that work in the Missions could continue that year.
After 1996, ranger contracts became the responsibility of SEC, an arrangement that allows the Forest Service to match private funds with federal money.