Kentucky Wood Owners Association (KWOA) is the only statewide organization devoted exclusively to assisting its members in achieving their forest ownership goals. KWOA, a not-for-profit organization, is one of 36 state affiliate of the National Woodland Owners Association. Membership is diverse with a variety of interests and sizes of ownership. Interests in woodland ownership include timber production, wildlife management, resource conservation and green space. Membership includes absentee owners as well as those who reside on their woodland property. Ownership ranges from those with several acres to those with more than a thousand acres.
KWOA seeks to promote economically and environmentally sound forest management by advancing the skills of woodland owners and providing communications and networking.
Programs and policies are guided by woodland owner members and aim to protect member interests, seek fairness in addressing woodland issues while enhancing the value and benefits of Kentucky woodlands.
History and Background
An organizing meeting for Kentucky Woodland Owners Association was held February 12, 1994, as part of the University of Kentucky’s annual Forest Owners Seminar in Bardstown. Later that month an organizing committee met at Gethsemani Abby and identified steps to formally organize. On July 10, 1994, twelve woodland owners serving as directors approved Articles of Incorporation and By-laws. Formal incorporation was completed in August 1994. The November 6, 1994, directors meeting focused on charting a direction and planning activities that included plans for an annual meeting, membership drive and legislative strategy.
The Association’s initial strategy focused on three areas regarding use and management of Kentucky’s renewable resources:
2. Sustainable development and productivity
3. Public awareness
MAJOR POLICY UPDATE OF 2004
The above policy guidance served the Association for the first 10 years. Then in 2004 under the Association’s Woodland Economic Development Committee led by Dr. Herb Loyd and Bob Bauer, an updated and comprehensive policy statement was finalized and approved by the board of directors.
2004 POLICIES FOR BUILDING A STRONGER WOODLAND ECONOMY
Some 46 specific policies were outlined in the following areas:
Forest health, diversity and quality
Research and education
Communications and consensus
EFFORTS TO UPDATE 2004 KWOA POSITION PAPER
The Association Board of Directors at the February 11, 2008 meeting adopted a plan prepared by the Policy Committee to update the 2004 KWOA position statement. The Policy Committee chaired by Joe Ball met in Lexington February 25, 2008, and outlined assignments related to revising and adding new and emerging issues such as Biomass, carbon sequestration, certification, LEEDS, etc. UK indicated interest in developing a mail survey to identify woodland owners’ areas of interest and emphasis. Response to assignments and enthusiasm was mixed.
Following a hiatus in late 2008 and early 2009 Chairman Ball sought ideas and suggestions related to updating the paper from several directors. After circulating a discussion paper, he hosted an informal field trip to his tree farm October 21-23, 2009 to discuss a variety of policy, legislative and organizational issue. After reviewing notes and written comments from participants, in February and March of 2010 Don Girton summarized comments and suggestions. The results were then circulated for additional comments from committee members, county agents and some county Farm Bureau presidents.
Using the comments and suggestions from the above described sources; Chairman Ball using material from the aforementioned work prepared the following revised draft.
I. CURRENT SITUATION – Indicators for future actions
· 47% of land area in trees, with urban forests an important part.
· 95% of the private family timberland holdings are less than 100 acres.
· Kentucky 3rd In production of hardwood lumber, 10% of US production.
· Kentucky leading state in production of white oak timber.
· Forestry is a major segment of Kentucky’s economy — $6-8 billion.
· Most lumber demand has not recovered following recession of 08-09.
· Returns to woodland owners estimated at only $186 million annually.
· 35,000 jobs in timber related industries, concentration in Louisville area.
Forest Management Challenges
· High percentage of timber is low quality and slow growth rate, resulting from past harvests of taking the best and leaving the rest.
· Tremendous potential to improve timber quality and quantity.
· Only a limited acreage of timber stand improvement carried out.
· Much of forest management, marketing and promotion are status quo.
· Market system is “primitive” and market prices difficult to obtain.
· Many veneer log sales handled by middle men, traders or “pin hookers,” making it difficult for landowners to know if they are realizing full value.
