Mississippi Forestry Commission preparing for cutbacks – WLOX.com

SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) -

The Mississippi Forestry Commission is moving forward with plans to cut 75 jobs statewide. The state’s assistant forester calls the cutbacks a “gut-wrenching” move, which was necessary because of a 16 percent cut in the agency’s budget.

The elimination of 75 jobs by the start of the new fiscal year, July first, is in response to a more than $2.5 million cut in the budget of the Mississippi Forestry Commission. That total includes 50 wildland firefighters.

And while the hope is that firefighting capabilities won’t be diminished, that has yet to be seen.

“Only time will tell with that. There’s been some great advancements in technology that allow us to communicate better, to have better logistics with our resource and assets. To be able to move them quicker to where we’re seeing needs,” said Russell Bozeman, assistant forester for the state.

Along with the job cuts, comes a major reorganization. The current seven forestry districts across the state will give way to four new regions. Statistics about wildfire locations and the frequency of fires helped agency leaders plan the job cuts and restructuring.

“To help us see where the activity is taking place, where the need is, where the work’s taking place. To try and arrange our resources, the resources we have available to us, in those areas of need,” Bozeman explained.

Keep in mind, while firefighting capability is certainly a priority, the 50 firefighters losing their jobs, do more than fight fire.

“They’re also the same people who do all the forest management work that we do. All of the landowner assistance that we do. They do a lot more than just wildland firefighting,” said Bozeman.

Bozeman could not say exactly how many jobs will be lost in Harrison, Hancock and Jackson counties.  But the entire southeast region will be affected by the shake-up.

The cutbacks take effect at the start of the new fiscal year, on July first.  Those workers who are laid-off will be allowed to…

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