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Department of Forestry shuffle means fewer offices

By Sally Voth -- svoth@nvdaily.com

Woodstock is being eyed as the location of a regional Virginia Department of Forestry office as the agency scales down the number of its locations.

Rather than operating an office in each of the 95 counties across the commonwealth, there will instead be 23 regional offices, DOF public information director John Campbell said.

The reorganization plan, which will be implemented over the course of several years, went into effect earlier this month, according to a DOF news release. Each area office will have five to eight employees overseeing between three and seven counties, it says.

The agency will use mobile technology while reducing costs, according to the release.

Justin Barnes will serve as senior area forester for Shenandoah, Warren, Frederick, Clarke, Page and Rockingham counties, according to the release.

"Right now, they're looking at Woodstock [for the office location], but no final determination has been made yet," Campbell said Monday. "It's going to involve moving people and working out of their trucks.

"It's going to take a while because we have existing lease agreements with some offices. We also have to deploy technology to be able to give people the ability to work out of their trucks."

The DOF now has 240 employees, down from 285 five years ago, Campbell said. The implementation of the plan won't result in any new lay-offs, he said.

"That stuff's already happened," Campbell said. "Those positions have been wiped out over the last three years."

He said by having fewer offices, service should hopefully improve. Previously, some counties had just one forester or technician, who also worked in other counties. Now, there will be six to eight working in a service area.

Forest workers' major duties include fire protection, providing services to landowners and making sure timber harvesting isn't negatively impacting waterways, Campbell said.

The reorganization came down to economics, he said.

"It just wasn't feasible to keep doing it on a county-by-county basis," Campbell said.

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