Historic ranger station fell victim to budget cutbacks

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Ochoco National Forest permanently closed the Rager Ranger Station, near Paulina, on Friday Nov. 30. The building had provided residents in the area a Forest Service presence for more than 100 years.

After providing a Forest Service home in the Paulina area for more than a century, Ochoco National Forest closed the Rager Ranger Station permanently this past Friday.
   The decision, which came this past April, was primarily financially driven in light of current and expected budget reductions,” said Ochoco Forest Supervisor Kate Klein, “and is part of an effort to align the number of facilities on the forest with those budget forecasts.”
   The decision did not sit well with Post and Paulina residents who have depended on the satellite facility to provide basic forest-related services as well as fire suppression.
   “It’s sad that it came to this,” said Post resident Jodie Fleck. “When they made it a work station a few years ago, we knew that this was where it was going to ultimately end up.”
   The Rager Ranger Station was established in 1908 on the Ochoco National Forest about 73 miles northeast of Prineville. In 2008, the facility celebrated its centennial anniversary with a dinner and music-laden event that brought in past and present Rager employees.
   By 2010, however, the facility faced closure amid similar financial stress. Following resistance from Post and Paulina residents, Ochoco National Forest personnel ultimately chose to leave the facility open.
   Post resident Jim Wood attended many of the public meetings and mediation sessions that took place prior to the 2010 decision. Given their reasoning for keeping the Rager facility open at that time, he finds the recent decision “ludicrous.”
    “They did come to the conclusion (in 2010) that it did not make economic sense to close,” Wood said. “It did not make sense from a personal safety standpoint to close it.”
   Tory Kurtz, acting public affairs specialist for Ochoco National Forest said that staff contacted residents from the 2010 public hearings before deciding on the recent closure.
   “We talked to them or we went and did personal visits with them about the decision to close it this time around,” she said.
   While the closure will eliminate a Paulina-area facility, Kurtz said Ochoco staff will try to continue providing some services from the Paulina store.
   “We are hoping that we will get everything lined up so that they can begin selling firewood permits when they open back up next May,” she said.
   Despite those plans, Fleck does not expect the efforts to provide local services will make much of a difference to Post and Paulina residents.
   “What they do now is kind of immaterial,” she said. “People are going to use the forest without permits or they are going to use it without the information. There will be a handful of people that will still want to do it right and look for those places they would get their information and get their permits.”
   Now that the facility is closed, Ochoco personnel will take time to decide what they will do with the vacant building. Kurtz said they will not demolish the building, but do need to develop a facilities master plan that determines what they do with it.
   The four employees who manned the building will now work at the Prineville office. Since they lived in a government housing compound in Paulina, they will receive similar lodging near the Ochoco Ranger Station.
   Nevertheless, Wood and presumably other Post and Paulina residents will miss the presence of the staff who served them at Rager Ranger Station.
   “Those people up there are part of our community,” he said.
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