Some groups nervous about relationship with Iowa DNR after forestry bureau dissolved

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JOHNSON COUNTY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- One point two million dollars.

State lawmakers cut that much money from this year's budget for the Department of Natural Resources. Now the DNR has made adjustments, and some people are wondering when eastern Iowans will feel the effects.

The department is closing its forestry bureau and cutting eight positions. That includes the state geologist and the Animal Feeding Operations coordinator but the DNR says these changes won't impact their services. Some groups are concerned with the DNR's decision.

The Johnson County Conservation Board worked closely with the forestry bureau for years. Now it's wondering if that partnership will continue after the DNR's cuts.

"They're an integral partner. We work with them on a lot of different public outreach activities, trying to educate people on forest health" said Brad Freidhof, the Johnson County Conservation Program Manager.

Those are just some of the the things the forestry bureau did across the state of Iowa.

"I'm concerned that there will be some difficulties with being able to find a forester because now they're located under a wildlife bureau" said Freidhof.

Alex Murphy, the director of communications for the Iowa DNR, said their services will not change.

"The exact same services you saw a week or two ago are going to be the exact same services you're going to see moving forward," said Murphy, "We get a budget and we have to balance that budget. Sometimes it unfortunately takes some of these tough decisions to balance that budget and that's what's happened here."

Freidhof understands hard decisions have to be made.

"They have some funding shortfalls and they're trying to be innovative and trying to find solutions to try to rectify those funding shortfalls" said Freidhof.

But he hopes they won't backfire.

"It's essential that we stay ahead of these. If we lose those district foresters or they're allocated less time to work on some of our projects, that could raise some concerns for the health of our forests and parks" said Freidhof.

Murphy said this is the best solution for the time being.

"How can we make decisions to still meet our budget but not have an impact on the citizens of the state of Iowa and the services we provide them and that's exactly what we've done" said Murphy.

Other organizations that have expressed their disappointment in the DNR's decision include the Iowa Woodland Owner's Association and Trees Forever.