May 11, 2017
Still hurting from last year’s drought-related wildfires, the budget-stressed Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) is slated to receive a boost from Gov. Kay Ivey’s discretionary departmental emergency fund.
State Forester Rick Oates said Ivey intends to release nearly $500,000 to help the agency, which incurred more than $1.5 million additional expenses in man-hours and equipment costs because of wildfires. The AFC’s annual budget is $22 million.
Unforeseen expenditures, combined with a 55 percent — or $8 million — reduction in state funding for the AFC in recent years, severely limited the agency’s ability to carry out its mission, Oates added.
“Our agency is charged with protecting and sustaining Alabama’s forest resources,” Oates said. “Last year’s fires consumed nearly 50,000 acres in Alabama.”
Forestry is an economic engine in Alabama, providing hundreds of thousands of jobs and a $21.4 billion annual economic impact. Two-thirds of Alabama, nearly 23 million acres, is covered in forestland.
The Alabama Farmers Federation’s William Green thanked Ivey for her commitment to rural Alabama.
“The AFC is vital in protecting the communities of rural Alabama and the forests that are so valuable to our state,” said Green, the Federation’s interim Forestry Division director. “This funding will give the strained agency a much-needed lift.”