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State ag chief shares letter from timber owner

October 14, 2010

It’s one thing to praise your own organization. It’s another when someone from outside the group takes the time to write a “pat on the back” letter. Here is one I received from Dick and Mattie Zeagler of LaSalle Parish. The Zeagler’s letter relates to the Louisiana forestry industry and the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry’s (LDAF) role in protecting our forest resources.
Valued at more than $2.5 billion, forestry is Louisiana’s largest agricultural industry. Wildfire is one of forestry’s greatest threats. During Aug.-Sept. 2010, the number of wildfires in the state increased by more than 700 percent over the same period in 2009. To protect this valuable resource as well as private homes and personal property, State Fire Marshall Butch Browning and I declared a statewide burn ban Oct. 2.
The LDAF is tasked with wildfire detection and suppression of 18.9 million acres of wildland, including valuable commercial timber resources, yet receives wildfire detection and suppression funding from landowners for only 53 percent of the protected area.
In the meantime, LDAF will continue to monitor weather conditions and protect our forests. We can’t save every inch of forest from wildfire, but LDAF firefighters will continue to do “more with less” to minimize the damage.
Mike Strain, D.V.M.
Department of Agriculture and Forestry
Dear Sirs,
I am writing to you to express my sincere gratitude towards a group of men and women who have for years gone unnoticed by much of the general population of our state.  This group is the foresters and wildfire fighters employed by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. 
I understand that this select group of people is on call 24 hours a day 7 days a week to ensure out safety.  This was never more apparent than on October 1, 2010.  On that day, a large wildfire took place in LaSalle Parish that has made our entire region sit up and take notice.  After it consumed around 1,000 acres of timberland, people became not only more aware of what fire can and will do, but of what these men can and will do to protect us from it. 
I happen to own a small 40-acre tract of pines that is ready to be thinned for the first time. Your men stopped the fire less than 100 feet from my property line.  Since no crop insurances are available for small landowners such as me, the blow from losing the potential income I had hoped to gain from my timber would have been devastating.  That being said, I know that my timber does not and will never hold the many values of the many homes that the men saved that day!
I understand that Mr. Clay Mayo and his men placed themselves directly in front of this large wildfire that was heading toward a neighbor’s home.  While I cannot imagine what these men saw coming toward them, I can, as you should, view the damage left behind in the fire’s wake.  Mr. Mayo, his crew, and all others who assisted on that day, are greatly appreciated.  
Yours Truly,
Dick Zeagler