Don’t clearcut Forest Rangers

I am a resident of Maine concerned about the proposed budget cuts to the Maine Forest Service. The proposed budget cuts the Forest Rangers by 36 percent, strips all Rangers from their current responsibility of enforcing forestry laws, and proposes to replace 48 overextended Rangers with only seven natural resource officers. That is a 91-percent reduction in work force, including cuts to support staff and aircraft and helicopter pilots.

The consequences of this ill-advised proposal are far reaching. Beside the obvious lack of preventive wildfire resources to counter uncontrolled burning, the reduction in staff will result in less firefighting equipment and established facilities maintained where needed.

Outreach training to fire departments will be seriously reduced, as will participation by well-trained responders to natural and manmade disaster emergencies.

Reimbursement to towns for suppression costs will certainly be reduced as only 9 percent of the current enforcement officers will be available to catch and prosecute violators. No other agency has the expertise or is ready to assume the responsibility of the gap left by legislating this proposal.

In exchange for this serious reduction of services that taxpayers have come to expect, this entire reorganization will save Maine taxpayers less than $40,000. Far more will be lost than gained by this proposal.


As a land and property owner, I suggest that the Legislature seriously consider a previous proposal, to arm current Forest Rangers like all other law enforcement officers engaged in their hazardous occupation to protect themselves from willful lawbreakers, and keep them on the job that they are doing so well. In 2014 alone, Forest Rangers fielded 4,123 complaints, many of which were complex cases that required a serious commitment of time and experience, and pursuit through the judiciary system. In addition, Forest Rangers performed 37,762 compliance inspections, a small fraction of which would be done under the proposed plan.

I ask all concerned individuals to contact their senators and representatives to protect the Maine Forest Service from the folly of gutting this effective law enforcement service that also performs thousands of hours of fire prevention and critical wildfire suppression.

Nel Bernard


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