RICK OATES NAMED ALABAMA STATE FORESTER
April 03, 2017
Members of the Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) today named Rick Oates as Alabama’s state forester. His appointment was confirmed by Gov. Robert Bentley this afternoon. Oates replaces interim State Forester Gary M. Cole.
Oates, 49, will begin his new duties Monday, April 10. He formerly served as the Alabama Farmers Federation’s forestry division director, was executive director of the Alabama TREASURE Forest Association and was director of the organization’s catfish and wildlife divisions.
Oates said he looks forward to the opportunities and challenges his new job brings.
“Our state is blessed with more than 23 million acres of timberland, and about 87 percent belongs to private landowners,” Oates said. “Alabama forests are an economic engine providing hundreds of thousands of jobs in our state. They provide endless recreational opportunities for hunters and outdoorsmen and are a renewable natural resource.”
As state forester, Oates will oversee 240 employees of the agency whose mission is to protect and sustain Alabama’s forest resources. The AFC has an annual budget of approximately $22 million. The commission gained media attention last fall as Alabama’s front-line defense against numerous wildfires due to drought conditions.
Federation President Jimmy Parnell commended AFC on Oates’ appointment.
“Rick’s education, experience and passion for forestry make him an outstanding choice to lead the AFC,” Parnell said. “He is able to build relationships among industry leaders, and he understands the importance forestry has to our state’s economy and to our citizens.”
Oates formerly served as chief of staff for Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries Commissioner John McMillan. He also held several positions with the Alabama Forestry Association, including forest resource coordinator, regulatory affairs director and executive director of both the Alabama Loggers Council and Alabama Pulp and Paper Council.
A native of Corpus Christi, Texas, Oates has a bachelor’s degree in natural resources from The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, and a master’s degree in forestry from Auburn University. He and his wife, Kelly, live in Montgomery and have two children, Andrew and Lauren.
For more about the AFC, visit www.forestry.alabama.gov.
Pike County – Dickert family receives TREASURE Forest honor
Effects of Drought Continue to Plague Trees across State
Contact Dana Stone (334) 240-9363 or Mark Miller (334) 240-9320
Trees are dying. The question is, why? Although the rainfall during December and January relieved much of the drought and related wildfire issues in Alabama, the harmful effects and complications associated with drought continue to plague the state’s forestlands. While exact economic impacts are unknown at this time, the losses may be significant according to forestry professionals with the Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC).
“Some trees typically die immediately following an extended period of drought such as we experienced last fall, particularly smaller seedlings and saplings,” said AFC Forester/Forest Health Coordinator Dana Stone. “The most damaging results, however, may take longer to emerge,” she continued. “Drought-stressed trees can be weakened, causing them to be more susceptible to insects and diseases. These symptoms of long-term injury are just now appearing, especially in our state’s pine forests.”
Forest landowners began reporting the decline of hardwood trees as a direct result of the drought as early as late summer. Recently, calls to the agency have increased regarding pine trees. Pines of various ages and sizes are dying, from seedlings to mature trees. Most of the affected pines have brown needles and pitch tubes, indicating bark beetle infestation. AFC foresters have inspected numerous spots, and the trees appear to be dying from a range of pests, including Southern pine beetle, Ips engraver beetle, and black turpentine beetle, or a combination of all three. In some instances, the deodar weevil was also present in beetle-infested pines. These insects generally infect the pines with associated fungi causing the trees to die more quickly.
“The Alabama Forestry Commission continues to conduct aerial surveys to assess beetle activity across the state,” said Interim State Forester Gary Cole, “but landowners need to understand the seriousness of this situation. To ensure the overall health of their forest stand, they should monitor their property for signs of damage and contact their local AFC office or registered forester for management recommendations before taking any action.”
The Alabama Forestry Commission is the state agency charged with protecting and sustaining Alabama’s forest resources using professionally applied stewardship principals and education, ensuring that the state’s forests contribute to abundant timber and wildlife, clean air and water, and a healthy economy. To learn more about drought-related pests or to locate the nearest AFC office, visit www.forestry.alabama.gov.
Alabama’s new purple paint law, drought effects on the timber industry, the southern pine beetle, and more in the newest edition of the ATFA’s Newsletter. Click here for the digital copy!
