Forestry jobs lost, but Haines could keep part of his office

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Haines State Forest (Photo credit: Flickr / ~ dgies)

Two forestry jobs in Haines and two in Ketchikan are being cut from the state budget approved by the legislature earlier this week. Governor Bill Walker’s proposed changes to this budget would add money to the Department of Natural Resources, but they would not bring back forestry jobs in the Southeast. However, Haines State Forest’s two-person office will not be completely lost.

Budget cuts will likely force forestry director Chris Maisch to cut 25 jobs and 10 internships in the state.

“This was probably my biggest professional challenge as a manager and as a forester,” Maisch said. “And I’ve been doing this type of work for over 33 years.

In Haines, the two foresters make up the entire local office. They manage wood sales, maintain access roads, take care of fire prevention. Losing those two jobs would leave the management of the Haines State Forest to someone from Juneau or Ketchikan.

“We know that the community depends a lot on access, firewood and the possibility of having some economic development associated with the forest,” Maisch said. “We felt it was important to support the residents of the Haines community. “

Maisch says that of all the towns that are losing forestry personnel, Haines has been the most outspoken.

“I want people to know that we were listening and paying attention to this,” he said. “It means we have dug a little deeper to try and improve the situation.”

Maisch didn’t want to leave Haines completely unmanned. For example, DNR Forestry reallocated $ 106,000 to fund a 9-month seasonal forestry job in Haines. This money pays for wages and benefits as well as office, utilities, fuel, and a vehicle.

In addition to losing about one and a third of its employees in Haines, starting in July, Ketchikan will lose two foresters. This reduces the size of their office to four – three foresters and one administrator.

“So obviously we won’t have as many manpower as we used to have to do forest management activities in Southeast Alaska,” Maisch said. “We will have enough to continue the program, but the remaining staff will be smaller and will have to travel more to do the work that needs to be done in the Southeast.”

It’s too early to say if any of Haines’ current foresters will take the seasonal job in July. Roy Josephson and Greg Palmieri have over 30 years of experience in forest management in Haines.

Maisch believes the seasonal position in Haines is sustainable. He says revenue from large lumber sales like Baby Brown’s proposed 800-acre sale would help, but there’s no need to keep the position.

However, if the state makes more cuts to MNR forestry in the coming years, Maisch says there is no guarantee.


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