County ranger on duty: NCFS position oversees 185,122 acres

Chris Davis

The North Carolina Forest Service (NCFS) has named a new ranger for McDowell County.

Chris Davis accepted the position as county ranger in December after serving as assistant county ranger for nine years. The former ranger, Scott Ellis, retired last summer after serving 30 years.

“County rangers manage programs such as forest management, fire control and forest protection, water quality and information and education programs,” Davis said recently. “We want a well-rounded program.”

Davis received his degree in Forest Management Technologies from Haywood Community College in 2007. He grew up in Iredell County, where he was always outside or in the woods, and there is no other job he would rather be doing.

“I love being outside and making a difference for the future and being able to educate people is the biggest thing for me. We had three or four students go to Haywood in the past few years, but I would like to see them put a forestry program at McDowell Tech,” he said. “You can work a lot but it can be rewarding.”

The position of assistant ranger has yet to be filled, and once it is, that person and Davis will be the only two in McDowell for NCFS covering over 100,0000 private acres.

“We not only work with private landowners, but also with municipalities and urban forestry,” he said, adding NCFS inspects all logging jobs in the county to make sure they are in compliance, among many other duties.

To implement these programs in the county, Davis has to come up with a plan on what he sees for the future of forestry in McDowell.

“I would like to see more landowners managing their forests and doing more work on their properties so they can get some kind of income from it,” he said.

The county ranger also works with and trains the local fire departments on different kinds of fire situations.

“Without having those departments, there is no way we could chase all of the fires, it would be impossible,” said Davis.

He said after the major wildfires McDowell County saw in 2016, the calls for out-of-control burns slacked off, but that didn’t last long.

“We had more fires in December than we have ever had in our district,” said Davis. “We hadn’t had one get out in almost two years because there was a lot of education going on, but that’s the biggest thing we respond to.”

Spring season is about to get ramped up starting February 15 and lasting through April, but Davis says it’s still pretty wet around McDowell.

“It’s going to take a while to dry out,” he said.

Davis lives in Dysartsville with his wife Laura and 4-year-old daughter Ally.

To learn more about the North Carolina Forest Service, visit ncforestservice.gov/mcdowell or call 652-2636. The McDowell County office is located at 151 Agricultural Services Drive in Marion.

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