K-State Research and Extension News
February 21, 2014
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Woodland Acres Increase Calls for Landowner Caution

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Kansas’ woodlands are increasing in acres that provide many benefits.  An official with the Kansas Forest Service cautioned landowners that without proper management woodlands can lose their quality and profitability.

U.S. Forest Service officials have found that woodlands in Kansas increased from 1.5 million acres in 1994 to more than 2.4 million acres by 2010, an almost 5 percent increase in total land area in Kansas. 

An increase in woodland area provides many benefits associated with the biological function of trees, said Bob Atchison, Kansas State University forester with the Kansas Forest Service.  These benefits include cleaner air, wildlife habitat, improved water quality and economic bonuses for the state. 

As an example, Atchison said a 125 percent increase in saw timber volume since 1981 is partially to credit for the forest industry’s $1.5 billion contribution to the Kansas economy. 

Atchison added that the forest industry in Kansas supports more than 6,700 jobs with a payroll of about $360 million, and is responsible for about $43 million in state taxes and $69 million in federal taxes.

While an increase in state woodland acres does provide many benefits, Atchison said the Kansas Forest Service is concerned that Kansas’ forests are at risk without proper woodland care.

Cull Trees

Cull trees are those that generally have no economic value because of condition, size or species.

Atchison explained that cull trees are mostly a concern from an economic perspective.  However, when cull trees are invasive in nature, they can reduce other values of the forest such as wildlife habitat and biodiversity.

He said the high cull tree percentage has the Kansas Forest Service concerned that the majority of Kansas woodlands are not being properly managed. 

“Landowners can reduce the high percentage of cull timber by actively managing their woodlands,” said Atchison. “This includes removing less desirable species such as honeylocust, Osage orange and hackberry and replacing them with oaks and walnut through tree planting.” 

Emerald Ash Borer

Kansas is home to 255 million cubic feet of ash trees, which are now at risk of Emerald ash borer, discovered in 2012 in the Kansas City area.  Both Johnson and Miami counties in Kansas are currently under quarantine. 

Emerald ash borer is an exotic invasive beetle from eastern Russia and northeastern Asia, which was likely brought to the U.S. via infested packing material. Since its discovery in the U.S. in 2002, the Emerald ash borer has killed more than 25 million ash trees.

This beetle threatens both rural and especially urban forests where populations are higher.

Moving infested firewood, untreated ash wood products and nursery stock out of state and federally quarantined areas is the primary method of transmitting Emerald ash borer.

Kansans are encouraged to familiarize themselves with federal and state Emerald ash borer quarantine areas and regulations; learn the basic signs and symptoms of the Emerald ash borer; and attend workshops in their local area provided by the Kansas Forest Service and K-State Research and Extension.

Thousand Cankers Disease

Since 1981, the Kansas black walnut volume has increased by 95 percent.  Black walnut is the most valuable of the commercial trees grown in Kansas.

Thousand Cankers Disease is a newly recognized fungus that affects black walnut trees, having been discovered in the western U.S. in 2008.  It has not yet been discovered in Kansas, but if proper actions aren’t taken to prevent its transmission, the 114 million cubic feet of black walnut trees in Kansas will be in danger.

Currently, there is no control or treatment for the lethal disease.  One of the main pathways for transmission of the disease is through the transportation of walnut logs and firewood.  This is why states have passed quarantines restricting the movement of black walnut logs, nursery stock and other regulated articles.

To prevent the spread of Thousand Cankers Disease, Kansans are encouraged to:

  • Buy firewood from a local source when camping or recreating. Leave any unused firewood at the campsites and do not transport the extra home.
  • Be wary of purchasing wood from door-to-door sales or online vendors.  Only buy from local, trusted sources.
  • Visually inspect black walnut trees for symptoms of the disease; contact the local district forester or county extension agent for more information on submitting a plant sample to the K-State Diagnostic Lab for analysis.

Reducing the Risk

Atchison said that because 95 percent of Kansas’ forests, woodlands and windbreaks are privately owned, the future quality of the resource lies in the hands of landowners. 

“Landowners who participate in USDA programs like Environmental Quality Incentives Program for Forestland Health are more likely to improve the health of their woodlands and windbreaks,” Atchison said. 

He added that EQIP along with the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative covers about 75 percent of landowner’s cost to implement tree plantings, remove cull trees or renovate old windbreaks. 

More than half-a-million dollars is available to Kansas landowners through March 21, the next deadline for application into the program.  Interested landowners can sign up for the programs at their county Farm Service Center and Natural Resource Conservation Service office.

“Self-education is also a huge part of addressing the concerns and issues facing Kansas forests,” Atchison said.

He recommends the Kansas Forest Action Plan and a Roadmap for Kansas Forest Woodlands and Windbreaks as good places to start looking for more information. They can be found online at the Kansas Forest Service.

Kansas forest inventory information can be found online at Forest Inventory & Analysis or Kansas' Forests 2010.

For more information about the risks to woodlands and how to properly manage woodlands, please contact the Kansas Forest Service online or call 785-532-3300.


K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.

Story by: Kaitlin Morgan
K-State Research & Extension News

Bob Atchison – atchison@ksu.edu or 785-532-3310