Seeing the forest and the trees

The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) has shifted from a county-based focus under an agency reorganization plan that went into effect last week. In addition, under what it terms its “Going Mobile” concept, the state agency will further embrace technology to enable employees to work in a mobile environment instead of a physical office.

There should be no adverse effect on Rappahannock County, according to VDOF officials.

VDOF devised this reorganization plan to capitalize on efficiencies found in mobile technologies while at the same time reducing expenditures, and full-time employees, during a time of decreasing state spending.

“The county-based protection and service model served us fairly well for most of our 98-year history,” said State Forester Carl Garrison. “But with worldwide economic conditions being what they are for the past four years, this model was simply unsustainable. The citizens of Virginia need to know that we are here to protect them from the ravages of wildfire; ensure the quality of the state’s rivers and streams through proper forestry practices, and to meet their needs with regards to landowner services.”

Newly appointed Deputy State Forester Rob Farrell, who will oversee the implementation of the reorganization, said: “By assigning a team of five to eight full-time VDOF employees to service areas comprised of three to seven counties, each jurisdiction will have better coverage and enhanced service. And with the addition of the mobile technology, VDOF employees will be able to ‘take the office’ directly to the landowners who need assistance.”

The teams will each be led by one of 23 senior area foresters. These managers will be in the field working side by side with their team members to provide all-hazard response capabilities, fight wildfires, provide forest management assistance and ensure timber harvests do not pollute our waterways. 

Full implementation of the reorganization and going-mobile plan will take several years, Farrell said.

Michael A. Santucci, the Charlottesville-based VDOF conservation specialist who helps Rappahannock landowners with conservation easements, said: “It won’t affect our conservation program or me outwardly; it will change how we do things procedurally within the agency. But the landowner should see no impact.”

Joe Rossetti, who has been the VDOF’s area forester responsible for Rappahannock County, is now, like other area foresters, assigned to a “work center” comprised of multiple counties.

“The idea is to even out the workload across counties between several personnel.” Santucci explained. “How that ultimately looks at each work center is up to that work center. But the bottom line is that landowners should see little to no impact on the service provided you.”

Erik Filep is the senior area forester now being assigned as the field supervisor for Rappahannock, Culpeper, Madison, Greene and Orange counties.

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