75 jobs to be cut in Mississippi Forestry Commission due to budget shortfall

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The Mississippi Forestry Commission this summer will have to axe 75 positions as part of a reorganization and effort to comply with state-mandated budget cuts, officials announced last week.

The Commission said in a news release it had to address a $2.67 million shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year — a figure that represents a 16 percent decrease from the current fiscal year. To meet the mark, the state’s seven districts will be consolidated into four new regions. Approximately 75 positions — two-thirds of them reportedly firefighting jobs —  will be eliminated when the reorganization model takes effect July 1.

“Preserving the Mississippi Forestry Commission’s statutorily mandated responsibility to protect forestland, lives and homes from wildfire is our top priority. After much deliberation, the difficult decision was made to consolidate and reorganize districts, leaving as many wildland firefighting ‘boots on the ground’ in place as possible — within the constraints of our current budget restrictions,” Charlie Morgan, State Forester for the Mississippi Forestry Commission said in a news release announcing the changes. 

“The decision to reorganize our districts was not made lightly. We are deeply saddened to lose these faithful employees and appreciate their years of service to the state of Mississippi.”

Some employees will be allowed to apply for new positions in the new regions, though additional details were not immediately available on how many would be eligible.

Mississippi’s fall wildfire season has grown in intensity over the past two years. The Mississippi Forestry Commission responded to and suppressed 1,228 wildfires that burned 13,983 acres in fiscal year 2016 fall wildfire season, officials said. More than 31,000 acres burned statewide in fiscal year 2016, and the governor issued burn ban proclamations in each of the past two years due to dangerous drought conditions.

That’s troubling context, especially given this additional reporting last week about the new round of cuts from The Clarion-Ledger newspaper:

Last year, the commission laid off 25 workers, including all its arson investigators and equipment mechanics, and eliminated six vacant positions because of state budget cuts. With $1.2 million in cuts to personnel last year, the commission is up to nearly $4 million in staff cuts in two years.

“This one will be testing our limits,” said Charlie Morgan, state forester with the Mississippi Forestry Commission. “There was no fat. We took care of that last year if there was fat then.”

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One thought on “75 jobs to be cut in Mississippi Forestry Commission due to budget shortfall”

  1. The SE USA State Forestry agencies have the highest occurrence of arson caused wildfires in the nation. The SE also has some of largest industrial and private commercial grade timberlands left in the US. Finally, the SE State Forestry organizations firefighter pay scales are already the lowest in the nation. Maybe the “fat” that needs cutting is at the Mississippi State Foresters Office–not at the field level. This will bite the Mississippi Forestry Commission someday when a citizen or firefighter is killed or huge private property will be destroyed from a wildfire that did not have adequate wildland firefghting resources–including experienced, dedicated employees–on the ground. Very disturbing news


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