· Returns on investment for tree farmers are very low.
· Very limited acreage of timberland involved in structured stewardship or management program.
· Presently have 842 certified “Tree Farms” with approximately 220,000 acres in addition about 1,000 acres certified under Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI). Supply of certified wood limited.
· Certified “Tree Farm” numbers not growing, may be declining.
· Investing in timber stand improvement for positive economic return requires careful consideration of costs and returns.
· Kentucky lacks a comprehensive forestry statute, setting forth a shared vision for Kentucky’s forests.
· Presently public funding for forestry is very disproportional to the size of the forest economy.
· Interest in urban forest activities are growing and environmental groups are expressing a stronger concern for sustainable forests.
· Kentucky Revenue Cabinet’s guidelines for assessing timberlands are not fair or equitable when compared with other agricultural activities.
· Growing numbers of all-terrain vehicles (ATV) add concerns about increases in private property trespass, timber theft and wild fires.
· An organization for woodland owner (KWOA) was established in 1994 and is affiliated with the National Woodland Owners Association (NWOA). KWOA has established itself by “networking” with other organizations sharing interest in forests.
· A limited number of county affiliates have been established. Most counties are without any kind of established forest organization or committee, even those with 90%+ of their land in forests.
II. NEW EMPHASIS – The trend of the day is to go “Green.”
Most of the major primary and secondary forest industries are pursuing ways to participate in some level of green certification. Pulp and paper people seem to be leading the charge.
Growing concern by the general public as they become stakeholders and exhibit interest in sequestering carbon in forests, clean water, aesthetics as well as more local utilization of products of the forest.
Government actions will greatly affect the timeliness of change as well as guidelines to follow.
Building codes are rapidly going green
Furniture and consumer products are going green
Energy production is going green and the forests may provide the greatest abundance of sustainable raw material such as:
· Biomass to alcohol
· Wood fiber to electricity
· Home and industrial heating from wood fibers
III. STRATEGIC PLAN – Actions Kentucky can take to enhance the value and sustain its most abundant natural resource to benefit all the citizens of the state; woodland owners up to the consumer of the environment.
1. Kentucky General Assembly needs to enact legislation to create a comprehensive forest program for Kentucky. Such an act would provide a shared (for all the players) identifiable vision for Kentucky forestry to move forward and include incentives for woodland owners to invest and better manage their woodlands to expand the resource base. Other states have such programs and we need to catch up.
2. KWOA favors implementing other sections of the Forest Conservation Act of 1998 in addition to water quality sections. Renew and modify sections of the act that speak to implementing Silvicultural practices as well as infrastructure for dedicated timber tracts which would provide for truck roads, landings, fire lanes, trails and water control measures.
3. KWOA favors an emphasis on third party certification to document green standards. Some form of 3rd party certification is necessary and becomes prerequisite to most future actions the woodland owner would take. It might enable selling certified wood products, more fully participate in government assistance programs, selling carbon credits and documenting the fact that a timber tract is a managed farm, thus making it eligible to be assessed in accordance with farmland guidelines or other state mandated programs.
4. KWOA favors a “whole land practice” approach to implementing managing timber tracts, especially when government cost share is involved.
The stewardship plan would be the guide to the practices needed and the amount of cost share justified for the acreage.
Rather than just doing a harvest – approach your timber tract with a comprehensive plan—layout (NRCS technical help) and construct roads, log landings and fire lanes prior to harvest.
Harvest would focus on taking mature trees, removing culls, thinning and fighting invasive species. Upon completion, your forest would be ready to grow and produce the next crop.
Benefits of this practice are numerous. Cost of timber stand improvement would be less, roads would make all work easier and harvest more economical and water control maintenance more manageable. (90% of the negative effect of logging is erosion from poor roads.)
The “whole land practice” of managing a timber tract would very much involve the logger, if the landowner does not perform the harvest. Loggers are where the action takes place on the land and until the advent of the Master Logger Program these vital people had not been formally involved in education. The logger with the appropriate equipment and know how could perform the multiple practices more economically than individual practices.
