Proposed forest projects viewed by committee

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By CHRIS BATEMAN

Brush clearing, portable toilets, trail improvements and the cleanup of illegal forest garbage dumps are among nearly $100,000 worth of 2001-02 projects chosen for funding by the Tuolumne County Resource Advisory Committee.

Meanwhile, the RAC will meet Monday to consider potential 2002-03 projects. The noon-to-3 p.m. meeting, open to the public, will be held at the Sonora Fire Department, 201 South Shepherd St., Sonora.

A 15-member panel representing a wide range of national forest-related interests, the RAC is charged with annually allocating up to $279,000 for projects on or near the Stanislaus National Forest.

The federal cash comes to the county under a new formula which replaces the 25-percent of forest timber receipts that counties for years received for roads and schools.

Under the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000, Tuolumne County will get $2,480,000 a year (the average of the three highest 25-percent years between 1986 and 1996) at least through 2006.

Of this, 85 percent is still split between county roads and schools.

Of the remaining 15 percent ($372,000), $93,000 is spent by county for certain limited purposes, including search and rescue, fire planning and forest-related after-school programs.

The RAC recommends how the final $279,000 is used. Eligible projects include watershed work, weed control, soils improvement, road and trail maintenance and habitat improvements.

"It's been wonderful experience," said Ginger Armstrong, who is both RAC chairman and executive director of the Tuolumne County Alliance for Resources and Environment. "Our members are of all different political and environmental views, yet we've been able to work well together."

Recommendations are subject to the forest supervisor's approval. Money not spent in a given fiscal year may be carried over to the next.

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The Union Democrat
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