Recognition of Clay County Forestry Commission Employees
The Clay County Forestry Planning Committee and TREASURE Forest Association recently recognized local Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) employees Nick Jordan and Josh Benefield for their dedication to protecting the property of private forest landowners and home owners from wildfire. The work of these two wildland firefighters often goes unnoticed when they are called out at 2 a.m. to a wildfire.
This fall, during one of Clay County’s worst droughts, Jordan and Benefield saw fire act abnormally, such as burning across an already-burned forested area or where a fire burned in a cutover more than a month before and flared back up because of no rain. Limited precipitation, high winds and low humidity caused fire to do strange things and made stopping wildfires a challenge because every ember that blew across the firebreaks could mean another fire.
The next time you see an AFC member, thank them and let them know they are not forgotten when the public is resting and they are putting themselves and their dozer between you and another wildfire. This is just part of the work they and their colleagues across the state do to protect Alabama’s natural resources.
By Lamar Dewberry, Clay County
NRCS FERAL SWINE MANAGEMENT FUNDING AVAILABLE
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently announced that eligible landowners interested in Alabama’s Wild Pig Damage Management Program should apply for financial assistance by Jan. 20, 2017. Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funding for 2017 supports the initiative.
Feral swine have been sighted in most of Alabama’s 67 counties and reproduce at an alarming rate. Sows begin breeding at six months of age and produce up to four litters per year, with each litter consisting of four to 12 piglets. Wild pig rooting damages native plant communities that provide habitat and food sources for indigenous wildlife species. Additionally, wild hogs degrade water quality and pose a serious disease threat to humans and livestock.
“Although we have a somewhat fair guess of the damage that wild pigs cause to agriculture – about $1.5 billion per year – I suspect their impact to natural ecosystems and the environment likely double or triple that figure,” said Dr. Mark Smith, Auburn University (AU) Extension specialist and associate professor.
Alabama landowners can apply for financial assistance through EQIP to monitor and manage feral swine on their property. Funding will be distributed according to the following guidelines:
• Landowners with 200 or fewer acres will be eligible for a practice payment of $831 (one trapping “scenario”).
• Landowners with 400 or more acres will be eligible for a practice payment of $1,662.
• An increased payment rate will be applied for new and beginning farmers, socially disadvantaged farmers and limited resource farmers.
• Cooperation with at least three landowners in close proximity is required whereby each landowner agrees to sign up for the above mentioned NRCS program and work together to remove feral swine on adjoining properties.
• Landowners must agree to complete damage assessment before and after installation of a given practice. Landowners must also agree to complete photo and pig harvest data sheets and an AU damage survey.
For more information, contact your local NRCS or Farm Service Agency office. As with all NRCS programs, applications are accepted on a continuous basis; however, selection is completed through the current batching period closing Jan. 20, 2017.
NO BURN ORDER LIFTED
Effective immediately, Gov. Robert Bentley and Interim State Forester Gary Cole have rescinded the statewide Drought Emergency ‘No Burn’ Order which has been in effect since early November. Officials with the Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) say the state has received enough rainfall over the last few days to reduce the threat of dangerous wildfires.
“In recent days we have seen significant rainfall across our state and the Alabama Forestry Commission now believes the worst of the drought has ended,” Bentley said. “I want to thank the Forestry Commission and the dozens of local fire departments that have worked so hard to ensure the thousands of wildfires didn’t get out of hand. These men and women have worked long hours under intense conditions to prevent as much damage as possible. We will continue to work with stakeholders across the state to help everyone recover from the drought.”
Cole said that although all counties will have burn permits available again, it’s important to remember much of the South is still experiencing extreme drought conditions
“The AFC will continue to monitor ground moisture levels throughout the state,” Cole said. “If ground fuels become exceptionally dry again, it may be necessary to re-issue a Fire Alert or No Burn Order in affected areas.”
The AFC advises anyone conducting any type of outdoor burning to follow safety precautions such as not leaving a fire unattended until it is completely out, having necessary equipment and personnel to control the fire, and having a garden hose or other water supply on hand for smaller debris burns. Any fire more than a quarter-acre in size or within 25 feet of a forested area requires a permit from the AFC. Burn permits may be obtained by calling 1-800-392-5679. Burning without a permit is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and/or up to a $3,000 fine.
The Alabama Forestry Commission is the state agency charged with protecting Alabama citizens and the state’s forest resources from wildfires. To learn more about the services provided by the agency, contact any AFC county office or visit the web page at http://www.forestry.alabama.gov.
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