County Ranger debriefs Commissioners

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 26, 2004

JACKSON – On Monday, Northampton County Forest Ranger Rodney Black updated Commissioners on the many accomplishments of the North Carolina Forest Service for the county during FY 2003-04.

Black, who assumed the position of Northampton County Ranger last October and was previously employed as Assistant Ranger with Hertford County for eight years, expressed enjoyment at helping the county’s landowners and working in his &uot;new neck of the woods&uot;. He took a moment to introduce some of his co-workers, among which was assistant Jason Miller, who attended Forest Service training schools in both fire control and forest management, including fire protection, pest control, reforestation assistance and learning how to advise on existing wooded areas and has been working for the county for the past year and a half.

&uot;We have accomplished and surpassed many of our yearly goals,&uot; said Black, &uot;We have a great staff and we are looking forward to helping Northampton County lead the state in forestry accomplishments.&uot;

According to Black, the county, which has traditionally been among the leaders in the state for forestry accomplishments, landed third place in the state for its 3,100 acres of Forest Establishment and affected over 6,600 acres of private land with 128 detailed forest management plans written for landowners last year. Those covered a variety of objectives, including reforestation of harvested areas, afforestation of agricultural fields, timber management advice and wildlife and recreational advice.

&uot;Of the landowners eligible for cost-share assistance through the NC Forest Service’s Forest Development Program as a result of reforesting their harvested areas, $70,000 was returned to them,&uot; said Black. &uot;That’s $20,407 more than the county’s portion of last year’s budget.&uot;

That amount does not include the approximate $5,000 in cost-assistance given to 11 landowners under the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) for planting trees to reduce the amount of sedimentation run off from farming operations and nearly $3,000 from the Forest Land Enhancement Program (FLEP) given to three land owners for timber stand improvement and wildlife enhancement of their timberland.

In addition to its accomplishments in the area of Forest Management, the Forest Service has published seven news articles relating to fire prevention, completed over 20 information and education programs to local schools and the county library, completed two aerial surveys for the Southern Pine Beetle (finding none), provided disaster relief by clearing primary and secondary roads following damage caused by Hurricane Isabel and promoted fire safety and awareness by enlisting the presence of Smokey Bear during two Christmas parades.

The Forest Service crew also utilized its equipment to help clear the site of the future nature trail behind the J.W. Faison building at no cost to the county and had county staff attend 19 different training sessions across the state concerning fire control and fire management.

Black also noted that with the help of a dedicated group of volunteer fire departments, including 40+ individuals that were trained in NCFS wildland fire suppression classes, the average size of fires made up less than 10 acres of property with no homes being lost by fire.

&uot;That is a great accomplishment,&uot; said Black. &uot;We also inspected 117 logging sites for compliance, a total of 4,646 acres, and found only three violations for 72 of those acres, all of which were corrected.&uot;

In addition to those accomplishments, there are over 160 active members in the Northampton Forestry Landowners Association, 30 of which attended the Forestry Association Tour last year with over 100 in attendance at the Forestry Association Annual Meeting and Dinner.

Black credited the hard work of his forestry staff for the positive outcome of the previous fiscal year and thanked the Commissioners for their support with a box of travel mugs and key chains that held the Forest Service’s insignia.

The NC Forest Service has over 600 trained, skilled employees that could potentially assist the county in a future time of need and is an active participant with the Northampton County Nature Trail Committee and active cooperator with the Natural Resource Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, Cooperative Extension Office and numerous other County Departments.