Our “Meet the State Forester” blog series introduces readers to the southern state foresters who are collectively responsible for leading the conservation, protection and enhancement of more than 245 million forested acres in the U.S. South. This month, we meet Louisiana State Forester, Wade Dubea.
Wade Dubea, Louisiana State Forester and Assistant Commissioner of Forestry since 2008, has served the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) since 2001 in a variety of roles including field forester, forestry education program director, and forestry information and education branch chief. A native of Louisiana, Dubea holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Forestry and Louisiana Teacher Certification in secondary science education from Louisiana State University. Prior to his service with LDAF, Dubea was employed as a GIS forester for Temple Inland Corporation in Texas and served as a high school educator of biology and environmental science at The Dunham School in Baton Rouge, LA. He currently holds memberships with both the Society of American Foresters and Louisiana Forestry Association.
What is your agency’s mission statement?
While the LDAF mission is to promote, protect and advance agriculture and forestry, and soil and water resources, the specific mission of our Office of Forestry is to protect, conserve and replenish the forest resources of the state.
Why did you become a forester?
I grew up spending time with my father and grandfather hunting in the bottomland hardwood forests of South Louisiana. I developed an interest and appreciation for forestry through these experiences. It seemed like a natural choice to pursue a career in forestry.
In your opinion, what is the biggest issue impacting forest landowners in your state and across the southern region?
I believe the biggest issue impacting forest landowners in Louisiana is the creation of smaller tracts of forest land. As land passes from generation to generation, the subdivided tracts of forestland become smaller and smaller. The task of managing these smaller tracts becomes more difficult as finding resource professionals to provide services may be cost prohibitive.
How does your agency work with local and municipal partners to conserve your state’s forests?
Our agency works with partners to promote conservation in forestry through several avenues. First and foremost are public education and awareness opportunities. We encourage and participate in programs that allow Louisiana citizens to gain firsthand knowledge of the forest industry in our state. We are also involved in incentive and pass-through programs to assist forest landowners. These range from the state-provided reforestation program to U.S. Forest Service programs. We work with Nongovernmental Organizations such as the National Wild Turkey Federation and The Nature Conservancy on projects to demonstrate conservation through habitat restoration and other means.
How is forestry important to the economy of your state?
Forestry contributes approximately $13 billion to Louisiana’s economy and is the state’s number one agricultural commodity. It accounts for 25% of the total value of agricultural commodities.
What is your favorite thing to do while in the forest?
My favorite forest activities are hunting and fishing, and simply exploring. I appreciate opportunities to get out in the woods preparing for hunting and fishing. I also enjoy exploring the flora and fauna of Louisiana forests. I often challenge myself to recall the dendrology lessons learned while I was a student at Louisiana State University.
What are the top five goals for your agency over the next 5-10 years?
The top five goals for our agency for the next 5-10 years are:
- Increase public awareness and understanding of forestry.
- Assist forest landowners with forest land management.
- Promote opportunities for forest landowners to have increased access to forest markets.
- Provide opportunities for forest landowners through relationships forged with federal, state and local partners.
- Continue to address the priority areas identified in the Louisiana Forest Action Plan.
What is your favorite thing about the forests in your state?
My favorite thing about Louisiana forests is the diversity. In certain areas of the state, you may find bottomland hardwoods, while other areas may be forested with upland pine, and still other areas may be longleaf pine restoration sites. Louisiana forests offer opportunities for private and public ventures.
Why are the adoption of forestry Best Management Practices (BMPs) important to your state?
Aside from the conservation benefits realized through forestry BMPs, the maintenance of their voluntary status is important to the continued adoption and buy-in from landowners. Voluntary BMPs provide the industry an opportunity to supervise and regulate BMP issues without mandatory regulations. The practice allows resource professionals to focus on specific issues pertaining to Louisiana BMPs.
How is your agency working with communities and municipalities to encourage forestland retention?
In Louisiana, we support the Keeping Forests program. We work with communities and municipalities to emphasize the importance and benefits of working forests. This includes both urban and traditional forests.
What is your favorite tree species?
Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum). In addition to the unique appearance, feather-like foliage, and characteristic bark, it’s a deciduous conifer. I enjoy woodworking as a hobby and the cypress lumber is a favorite of mine. It’s also the Louisiana State Tree.
How is prescribed fire important to the landscape of your state?
Prescribed fire is an extremely important and effective tool in Louisiana forestry. We use prescribed fire for site preparation for replanting, competition management in growing stands, and most importantly to reduce wildfire risk. The latter is particularly important following catastrophic events such as hurricanes which leave behind downed trees and debris that serve as fuel for wildfire.
How do partnerships play a role in wildfire response in your state?
With the majority of forestland being privately owned in Louisiana, partnerships with local fire departments are very important. In many cases, volunteer fire departments are the first to receive the 911 dispatch to wildfires. They will request assistance from our department if the situation warrants. We work together to protect structures and provide wildfire suppression. When responding to wildfires on timber company lands, we work with company fire crews to provide suppression.
What is your agency doing to support the use of trees and forest products as a carbon solution?
Currently, our agency supports the use of trees and forest products as a means of carbon sequestration by sharing information about the process and passing on market opportunities to interested landowners. As the concept of carbon sequestration markets advances and more forest landowners become involved, our role should progress accordingly.
What are some of the biggest forest health challenges in your state and how is your agency working to address them?
Some of the greatest forest health threats to Louisiana are invasive species and insect pests. While full eradication may not be attainable in many instances, we work with landowners to increase awareness of the issues and, where possible, help with control measures. Our efforts regarding insect pests are focused on monitoring and early detection and warning. With both invasive species and insect pests, informing the public of current and potential issues is essential.
What is your favorite native Louisiana animal?
My favorite native animal is the Louisiana black bear (Ursus americanus luteolus). It’s unique in that it is one of sixteen subspecies of the American black bear (Ursus americanus americanus). It’s my favorite because it represents an underdog story. In 1992, it was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Population restoration efforts by multiple entities spurred the now ongoing success of the subspecies. By 2016, population numbers grew to a point where it was able to be removed from the list. It’s also Louisiana’s State Mammal.
What is one thing you want people to know about your agency?
One thing that I want people to know about our agency is that we are here to serve the public. We have a great family of dedicated employees who go above and beyond to protect and promote the forest resources of Louisiana. From wildfire suppression to landowner assistance, we are here to serve.
Smokey Bear or Woodsy Owl?
Smokey Bear. I remember learning about Smokey Bear and his message as a child. Although both icons represent important concepts, Smokey wins the day with me.
What is the best thing about being the Louisiana State Forester?
The best thing about being the Louisiana State Forester is the diversity of roles that are associated with the job. Whether it’s visiting with employees, working with our commissioner and legislators to promote forestry, or meeting with landowners to discuss current issues, each day holds an adventure.