Rotary learns the many services of the Georgia Forestry Commission

Published 6:31 pm Tuesday, March 1, 2016

How much do you know about the Georgia Forestry Commission?

Bainbridge Rotarians now know a lot more than they did following a presentation by Trent Ingram, of the Flint District of the Georgia Forestry Division. On Tuesday he shared with Rotary the knowledge he has gained from 16 years with the commission.

It is about more than planting trees. It is about conservation and maintaining a balance of the ecosystem of trees, water and sky.

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The commission will identify and help treat the southern Pine Beetles and other invasive species.

It creates management plans and re-forestation. It sells 1.5 million bare root seedlings a year from its nursery.

It performs pre-suppression fire breaks. We turn more dirt in Decatur and Mitchell Counties than any other area of the state,” said Ingram. In the last year they served 1773 landowners with 6,280 miles of fire breaks.

The commission is perhaps best known for its prescribed burn policies. They issue permits for burning, giving out 112,537 per year for free. It is essential to call before burning and the permits will or will not be granted depending on the weather forecast. Primary concern is the wind and the dispersing of smoke. “You can’t manage smoke,” said Ingram.

He said if persons burn without a permit and the commission is called in to suppress the fire a fee will be charged for that service.

However, there is no charge if a permit has been issued. He also advised it is best to have a permit, for if smoke gets out of control and causes a wreck on the highway, then the person burning without a permit doesn’t have a leg to stand on in a civil suit.

Ingram said wildfires are their specialty and require quick response time. He praised the local fire departments for their response and help.

What many people may not associate with the Forestry Division is the all risk agency — when they are called in to remove debris and help clear roads from such natural disasters as winter ice storms, tornadoes, floods etc. They even work hurricanes, oil spills, and wildfires in other states.

One threat that is looming, according to Ingram, is Bird flu. He predicts it will happen, and when it does the forestry commission will be asked to assist in sealing off the chicken houses, and killing all the poultry, then sanitizing all equipment and garments worn to prevent further spread of the disease. They are continuing to receive training on that project.