State budget struggles continue to impact agencies across the state, including the North Carolina Forest Service.
With a heavy fire season already on the books right now--those cuts are being felt more than ever.
From aging equipment that's harder to find money to fix or replace, the loss of a number of positions, to flat out man power fatigue--District 4 ranger Ned Berg, who serves 8 counties in the east, has seen the steady degradation. He says the acquisition and subsequent loss of a CL-215 airplane--or scooper--which drops water on the fire--was a major loss. He says a study recommended selling the plane because it wasn't being flown enough--a sentiment Berg didn't agree with--as they are now having to contract out for planes.
And with multiple massive wildfires this year--the most important resource--manpower--is being stretched even more. Berg says, "We've worked some long hours these past three or four months, lots of them had been working 50 and 60 days straight--we've got some very dedicated employees."
The North Carolina Forest Service had an operating budget of 11.9 million for this fiscal year--but after the state budget was approved--it was slashed roughly 20 percent, dropping to 9.4 million dollars. Since 2007 the organization has lost 32 percent of its appropriated operating funds--including 42 full time positions.
Berg--who ends his nearly three decade career at the end of this month--remains confident that, despite shortfalls--the forest service will rise to the occasion. "We take pride in our work --and we're going to turn out the quality of work--if it takes the extra time to do it--if that's what it takes that's what we're going to give--we're here to help protect and serve the citizens of North Carolina and we're going to do it the best we know how with what we've got."