Posted: 05/09/2023

Class of ’23 Alabama Forestry Camp -- Kneeling L-R: Dustin Wilson, Baldwin County; Jonathan Sheppard, Autauga County; Jacob Bolin, Pike County; and AJ Evans, Bibb County. Standing L-R: William Walker, Mobile County; Andrew Beauchamp, Autauga County; Paul Lawrence, Barbour County; David Jackson, Pike County; Clay Gorham, Etowah County; Britton Kennamore, Lauderdale County; Mike Moore, Cherokee County; Daniel Harrison, Coffee County; and Academy Director Brad Lang.

A total of 12 Alabama Forestry Commission employees graduated from the 2023 Forestry Academy on April 28. Graduation was held at the Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center in Andalusia.

Composed of recently hired AFC employees from 10 counties across Alabama who serve as either foresters or forest rangers, these students have completed eight weeks of classroom study and rigorous field exercises in forest protection, forest management, and team building. Academy graduates are returning to their work units with a wealth of knowledge that will last the entirety of their career. They have also built friendships with their classmates, reaching a new¬found level of camaraderie.

The Alabama Forestry Commission established the original Forestry Academy in 1979 and it continued through 1994. Since it was rein¬stituted in 2020, the class of ‘23 is the third group to graduate from the ‘new’ Academy.

“This intensive training has helped these AFC employees become proficient wildland firefighters and knowledgeable forest manag¬ers,” said State Forester Rick Oates. “We’re confident that the Forestry Academy provides a valuable benefit not only to this agency, but ultimately to our forest landowners throughout Alabama.”

Assistant State Forester Will Brantley noted the sacrifice and hard work by the students and instructors to make the Forestry Academy a success. He also thanked the Solon Dixon Center staff and Auburn University for their willingness to provide the perfect forestry setting for this learning experience, saying the training venue had become the AFC’s ‘home away from home.’

The keynote address for graduation was delivered by Judge J. Chris McCool of the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. He noted the importance of Alabama’s timberland and thanked the class for their willingness to enter public service in protecting the state's forests.

For more information about the Alabama Forestry Commission, visit the AFC website at