Sallisaw’s Forestry Office will remain open but the Oklahoma Forestry Services (OFS) is closing four others as a result of the state’s budget crisis.
The OFS announced Wednesday that, as a result of the current budget environment, OFS is restructuring the division, including the closing of four local offices, program reductions and reallocation of resources. While some of its services will no longer be available to landowners in western Oklahoma, all 77 Oklahoma counties will continue to receive wildfire suppression support.
“In order to ensure long-term success, we decided to meet our budget challengers by restructuring as opposed to across the board cuts,” said George Geissler, Oklahoma Forestry Services director. “It is never easy to close offices or cut programs, but we are reallocating resources to maximize our remaining services to Oklahomans.”
Offices being closed are in Enid, Burns Flat and Ardmore in the western half of the state and Battiest in southeastern Oklahoma. Employees who work out of these offices are being reassigned to other locations or offered different positions within Oklahoma Forestry Services.
As a result of closing offices in the western part of the state, landowners will no longer have foresters available to provide land management advice. In southeastern Oklahoma, other forestry offices will be able to provide land management assistance in areas previously served by the Battiest office.
In addition to providing statewide wildfire suppression, Oklahoma Forestry Services will continue to operate regional offices in Broken Bow, Antlers, Wilburton, Talihina, Tahlequah, Sallisaw, Jay and headquarters in Oklahoma City.
“I regret that we are losing a presence in some communities across the state and I hope the citizens of Oklahoma understand and agree with how we have chosen to meet the state’s budget environment,” said Geissler.
Programs that will continue to be offered include community fire assistance, seedling sales, rural fire department programs and grants, urban forestry programs, forest protection/health and education. Oklahoma Forestry Services programs and initiatives support the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy, which includes resilient landscapes, fire adapted communities and wildfire response.
For more information about Oklahoma Forestry Services visit www.forestry.ok.gov or call 405-522-6158.
Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director
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