MANHATTAN, Kan. – Each time Bob Atchison sees kids playing
in a park, a family having a picnic, or an American bald eagle building a nest
in a tall Kansas cottonwood, he tends to get more passionate about his job.
As the rural forestry coordinator for the Kansas Forest Service, Atchison has a broad perspective toward the state’s 5.2 million acres
of forest land.
“Healthy forests, woodlands and windbreaks are as important
to our national infrastructure as roads and bridges,” Atchison said. “The jobs
and products they produce are worth protecting.”
In Kansas, 95 percent of forest land is privately owned.
It’s why Atchison and others connected to the state’s forest service spent much
of the past three years drafting an action plan to help educate families, and
support them in protecting this natural resource.
The Kansas Forest Action Plan is part of an effort headed by
the National Association of State Foresters and the U.S. Forest Service to manage
and maintain the country’s 423 million acres of private forests, and 100
million acres of urban forests.
Atchison noted that there are three types of forests in
Kansas: agroforests that include windbreaks
and streamside trees that surround croplands; community or urban forests that
line main streets, parks and yards in local communities; and the rural forests
and woodlands located primarily in the eastern third of Kansas.
These forests are crucial for everyday life, he said,
because trees and other woodlands can filter air and water, making them safer
for humans. But they also contribute to quality of life because they provide
recreational opportunities and even a nice place to relax in the shade.
Plus, it is estimated that forestry-related businesses
contribute $1.3 billion to the state’s economy, and support more than 6,700
“Kansas forests provide important economic and environmental
benefits to the people of the state,” Atchison said.
The Kansas Forest Action Plan was finalized in early 2013
and is now being implemented. It identifies threats to Kansas forests and will
help state officials target resources efficiently, “especially in these tough
economic times,” Atchison said.
Those threats include pests such as emerald ash borer;
thousand cankers disease of black walnut; pine wilt; and exotic invasive plants
like tamarisk, Russian olive and Amur honeysuckle that threaten the health of
woodlands and wildlife.
“If we don’t act soon to protect our forests, woodlands and
windbreaks in Kansas, they could be damaged forever,” Atchison said.
The plan can be accessed online. More information also is available by contacting
the Kansas Forest Service at 785-532-3300.
K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.
Story by: Pat Melgaresmelgares@ksu.eduK-State Research & Extension News
Bob Atchison - firstname.lastname@example.org - 785-532-3310