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November 2009

VDOF Shifts to 4-day Work Week; Offices are Closed Fridays

As part of its budget reduction strategies, the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) has been chosen by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine to determine if working four 10-hour days each week instead of five 8-hour days can generate significant savings of tax dollars and still deliver the level of service Virginians deserve.

This pilot project began Monday, Oct. 19, 2009 and will run through June 30, 2010. VDOF hours are from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Employees have 30 minutes for lunch, and all offices are closed Friday. Employees whose positions have been approved to telework can choose to continue to work five 8-hour days but have to telework on Friday as all offices are closed that day each week. The changes affect the agency's headquarters in Charlottesville, its three regional offices (Tappahannock, Salem and Charlottesville), and all of its county offices. At the end of the current fiscal year, the test program will be evaluated and will either become permanent, be modified or be discontinued.

State Forester Carl Garrison said, “We're honored that the Governor selected us for this pilot program. He had asked that agencies be creative in thinking about ways to address the budget shortfall, and shifting to a 4-day work week was one of our 19 strategies he approved. By switching to working four 10-hour days, we expect to see a reduction in utility costs in our offices as well as a reduction of gasoline expenditures by not having vehicles on the road five days per week. Of course, our emergency response mission will not change. If a wildfire or other emergency requires our attention, our First Responders will be there regardless of the day of the week.”

VDOF, which has both law enforcement and public service responsibilities, had its operating budget reduced by 10 percent in September and took a 15.3 percent cut in July.

“With just 265 employees having the responsibility of protecting the lives and property of more than 7.5 million Virginians from the ravages of wildfire; ensuring the health of more than 15.7 million acres of forestland; providing services to more than 375,000 forest landowners, and inspecting more than 5,000 timber harvesting operations each year, we had to be very creative as our annual general fund budget shrank from $18.6 million to just $14.6 million. The 4-day work week could be just one of the ways for us to continue to protect and serve the Commonwealth with 25 percent less operating money,” Garrison said.

Urban Forests Take Center Stage

A one-day conference in Northern Virginia will enable participants to better understand how the benefits of the urban forest can be quantified, valued and used to influence public policy.

Presented by Trees Virginia and the NOVA Urban Forestry Roundtable, the conference – called “Community Forests Grow Community Benefits” – will be held Nov. 13, 2009 at Algonkian Regional Park in Sterling, Va. Early registration, which ends Nov. 9, 2009, is $60. Lunch is included.

“The conference will include several nationally known speakers and elected government leaders as well as panel discussions to fully cover this important subject,” said Barbara White, partnerships coordinator for the Virginia Department of Forestry. “Dr. Kathy Wolf of the University of Washington will deliver the keynote address – ‘Multiple Values of the Urban Forest,” and Dr. Dave Nowak of the USDA Forest Service will focus on quantifying the science. We are also excited to hear from Sharon Bulova, chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, who will talk about ways to influence public policy.”

In addition to better understanding urban forestry's many benefits, conference participants will engage in a dialogue on the role cultural differences play in managing community forests.

More information and registration materials are available at TreesVirginia.org. Questions may be directed to Becky Woodson at 434.220.9024.

Smokey Bear Calendars Still Available

Despite being snapped up across Virginia, VDOF wall calendars are still available! Prescribed fire, woodland home communities and Smokey Bear are featured in the calendar. Be sure to make special note of the new Smokey Bear artwork used for the months of March, April, August and October. This artwork was taken from the new bi-lingual reading book about Smokey, featured in a recent Foresty Update.

These calendars have been distributed to county offices; contact your local office to arrange to pick up a copy.