The Kansas Forest Service, successor to the Kansas Commissioner of Forestry Office, is the Nation’s fifth oldest state forestry agency. Created by legislative act in 1887, the Agency celebrates its anniversary every year on March 10th. The Agency serves rural landowners, communities, rural fire districts, forest and arboriculture industries, and citizens of the state through its Conservation Tree and Shrub Planting, Fire Management, Community Forestry, Rural Forestry, Marketing and Utilization, and Forest Health programs. The Kansas Forest Service state office is located in Manhattan, KS, just off the campus of Kansas State University. The Kansas Forest Service is housed as an independent agency within K-State Research and Extension. The Agency receives its direction from a mission statement that reads:
"Care of Natural Resources and Service to People Through Forestry"
The Kansas Forest Service is a 30-person agency housed in the state office, and several district and special program offices around the state. The Agency’s state office facility was constructed on Kansas State University grounds in 1968. This facility houses the state forester, program coordinators, statewide specialists, and support staff. The Rural Fire Program Shop was constructed in 1970 to assist with federal excess military property for loan to rural fire departments across the state. The Conservation Tree Planting Program Greenhouse was added in 1974. It produces container-grown hardwood, evergreen and pollinator plant seedlings for sale to landowners for conservation plantings. Additionally, the Conservation Tree and Shrub program receives and distributes bare root seedlings provided by out-of-state nurseries. Selling, packaging and shipping of conservation tree and shrub seedlings are handled each spring and fall at the state office.
Several district and special project rental offices are located throughout the state. These offices are staffed by Foresters and Fire Managers able to deliver rural, community, forest products, wildfire prevention and management and special forestry programs to private landowners, towns and cities, commercial enterprises and youth throughout Kansas. Areas of specialization are on the rise with new staff fulfilling forest utilization and marketing, water quality, wildfire prevention and management, community forestry, geographic information systems (GIS), communications and peer-to-peer outreach coordination throughout the state. A key bridge is the Kansas Forest Service’s Technical Service Provider Agreement with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service as this is the avenue for which forest property owners qualify for forestry cost share assistance funding. Two other key bridges are the Forest Service’s connect to the USDA Forest Service’s Resource Ordering and Status System and the Agency’s connect to the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree City USA Program. The former is the state’s process to receive outstate wildfire suppression support and the state’s process for assisting with wildfire suppression challenges outside the state. The latter is the state’s process for recognizing and rewarding communities actively managing their public tree and open space resources.
Kansas Forest Action Plan: The Agency’s Road Map
Kansas forests and woodlands make up a small but important percentage of the Kansas landscape (10%) and are critical to public health and well-being. Woodlands and the wildlife that inhabit them are under increased threats from insects, disease, invasive species and conversion to other land uses. To address problems before they arrive and to target resources efficiently, broad public input was sought using expert’s best thinking to create the Kansas Forest Action Plan.
The plan identifies the top seven threats and opportunities facing Kansas forests, woodlands and related natural resources, high priority areas and strategies for protection and management. This new approach helps the Kansas Forest Service prioritize and allocate funds and resources to produce the highest returns with respect to the ecological, social and economic benefits derived from our forests and agroforestry resources.
Forest Action Plan Priority Areas
1. Lessen threats to forest health
2. Minimize wildfire risk
3. Reduce loss of forestland
4. Increase water quality and quantity
5. Improve biodiversity and wildlife habitat
6. Sustain forest and agroforestry ecosystems
7. Create jobs and economic benefits of woodlands