VDOF begins agency reorganization

The Virginia Department of Forestry has shifted from a county-based to a multi-county, area-based life safety and public service agency under an agency reorganization plan that went into effect last week. In addition, under the “Going Mobile” concept, the state agency will further embrace new and emerging technology to enable employees to work in a mobile environment instead of a physical office.

VDOF devised this reorganization plan to capitalize on efficiencies found in mobile technologies while at the same time reducing the need for general fund expenditures in support of agency operations during a time of decreasing state spending. VDOF’s reorganization will allow it to fulfill its mission as a first response and public service agency while requiring less in appropriations and utilizing fewer full-time employees compared to the traditional model.

“The county-based protection and service model served us fairly well for most of our 98-year history,” said State Forester of Virginia Carl Garrison. “But with worldwide economic conditions being what they are for the past four years, this model was simply unsustainable. The citizens of Virginia need to know that we are here to protect them from the ravages of wildfire; ensure the quality of the state’s rivers and streams through proper forestry practices, and to meet their needs with regards to landowner services.”

Newly appointed Deputy State Forester Rob Farrell, who will oversee the implementation of the reorganization, said, “By assigning a team of five to eight full-time VDOF employees to service areas comprised of three to seven counties, each jurisdiction will have better coverage and enhanced service.  And, with the addition of the mobile technology, VDOF employees will be able to ‘take the office’ directly to the landowners who need assistance.”

The teams will each be led by one of 23 senior area foresters.  These managers will be in the field working side by side with their team members to provide all-hazard response capabilities, fight wildfires, provide forest management assistance and ensure timber harvests do not pollute our waterways.

Full implementation of the Going Mobile plan will take several years.  In the interim, citizens will experience a “hybrid” system as several county offices are consolidated into one office per service area and the smart-phone and laptop computer technology is launched.

“The complexity of these changes will likely mean that we will encounter some unanticipated issues along the way,” said Farrell.  “We will do our best to minimize these issues, and we very much appreciate your patience and understanding as we continue to protect and serve the citizens of the Commonwealth.”

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