The Kentucky Division of Forestry celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2012. Originally known as the Board of Forestry as established in 1912 by the Kentucky General Assembly, the agency was renamed the Kentucky Division of Forestry following the Reorganization Act of 1936. Today, the division contains 145 full-time employees, the majority of whom work out of offices across the state, including one of five regional offices and two tree nurseries. Leah MacSwords is the 13th director of the division and serves as the state forester for Kentucky.
While the division’s mission is to protect and enhance the forest resources of the Commonwealth, the primary responsibility of the division is to prevent and suppress wildfire on state and private land and work with forest landowners to manage the forest resources for a multitude of social, environmental and economic benefits. The mandates carried out by the division can be viewed in detail in the Kentucky Revised Statutes Chapter 149.00 Forestry. This statute pertains to forest conservation, information and education, commercial timber harvesting operations, master logger training, forest fire prevention, fire hazard seasons, establishment of a statewide system of forest fire protection, establishment of blight-resistant chestnut tree seedlings, maintenance of the state nurseries, management of state-owned forests, and forest pest control among others.
Like many state agencies, the division struggles to provide the variety of services historically offered to Kentucky’s citizens. Since 2006, the division has taken a reduction of $1.5 million in General Fund monies resulting in a 16 percent loss of personnel. Despite the reduction in staffing and other resources over the past few years, the division remains committed to its mission. A comprehensive report entitled Kentucky’s Statewide Assessment of Forest Resources and Strategy was completed and will ultimately serve the division in requesting funds for various regional projects. The report addresses the critical issues affecting Kentucky’s forestlands and the priority areas linking the state’s forests and other natural resources.