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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow STARKEY GETS FUNDING AFTER ALL

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STARKEY GETS FUNDING AFTER ALL

By Alice Perry Linker

Observer Staff Writer

The "world-class" research project that is Starkey has renewed life.

The Bush Administration's budget knife was poised to cut out the 25,000-acre project, but the research acreage along the Grande Ronde River probably will remain whole, according to the congressional budget proposal for 2003.

"Unless something happens, I expect Starkey will be fully funded," said Bob Szaro, director of the Pacific Northwest Research Station in Portland. "This is a real world-class research project. We'd hate to see it close. I'm cautiously

optimistic."

Since 1991, researchers have fenced and cross fenced the acreage to learn how deer and elk respond to logging, livestock grazing, road traffic and other human activities. This year, they began a study of the impact of ATVs, mountain bikes, hikers and horseback riders on the health and behavior of deer and elk.

Mike Wisdom of the Pacific Northwest Research Station in La Grande has called the ATV study vital.

"The use of ATVs is one of the most rapidly growing controversies," he said earlier this year. "Starkey is the one place where we could do cause and effect."

Another new project studies what happens to forest and range vegetation — grasses, flowers, small trees and other plants — when wildlife and cattle regularly graze an area. The research will help forest managers determine the numbers of cattle that can be allowed in an area.

Szaro said that the Senate and House of Representatives are expected to consider a budget that is almost identical to last year's appropriation. The budget for Starkey is about $1.1 million.

"It's (Starkey) not specifically mentioned in the budget," Szaro said. "What is mentioned is they marked up from last year."

The budget proposal calls for an increase in money for forest inventory and a small increase for fixed costs, Szaro said.

"That's about all we anticipate in terms of a change, which is good news from our perspective," he said.

Like many others involved with forest research and management, Szaro worries that money deferred to pay for fire fighting may not be restored.

"I'm more concerned about them restoring money used for fire suppression than anything else," he said. "We've had to be very conservative in our spending; limited travel, no training. We deferred some grants and agreements, but we've tried to cover those that are essential."

An emergency $50 million fund to help fight wildland fires has not yet been released by the Bush Administration.

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