Communicator takes lead of state agency
By MITCH LIES
New Oregon State Forester Doug Decker is being lauded as a proven leader with excellent communication skills.
He apparently will need both qualities to steer the Oregon Department of Forestry through the next few years.
"He is certainly facing some major challenges," said Jim Geisinger, of Associated Oregon Loggers. "First and foremost is getting his agency properly funded.
"And there also are the needs of the counties that depend on adequate supplies of timber from state lands," Geisinger said.
Ray Wilkeson of the Oregon Forest Industries Council said his advice to Decker will be to keep things simple.
Wilkeson said the department is tasked by law to perform three functions: put out forest fires, manage the state forests and enforce the Oregon Forest Practices Act.
"If he makes sure he does those three things well, the department will be OK," Wilkeson said.
Wilkeson and Geisinger said one of Decker's best qualities is his knowledge of the department.
"He's not new to the department," Wilkeson said. "He understands the basic responsibilities of the agency, which is very important."
Decker started with the department in 1987 as a public affairs specialist. He most recently served as acting chief of ODF's state forests division.
Decker showed his leadership qualities in leading the development of the Tillamook Forest Center, an interpretive facility in the Tillamook State Forest. The 10-year project was completed in 2006. Most recently, he oversaw the acquisition in Central Oregon of the 43,000-acre Gilchrist State Forest.
"He's proven he can manage large projects and he can manage people," Geisinger said, "and that's a very important part of the job."
Wilkeson said Decker's ability to communicate issues clearly also is an important quality.
Decker holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Montana.
"He's a good communicator, and that's a good thing," Wilkeson said.
"Communications are important because they can help facilitate the debate in a way that avoids misunderstandings," Wilkeson said.
One area of concern for the forest products industry is that Decker doesn't hold a forestry degree.
"The fact that he is not a forester raises an eyebrow," Geisinger said, "but we're certainly going to give him the benefit of the doubt."
"He's not a forester, and that's unique (for Oregon state foresters)," Wilkeson said. "Whether that turns out to be a shortcoming or an impediment to his success, we'll see.
"It could cause problems for him, but I don't have any reason to think that it would," Wilkeson said.
Decker assumed his new duties Feb. 1. He succeeds Marvin Brown, who resigned last year at the request of the board, which cited a need to build better relations among a diverse group of stakeholders.
The Oregon Department of Forestry manages about 850,000 acres of state-owned forests and enforces provisions of the Oregon Forest Practices Act on private forestlands.