Director Stokes Announces DNR Organizational Changes
DNR Director Rodney Stokes announced at the November Natural Resources Commission meeting the establishment of two new divisions. Effective January 8, 2012 the Forest Management Division (FMD) will no longer exist, and two new divisions – the Forest Resources Division and Office of Land Administration – will more effectively address the changing forestry needs in Michigan.
Director Stokes stated:
“The Forest Management Division (FMD) staff has carried a large portion of these responsibilities across a wide range of timber, oil, gas, mineral, land, fire management and recreation program activities. Because I believe it’s better for each of our divisions to operate with a more singular focus, I am splitting FMD into more function-specific units.”
The chief of the new Forest Resources Division (FRD) will serve as the state forester and report to the Director. The DNR is in the process of filling the state forester position right now. FRD will manage state forests and be a major partner with Michigan’s timber industry. According to the DNR, FRD will continue to do all the traditional forestry work, including co-management of the forest with Wildlife Division, forest certification and the compartment review process. The traditional sources of funding for all forestry-related work will remain within FRD.
The Office of Land Administration will be a part of the DNR’s Administration Bureau. This office will include the oil, gas, and mineral responsibilities currently held by FMD, as well as the Real Estate section that is currently in the Finance and Operations Division. The Real Estate section will begin to handle all department issues of trespass, easements and use permits.
Additionally, the Recreation and Trails section of the FMD will transfer to the Parks and Recreation Division, which will unify camping and trail management into one division. The forest recreation activities will now have increased ease of access to the Parks Division marketing and promotion efforts, the camping reservation system, and the new source of funding in the State Parks Endowment Fund now that the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund has met its cap.
“These are big changes,” said Stokes, “but I believe these are necessary, right steps in order for the DNR to be successful in meeting its priorities and performing its mission.”
In theory, MUCC thinks these changes could be positive if they lead to improved coordination between Forestry and Wildlife Divisions; an effective and efficient public input process; and improved access through trails to our state lands. Co-management of our state forests is required for forest certification and is a critical component of increasing quality habitat for our game species. This re-org must also maintain effective and efficient ways for the public to engage in decisions related to forest management.
However, as most government reorganizations of late have shown, the devil is in the details and these changes will require strong leadership and a guiding vision to be effective. The state forests are an important source of timber for our timber industry, but they are also important to hunting, fishing, trapping and recreation and should be managed as such.