The Kentucky Division of Forestry has a big milestone to celebrate. The state agency that started out as the Board of Forestry turns 100-years-old this year. "The General Assembly recognized back in 1912 that we had so many forests and we had areas where we had lost forests that there was a need to protect our resources. Protect them fire, protect them from over-harvesting, protect them from insect and diseases," says division director Leah MacSwords.
Forests cover about 47 percent of Kentucky, and most of that land is privately owned. A 2010 statewide assessment identified forest health, water quality, forest loss, management, and funding as major issues and priorities.
"Will we ever be able to do everything that needs to be done? That's a long list. But we tackle it as best we can and we have some dedicated employees that are out in the woods today trying to meet those goals," says MacSwords.
As with other state agencies, the Division of Forestry has faced staff reductions and budget cuts during the economic recession. It currently operates with 185 full time employees across the state and a nearly $18 million budget. The proposed budget for next fiscal year would cut forestry's state funding by eight percent.