(Enterprise file photo)

The Oregon Board of Forestry last Friday picked a forester from Coos Bay to lead the Oregon Department of Forestry.

Calvin Mukumoto, a former member of the state Parks and Recreation Commission and Board of Forestry and the U.S. Board for the Forest Stewardship Council, will lead the agency’s 1,200 employees and a budget of nearly $500 million.

Mukumoto spent 30 years working in the forest products industry, and served on the board of six Tribal enterprises in Oregon and Washington.  

Mukumoto’s next steps will be to meet with the board independently and to discuss the terms of a contract. 

In his application for the job, Mukumoto wrote, “The department, in my opinion, was caught in extraordinary conditions brought on by climate change and extreme fires. It would be my honor to serve this organization to implement the changes needed to continue into the next biennium.”

At the special meeting Friday, Mukomoto said he was left speechless over his selection, and briefly expressed his excitement about the job.

The state forester reports to the Board of Forestry, and directs the overall management and protection of forestland owned by the state of Oregon. This means negotiating the desires of environmentalists, logging companies, tribes and private property owners as well as preventing the risk of fire across at least 16 million acres of forest.

The special meeting Friday lasted one and a half hours, with only two members of the public submitting verbal comments on what the aspects, skills, attributes, and qualifications should be required. The rest of the time was spent discussing whether to employ a chief executive officer, which would be a new position within the Forestry Department, and then further deliberating on the new state forester. 

During public testimony, a cabin owner and a representative from the Oregon chapter of the Sierra Club underscored the need for someone with a deep understanding of climate change and the role of forests. 

They also spoke of “community hardening” – making sure homes and buildings can survive fires in areas more prone to them.

The other two candidates were Therese O’Rourke and Jim Paul. 

O’Rourke is chief of the Oregon coast branch of NOAA-Fisheries and previously worked for the federal Bureau of Reclamation, Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service. Paul is assistant director of administrative services for the Oregon Department of Corrections and had previously been director of the Department of State Lands and an employee at the Department of Forestry.

Mukumoto would replace interim State Forester Nancy Hirsch, who came out of retirement to lead the department after Peter Daugherty resigned as state forester amid reports of financial mismanagement.

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