5. KWOA is committed to a state level organization to represent the interest of woodland owners. Resources are needed to meet that commitment. KWOA should explore all opportunities, following experiences of other states and continue to explore other opportunities such as government funds, private grants, product check off, mineral severance, etc.
6. In addition to a statewide organization, more structures need to be developed at the county and community level. KWOA is committed to networking with all government agencies and private organizations to provide a vehicle to provide education and technical assistance at those levels. This is especially an opportunity for the Land Grant University.
7. KWOA was successful in pulling together the resources at the state level of those most concerned with health of Kentucky forests. In addition to problems of invasive insects, diseases and plants, natural disasters take a toll on forests. Ice storm, tornados, droughts and other happenings stimulate federal disaster programs. A Health Task Force should be granted the responsibility and authority to take leadership for these programs at the state level.
8. KWOA favors a formal evaluation of the primary market system for wood material with special emphasis on looking at openness, fairness and competition from the position of the tree farmer selling logs and chip material. Most of the veneer logs are sold through middle men, traders or pin hookers who may subtract a high percentage of the profits from the woodland owner. What are the alternatives to making the market system more efficient and profitable for the logger and producer as well as providing mills the kinds of raw materials they process? Presently mills buy a lot of materials they are unable to process, thus requiring resale to other processors.
9. The Kentucky Agriculture News Service in cooperation with USDA provides market price information for most agriculture commodities. Such market information is not presently available to the logger and woodland owner. KWOA favors fairness in service from the Market News Service, thus make the markets more transparent.
10. The suppression of forest fires is a major budget item for the Kentucky Division of Forestry. Fire damage to woodlands and wildlife have untold economic impact. KWOA recommends creation of an “Ad Hock Task Force” to evaluate the economic and ecological impacts of wild fires along with an in-depth analysis of the existing fire prevention and suppression programs and related costs for the eastern Kentucky forests. If improvements could be made, recommendations would be forthcoming.
11. KWOA favors requiring a percentage of Kentucky electric generation to be powered from green sources. Since wood fiber is an abundant and renewable resource in the state, the utilization of low quality timber could have positive effects. To the logger and woodland owner it could become profitable to harvest this material and result in increased growth and quality of the next crop. To the electric generator it could improve combustion and reduce harmful emissions. Serious consideration should be given to possible negative consequences. Therefore, sustainable harvest protection would be required.
12. Continue to advocate fairness in timberland taxes. Seek to correct existing unlawful assessments of timberland by utilizing the recently completed study of University of Kentucky Department of Forestry that has developed assessed values for a variety of timber types and conditions.
13. Promote youth forestry education by offering scholarships for individuals intending to pursue careers in natural resources. Our Kentucky Woodland Owners Foundation, a 501(c)(3) not for profit corporation is in place to service the scholarship program as well as working with 4H and FFA on youth project.
14. Explore opportunities to develop through grants or partnerships a youth initiative utilizing social networking and/or programs such as Project Learning Tree.
15. Timber theft-property trespass – Open timber tracts in isolated locations are prone to timber theft and unauthorized trespass. The expanding number of all-terrain vehicles (ATV) continues to exacerbate the problems of soil erosion, noise, littering and increases the difficulty of dealing with arson fires. The legislature needs to provide the public and law enforcement more tools for action in addressing this problem.
August 18, 2011, Draft Position Statement reviewed at KWOA Board meeting.
October 14, 2011, Revised with member and partner comments.
KWOA Policy Committee
L. D. “Joe” Ball, Chairman; Dr. James “Greg” Kuhns. Dr. James Corum; J. Henry Duncan; Don Girton
The Policy Committee thanks all association members and our many partners who provided ideas, comments and guidance in developing this policy statement.
APPROVED BY KENTUCKY WOODLAND OWNERS ASSOCIATION BOARD OF DIRECTORS AT ITS REGULAR MEETING ON NOVEMBER 17, 2011.
J. Henry Duncan, President