Friday Spotlight: Stokes County Forest Service

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The NC Forest Service’s mission is to protect, manage, and promote the forest resources for the citizens of North Carolina.

Each county in NC signs a cooperative agreement with the NC Forest Service in order to provide services to each county. The NC Forest Service in Stokes County has a County Ranger, Assistant County Ranger, and a Temporary Smokechaser. The County Ranger and the Assistant County Ranger are responsible for carrying out and delivery of forest service programs in Stokes County.

The NC Forest Service’s primary program includes protecting our forests from wildfires through fire prevention and suppression. The NC Forest Service responds to all wildfires in Stokes County and works with local fire departments in suppression. The NC Forest Service rangers enforce burning laws that have been violated resulting in wildfires. Enforcement of burning laws is used as a tool in order to prevent future fires occurring. Stokes County on average has 51 wildfires each year that burn approximately 69 acres. Also, the NC Forest Service assists with training local fire departments in suppressing wildfires and provides a yearly grant that allows fire departments to purchase equipment at the same cost that the state can purchase equipment.

The NC Forest Service also protects the forests through insect and disease detection and prevention. Local rangers monitor forests during daily routine duties looking for any new pests or issues that may affect our forests. Local rangers respond to citizens calls about issues with trees in their forests or yards to provide guidance on issues and ways to mitigate or prevent spread of insect and diseases. The most notable issue occurring in Stokes County currently is the destruction to the local ash tree population by the Emerald Ash borers.

The NC Forest Service maintains a water quality program that aims to protect our streams from erosion issues related to forest harvest operations. Local rangers inspect logging operations to ensure operators are using Best Management Practices while harvesting timber that maintains compliance with the State of North Carolina’s Forest Practice Guidelines. On average, local rangers conduct 229 logging inspections a year on 1720 acres.

The NC Forest Service assists private landowners with managing their woodland. We can meet with landowners and provide on the ground advice to assist landowners with managing their property and woodland to meet their specific property objectives. The NC Forest Service also writes detailed sound forest management and stewardship plans for landowners to assist them with their management. Written plans are done for a fee of $5 per acre of woodland. Landowners that manage their property for sound timber management can qualify to reduce their property taxes by having a written forest management plan on their property.

The NC Forest Service assists landowners who are wanting to harvest timber on their property. We can assist landowners with determining how well a stand is growing and provide general recommendation on harvesting. Our agency also provides lists of timber buyers and private consultant foresters who operate in our area. We strongly recommend that landowners who are wanting to sell their timber hire a private consulting forester. We also assist landowners after a harvest has been complete. After a harvest we take into consideration the species composition that was there and can make recommendations on whether to allow the stand to naturally regenerate or if planting new trees would be a better fit. If planting is recommended the NC Forest Service also has a cost share program called the Forest Development Program (FDP). The FDP program can provide financial assistance for site prep, planting of new trees, and other timber stand improvement practices on eligible tracts.

The NC Forest Service can be contracted to conduct prescribed burns on private landowners property. While it might seem counterintuitive prescribed burns can actually help us fight wildfires! Woodland that has been managed with prescribed fire has less fuel loading. With less fuels it is easier to suppress a wildfire if one were to occur. Also, prescribed burning is instrumental in managing for wildlife. Historically, fires have played a critical role in shaping our diverse ecosystems in North Carolina. Many plants in our area are considered fire dependent meaning that at some point in their lifecycle fire is needed for them to be properly established. Local rangers conduct on average 10 to 15 prescribed burns a year on 500 acres.

The North Carolina Forest Service office in Stokes County is located in the lower level of the Community Services Building at 700 North Main Street in Danbury. Jonathan Young is the Stokes County Ranger, Bobby Jefferson is the Stokes Assistant County Ranger, and Brian Robertson is the Stokes County Smokechaser. They can be reached at 336-593-8154 or by email at stokes.ncfs@ncagr.gov.

Man looking at fire Two men next to a tree Man talking to a group of children