Although only in office a few weeks, Gov. Kay Ivey began helping shore up a state agency important to rural Alabama.
State Forester Rick Oates said Ivey told him she intends to release nearly $500,000 from the governor’s discretionary departmental emergency fund to help the budget-stressed Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC). Drought-related fires took a toll on the AFC’s $22 million annual budget, he said.
“We are truly grateful for Gov. Ivey’s financial assistance and show of support for our agency and rural Alabama,” Oates said. “We look forward to building upon our relationship with her office.”
The AFC incurred more than $1.5 million additional expenses in man-hours and equipment costs because of wildfires, which significantly impacted the agency’s budget, Oates said. Those expenditures, combined with a 55 percent reduction in state funding for the agency in recent years, severely limited the agency’s ability to carry out its mission, he said.
“Our agency is charged with protecting and sustaining Alabama’s forest resources,” Oates added. “Last year’s fires consumed nearly 50,000 acres in Alabama.”
Two-thirds of Alabama, about 23 million acres, is covered in forestland. Forestry is an economic engine providing hundreds of thousands of Alabama jobs, Oates said.
“We are truly grateful for the governor’s financial assistance and show of support for our agency,” Oates said. “We look forward to building upon our relationship with her office. As a forest landowner in Monroe and Wilcox counties, Gov. Ivey appreciates the important services provided by the AFC and understands the financial situation we face.”