Budget cuts could leave Alabama open to wildfires

Budget cuts could leave Alabama open to wildfires

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The Alabama Forestry Commission's budget has been cut more than half since 2011, including a 19.6 percent cut this year. Alabama State Forester Greg Pate said the commission couldn't handle any cuts, especially one so drastic.

Pate said the cut will cause more positions to go unfilled and more work for an already thin workforce.

The Alabama Forestry Commission's main responsibility is dealing with wildfires. It also helps with activities like controlled burns, logging and education.

One program possibly on the chopping block is looking at the water quality of logging operations. Alabama gets some of it's public water from logging areas.

Pate said the commission could handle a year like this year with his current personnel, but this was a lucky year when it came to wildfires. Wet springs and summers over the last couple of years means wildfire numbers have d ropped to around the 1,500 range per year.

However if the state looked back to 2010 or 2011, the state saw a lot more, with nearly 3,500 wildfires a year.

Pate said the Forestry Commission doesn't have the resources to deal with that many fires. This would mean more destruction to nature, property and maybe even lives.

Those who do work for the commission are stretched thin.

According to Pate, each two person wild fire team is responsible for almost 275,000 acres of land, while the surrounding states average only 110,000 acres per team.

Pate said the continued cuts come because lawmakers haven't experienced a bad wildfire season but warns that wild fire seasons are cyclic and they will be needed again.

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