Foresters Help Build New Forest Economy in Kentucky

Central Appalachia is blessed with an abundance of natural resources, including its lush and diverse forests. Healthy forests can meet local needs for food and fiber, create jobs, provide recreation, and protect the air, soil and water that we all rely on. Today, responsibility for the well-being of the forest resource rests primarily on the shoulders of a large number of private landowners. Consulting foresters help private forest landowners manage their forestland in a manner that promotes the health and viability of the forest while also providing an opportunity to increase family wealth.

Chris Will is a forester and founder of Central Kentucky Forest Management, which provides forestry consulting services throughout central and eastern Kentucky. Services include timber appraisals, forest management planning, timber sale administration and forest inventories.

Consulting foresters play an important role in promoting sustainable forest management in Central Appalachia. “I have the opportunity to really improve forest health and productivity through my work with private landowners,” Chris explains. “Historically private landowners didn’t know what they owned or how much it was worth. Timber was cut from their property without much thought. I’m able to work with them, educating them about forest health and the value of their trees, and how to manage their property in a way that provides multiple values for many generations.”

Consulting foresters are also an important link for helping private landowners access the carbon offset market. Through programs such as the Appalachian Carbon Partnership, landowners receive payments for the carbon their trees store over time to build the wood that makes up their trunk, branches and roots. These payments result from the efforts made by companies and individuals to reduce and offset their carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions. Private landowners hire consulting foresters to conduct a baseline inventory of the amount of carbon stored by trees on their land and to help with developing management plans.

Says Chris, “Because Kentucky’s hardwood trees don’t become financially mature for timber until they are 80 years old, income generated from the forest historically occurred rather infrequently. As a result, little forest management activity took place. Now with the sale of carbon credits that are paid out annually, landowners have the necessary cash to actively manage their forests. These activities not only produce more valuable timber, but also provide important forest values such as clean water, clean air, wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities.”