Forest Service has variety of roles

Published 5:31 pm Friday, January 7, 2011

Contributing Writer

One often overlooked but vital agency is the N.C. Forest Service, which plays an important role at the state and local levels.
Jim Linson, a ranger with the Forest Service’s office in Beaufort County, explained some of the Forest Service’s functions during a recent interview.
“Goose Creek State Park is different than us because they control a preset area of state-owned land. Our agency spans across the state. We do steward-management plans where we tell people how to better manage a tract of timber. We give advice on whether to sell it, thin it or just let it grow.”
Linson also mentioned that the Forest Service provides informational and educational programs to area schools
“We do 72 to 78 programs per year. This involves Smokey the Bear and a five- to 10-minute presentation on what to do in the case of a fire.”
The Forest Service is an “all-risk” agency. Its employees may be sent to other states to assist with hurricanes, wildfires and floods. They also conduct fire patrols throughout North Carolina.
Linson discussed the Southeastern Interstate Forest Fire Protection Compact.
“Any southeastern state that has an incident can call for assistance. By the same token, if we have an incident and we call for outside resources, they have to provide them. It gives the Forest Service a larger pool of personnel to pull from when major incidents happen. The Evans Road Fire was a good example of where this was used.”
The Evans Road fire, a wildfire started by a lightning strike June 1, 2008, in Hyde County, burned at least 42,000 acres in several eastern North Carolina counties.
Forty percent of the Forest Service’s budget for Beaufort County is funded by the county. This means that if there is a wildfire in the county, it is not billed by the Forest Service for its response to the fire.
The Forest Service also issues citations when county burning laws are violated. It also handles investigations of arson in and around homes.