Commission prepares for warm weather

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 9, 2007

What’s the job of the Alabama Forestry Commission?

The Forestry Commission does a few things. It helps landowners manage private land use. It also protects the forest. It does southern pine beetle flights, fights forest fires, makes sure loggers rehab a creek or a road that they may have cluttered, and we also educate children and the public on fire safety and land use, as well as land management.

How many workers are staffed at the Marengo County office?

Email newsletter signup

We have three people that work out of this office.

What is it the commission does during droughts?

Whenever there’s a drought, we encourage people not to burn. The state forester would institute a burn ban when it gets too dry, where no one can burn until the ban is lifted. The ban usually lifted after we get more rain or moisture, or maybe if the relative humidity goes back up. But for the most part we encourage people not to burn.

Is there a ban on now?

There was. It has been recently lifted. We had some rain last week and that resulted in the ban being lifted.

How long was the ban on?

This last ban was on for about a month.

When is a decision made on instituting a burn ban?

It always depends on the weather. And how low the relative humidity gets and how hot it gets. Also how long of a span that’s reported when we will get some rain.

What about insects or diseases in the forest?

We do a southern pine beetle flight, which is done every three months. A pilot will fly around the county and marks a spot with a GPS (global positioning system). It will note the longitude and the latitude of the infected area, which will also give us an idea of how many trees are in that particular area that’s infected. The information will be sent to the headquarters, which is in Montgomery. The health monitoring department will send us a map that will tell us where all of the spots are located and also a map of each location. We check a percentage of these locations, and then send letters to all of the owners to inform them of the problem. We let them know that it needs to be handled, because if the southern pine beetles spread, the owner will lose value and timber growth. The problem will become a bigger problem if it is not eradicated.

What is the southern pine beetle?

It’s one of the common insects in the south. Beside fire, the southern pine beetle can destroy a lot of young timber stands. It is the most destructive pine bark beetle in the south.

How does a landowner eliminate the problem?

Once the landowner gets a letter, we will go out and check the spot for him if requested. When spotted, the landowner will start from his tallest tree and cut down an area out side the infected area. When the tree is lying down it confuses the beetle and the problem is usually solved.

Are the beetles visible?

The southern pine beetle is very small.

How does the commission prepare for the summer months or warmer climate?

Right before fire season as we call it, we have annual fire training. We make sure our gear or personal protection equipment is ready of use. We make sure our vehicles are serviced and ready to go if we get a call. We will get calls before someone does a burn.

How long ago did you have a fire that you had to respond to?

The last huge fire was just last month. It was about 150 acres of land, which was a pretty huge fire. We had to call for help, because it was too big for our equipment to control it.