Environment

Gov. Matt Bevin has begun making changes among high-ranking employees in the state Energy and Environment Cabinet.

Division of Forestry Director Leah MacSwords was terminated on Tuesday, a cabinet spokesman confirmed. It is a non-merit position and no reason was given for the termination.

But MacSwords said she was never given a termination letter.

Instead, she received notice that she was going to be demoted, and opted instead to retire. She has been with the state environment cabinet since 1985, and has served as the head of the Division of Forestry since 2001. In addition, she held the title of state forester.

It’s unknown when MacSwords’ position will be permanently filled. Assistant Director Steve Kull will fill the position in the interim.

MacSwords said she hopes that the administration moves quickly to fill her position, because having someone overseeing forestry in the state is essential.

“Oh, absolutely,” she said. “You need an advocate for Kentucky’s forests, because they contribute so much to the state’s economy and there are so many private landowners who need assistance.”

The Division of Forestry is under the Department for Natural Resources in the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet. The division helps protect forest health through programs including land management, fighting forest fires and supporting the economy that’s grown around the state’s forest products. Analyses have estimated the Kentucky forest product economy adds about $13 billion to the state’s economy each year.

MacSwords is so far the highest-profile Energy and Environment Cabinet employee to be laid off since Bevin took office in December.

Two employees of the Division for Energy Development and Independence — Deputy Commissioner John Davies and Greg Guess, director of the Division of Efficiency and Conservation — have also lost their jobs.

Department for Natural Resources Commissioner Steve Hohmann retired at the end of November and was replaced by Allen Luttrell.

Cabinet General Counsel Mike Haines was transferred to the natural resources general counsel post, and was replaced by John Horne.