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Steamboat Springs Colorado forests have received about $5.6 million in federal stimulus money for projects removing hazardous trees, including a $238,400 contract awarded to Steamboat Springs-based Rocky Mountain Youth Corps.
The $5.6 million coming to Colorado forests is part of $98 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars approved for use by the U.S. Forest Service. An additional $1.1 billion in Forest Service stimulus projects have yet to be announced. In total, the Forest Service estimates the projects will create 25,000 jobs.
"This 10 percent are projects that are shovel-ready," said Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest spokeswoman Diann Ritschard, who said local forests also may see some of the yet-to-be-allocated stimulus dollars. "We don't know what we will get, but we will continue to seek the money. : The intent is not to create more government jobs. The intent is to create more public sector jobs through contract work."
RMYC Executive Director Gretchen Van De Carr said stimulus dollars will be used to field an additional 48 crew weeks this summer. A crew week consists of as many as 10 workers, 18- to 25-year-olds, working 40 hours a week. RMYC will provide 24 of the crew weeks and is working with two other Colorado youth corps to provide the rest.
RMYC received nearly half of the $500,000 awarded to Colorado Youth Corps Association members, Van De Carr said, because 98 percent of trees killed by the mountain pine beetle epidemic are in RMYC's region. Stimulus projects will increase RMYC's workload this summer by about 25 percent. Van De Carr said youth corps members only remove trees 12 inches in diameter or less and will focus their efforts near campgrounds and trail heads.
"We're here to help the land managers get the smaller trees out," she said.
Van De Carr said RMYC is "hiring like mad." People 18 to 25 years old can apply for a position at www.rockymountainyouthcorps.com. Van De Carr guessed the jobs created through RMYC would be particularly effective at stimulating the economy.
"Young people don't save their money; they spend it," she said.
Other projects included in the first round of Forest Service stimulus projects include hazardous tree removal along Forest Service Road 100 off Rabbit Ears Pass through Buffalo Park and FSR 550 north of Columbine through Whiskey Park in North Routt County. Ritschard said the Forest Service is focusing on trees near roads because of their potential to fall on people or block roadways. Dead trees will be cleared within 300 feet of the roads on both sides.
"At the same time, it's creating a pretty wide fuel break if we do have a fire," Ritschard said.
About 147,000 trees on 1,000 acres will be removed through the projects.