A state that values trees shouldn’t ax its forestry program

Jackie Wedeking, guest columnist

Aug 13, 2017 at 8:16 am | Print View

Is this the beginning of the end for Iowa’s forestry programs?

The recent decision for the Department of Natural Resources to dissolve its Forestry Bureau raises alarms. I’m concerned it is the beginning of the end of the Iowa forestry program, and as a citizen of Iowa, this doesn’t sound like the state I know my fellow Iowans love and value.

In an effort to address a $1.2 million department budget cut, the DNR eliminated multiple positions and divided the bureau among other departments. The loss of the positions is disheartening, but the decision also will devastate the future of the forestry programs.

Think about what it really means to dissolve a bureau: to break it into pieces and take away its name.

As a citizen, how do you track funding for an agency that doesn’t exist? How does such an agency stay transparent so the public can verify the organization is truly following Iowa’s values?

How easy would it be to slowly eliminate every service the bureau once provided and not hear a word from the public because the public can’t track what’s going on?

Positions that once existed under the Forestry Bureau will be under the supervision of departments with different priorities. When those departments are called on to cut their budgets, what positions do you think will be eliminated?

I’m betting it will not be the positions that directly align with that department’s core mission and values, but instead the positions that were arbitrarily tacked on to the department.

According to the National Association for State Foresters, Iowa will be the first state without a forestry bureau. In this move to dismantle the forestry bureau, a strong signal has been sent that trees and forestry are not a priority to the Iowa DNR. That will affect how the state is perceived when it applies for federal grants….

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