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Public Invited To Propose Forest Projects Under County Payments Program

Anyone may propose a project that improves the condition of the forest.

The public is invited to propose projects for improving the Gifford Pinchot National Forest under new payments to counties legislation.

Anyone may propose a project that restores watersheds, decommissions or maintains roads, removes noxious weeds, thins tree stands or otherwise improves the condition of the forest.

The deadline for submitting applications for this summer's projects is Feb. 28.

Another round of projects for the 2003 field season will be considered this summer with an application deadline of June 1.

The new county payments law - The Secure Rural Schools and County Self-Determination Act of 2000 - gives counties a payment in lieu of taxes on federal lands equal to the average of their three highest years' payments for forest products between 1986 and 1999.

Skamania County, with 80 percent of its land in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, receives the highest such payment in Washington -- $10.5 million. Lewis County, with about a third of its land in the Forest, receives the second highest payment -- $5.1 million.

The counties are required to spend between 15 and 20 percent of their payments on either Title II or Title III projects.

Title II projects are forest enhancement activities requiring approval by the forest supervisor after being recommended by a new 15-member Resource Advisory Committee (RAC).

Skamania County has dedicated $866,300 to Title II projects, and Lewis County has allocated $508,900 for Title II projects.

Title III projects are funded directly by counties. They include search and rescue on Forest land, community service work camps, fire prevention, forest-related education, community forestry, and easement purchases. The counties should be contacted directly for Title III proposals.

There are two RACs to recommend Title II projects on the Gifford Pinchot: A southern RAC considering projects in Skamania, Cowlitz and Klickitat counties, and a northern RAC comprised of Lewis County and the northern one-fifth of Skamania County. Both RACs held their first meetings last week.

The northern RAC will meet again at the Lewis County Courthouse annex in Chehalis on Feb. 12 from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

The southern RAC will next meet on Feb. 14 from 10 a.m. - 5 at the Skamania County Courthouse annex.

Applications for these Title II proposals can be obtained from Forest Headquarters, 10600 N.E. 51st Circle in Vancouver or on line at www.fs.fed.us/gpnf.

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