New forest ranger takes over reins

Published 3:53pm Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Annual tree planting begins today

Polk County welcomed new forest service ranger Brian Rogers last year who took over the position after the retirement of former ranger Dan Loudermelt.

Brian Rogers

Loudermelt was Polk’s forest ranger for approximately 26 years.

Rogers began employment in September 2012 and is located at the Mill Spring Agricultural Center.

The forest service office is through the N.C. Department of Agriculture and is funded 60 percent by the state and 40 percent by the county. Polk County also provides the office space for the ranger.

Rogers said today is the beginning of tree planting for landowners, which will continue for the next few months.

The local forest service office is staffed with Rogers and Eric Bradley, who is the seasonal smoke chaser. Bradley works approximately eight months of the year. The forest service also has four to five employees who help as needed, such as when fighting forest fires.

Although forest service’s main priority is fire control, Rogers is also charged with creating management plans and inspecting timber. Polk County has 152,200 total acres with 98,700 of those acres being forestland. Rogers said of the forestland, approximately 90,000 acres is owned by private landowners. The forest ranger works with forestland owners for best practice management and inspects any timber being harvested. Rogers also makes sure that landowners are following water quality regulations for creeks and streams.

The forest service department also works with the Polk County 4-H center and participates in local community programs, such as the upcoming Polk County Middle School career day as well as other educational programs for the schools and the community.

The forest service works closely with Polk County’s six fire departments as well.

“They are our number one asset,” Rogers said. “We couldn’t do it without them.”

The forest service offers grants available to local fire departments, which helps fire departments receive needed training and equipment.

The forest service will continue its planting program for the next few months and begin getting prepared for the spring season, which is often dry.

The forest service also does prescribed burns, or controlled burns for landowners, to benefits the forests.

“Prescribed burning provides a lot of benefits to forests,” Rogers said, “such as reducing needles and leaves that could serve as fuel for fires.”

Prescribed burns also gives nutrients back for better tree growth as well as other benefits for a person’s property, he said.

Rogers, who currently lives in Cleveland County but is working to move to Polk, has worked with the forest service for about six years. He said since he’s worked in Polk County, there have been between 15 to 20 fires. Just last week the forest service responded to an approximate 15-acre fire in Green Creek and the forest service also had a 20-acre fire last November at Camp Bob Hardin in the Saluda area.

To ask about a prescribed burn or for more information about the forest service, contact Rogers at 828-894-8020.


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